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?”
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.
Not a one.
Many of the players won NBA titles, but all of them did so when they played fewer than 3,000 minutes in the proceeding regular season.
In case you're wondering, KD is on pace to play 3,132 minutes this season.
No wonder that those compression shorts of his keep getting longer. Worn in an effort to keep muscles fresher longer, Durant's are now capri-length.
What's next? Compression footies?
Durant, of course, has always played a lot of minutes. Comes with the territory when you're the face of a franchise.
Even though Durant has averaged more than 38 minutes a game every season that the Thunder has been in Oklahoma City, neither his production nor his efficiency have suffered because of it. Heck, the 2009-10 season when he played the most minutes of his career (39.5 a game) was his best as a scorer (30.1 points).
But as you well know, Durant didn't win a title in any of those seasons.
Listen, no one is suggesting the warning light on the dashboard is flashing. Far from it. But most people go in for maintenance well before that.
Why not be proactive and preventive with Durant, too?
He did what he had to do when Westbrook was out of the lineup, but now that Batman is back, Superman shouldn't have to carry such a heavy load. Share it, and believe it or not, he'll be even stronger and better for it.
So will the Thunder.
Jenni Carlson can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.