Russell Westbrook's return will help increase Kevin Durant's fuel efficiency

Durant is the only player in the NBA to have logged more than 2,000 minutes this season. Clearly, his production hasn't suffered. Ditto for his greatness. But with Westbrook set to return Thursday night against Miami, it's time for Durant to share the baton.
by Jenni Carlson Published: February 17, 2014
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photo - Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) and  Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) celebrate during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Indiana Pacers at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) celebrate during the NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Indiana Pacers at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

Kevin Durant sat down with Bill Simmons for an interview on Friday as All-Star Weekend was kicking into high gear.

It was an interesting 9 minutes, 39 seconds. Durant talked about all sorts of things. His rivalry with LeBron. His development. His teammates. His nickname.

But the most interesting thing Durant said to the NBA analyst came in the first 18 seconds.

Simmons: “You played last night.”

Durant: “Yes. Yes. I'm running on fumes right now.”

Simmons: “You're running on fumes?”

Durant: “Yeah.”

Simmons: “Just in general, or just from last night?”

Durant: “Just in general.”

Durant went on to say he'd only gotten two hours sleep making the trip from Los Angeles, where the Thunder beat the Lakers on Thursday night, to New Orleans, where the All-Star Game was held. So, it might've been his sleep deprivation talking, but it sure sounded like Durant admitted that the first half of this season has left him fatigued. Exhausted. Worn slick.

And why not?

Durant is the only player in the NBA to have already logged more than 2,000 minutes this season. Clearly, his production hasn't suffered. Ditto for his greatness.

But with Russell Westbrook set to return Thursday night against the Heat — go crazy, folks! — it's time for Durant to share the baton. No way he passes it off entirely, but Westbrook can help carry the load.

Frankly, Westbrook must.

Durant is averaging 38.2 minutes a game, third most in the league. While that's actually his lowest average since his rookie season — big-time kudos to Scott Brooks considering all the games that the Thunder has been Westbrookless — Durant's minutes need to go down even more.

Unless, of course, the Thunder isn't interested in putting itself in the best possible position to win an NBA title.

Henry Abbott, producer of the outstanding TrueHoop blog on ESPN.com, crunched some numbers recently and discovered that NBA players have logged 3,000-plus minutes in the regular season nearly a hundred times in the past seven seasons. And most of the players who've done so are All-Stars, guys like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade and, yes, Kevin Durant. But in the seasons that those players were part of the Big Minutes Club, none of them won a title.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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