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Will defenses continue to struggle vs. Kevin Durant?

By Darnell Mayberry, Staff Writer, Published: April 17, 2010
In his most self-assured statement yet, Kevin Durant shot down the possibility that defenses in his first postseason could throw anything at him that he hasn’t already experienced.

"I done seen everything,” said a defiant Durant, exactly one week before making his playoff debut against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

The Thunder’s franchise player is either ahead of his time, already aware of any and all schemes designed to stop him, or he’s in for a rude awakening.

Betting against the NBA’s leading scorer, though, would be unwise.

"I’m looking forward to seeing how teams are going to play me,” Durant said. "It’s just another way for me to get better.”

It’s that never-ending thirst to improve that has gotten Durant this far. What skeptics such as Phil Jackson and Kevin Garnett don’t know about Durant is that his offensive repertoire is a carefully constructed collection of moves and countermoves that the lanky 6-foot-9 forward has feverishly formed since he entered the league in 2007.

Take, for instance, his rip move.

When critics labeled Durant a chucker as a rookie — and rightfully so — Durant returned for his sophomore season and saddled up next to veteran forward Desmond Mason. Durant desperately wanted to increase the mediocre 5.2 trips to the foul line he averaged as a rookie. And it was Mason, the former Oklahoma State standout, who first drilled Durant during training camp in 2008 on how to use a defender’s aggressiveness against him. Mason showed the young star how to sweep the ball through a defender’s horizontally extended arm while rising to shoot.

The move helped boost Durant’s average free-throw attempts to nearly 7.1 last year and a league-high-tying 10.2 this season. It also contributed to future Hall of Famers, Boston forward Garnett and Lakers coach Jackson, recently criticizing officials for how they call fouls in favor of Durant.

Now, it’s Durant’s ability to get to the free throw line that has the league buzzing about not only Durant’s game, but also his likelihood of doing some serious damage this postseason.

"You’re going to load up and be more physical,” said Portland coach Nate McMillan of playoff defenses.