Durant A Superhero, But Not Super Human

'Holy snapped meniscus Batman!'
Much has been written about Kevin Durant’s recent superhero efforts in keeping his Oklahoma City Thunder team within striking distance of the Memphis Grizzlies in their western conference semi final series.

But Kevin Durant is not superman; he is far more human than that.

No, if we are going to hyperbolise his wonderful, yet so far futile, efforts with super hero epithets I’m much more comfortable with a Batman comparison where Durant is concerned.

In the world of super heroes Batman is unique.

He has no superpowers, no strange skills developed after being bitten by a particular insect or hit by a nuclear ray gun, nor any supernatural ability to control the elements.

Batman has his muscle, his intellect and the skills he has learnt. Batman is fallible to emotion and can be, with great difficulty, contained. Batman is human and adjusts to situations accordingly.

And in Robin, Batman also has willing and capable sidekick who always has the dark knight’s back. 
He has the ability to keep bad guys guessing with quick decisions that defer the attention away from his more illustrious partner.

Kevin Durant is OKC’s Batman, and Russell Westbrook is their Robin.

Despite the well-publicised and controversial trade of fan favourite James Harden, the dynamic duo of Durant and Westbrook led the Thunder to a 60-win season, a record bettered only by the champion Miami Heat.

The two had seemingly worked their on-court relationship into a cohesive marriage that helped settle a Thunder family still trying to come to terms with the loss of a favourite son in Harden.

Kevin Martin was adopted as Harden’s replacement, and while his skill set was deemed somewhat inferior to the bearded swingman, his offensive production was seen as an adequate enough fall back for the exploits of OKC’s superhero pairing.

The 2013 season was all going to plan until ‘holy torn meniscus, batman’, Westbrook got injured (Westbrook had not missed a competitive game of basketball in high school, college or five years in the NBA; truly a superhuman effort!).

Aside from the significant 23 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds he was giving in production, Westbrook would be sorely missed as being the fall back guy, the effective sidekick to Kevin Durant’s scoring superhero.

He could divert the attention of any teams defence, freeing up Durant to either play facilitator or receiver, or vice versa.

But Batman is now on his own and in the absence of his lightning quick sidekick, Durant has stepped up production and borne a much heavier load.

Kevin Durant wanted to do more for his Thunder teammates. Indeed Kevin Durant needed to more for his Thunder teammates.

So it is certainly a strange situation when a player who is averaging 32 points, 9 boards and 6 assists in a series needed to find even more if they were to win.

But for all his ludicrous ability and otherworldly play during this playoff series against the Grizzlies, it is these very efforts that have highlighted the Thunder’s current deficiencies.

Towards the end of their previous series, ironically against the lost son James Harden’s Houston Rockets, it was already becoming increasingly difficult to see where the support would be for the Thunder’s scoring champion.

In the past, if teams had shut out both Westbrook and Durant, Harden would ably step in to fill the vacuum with his talent for shot creation and facilitation often proving a lethal combination.

Oh how General Manager Sam Presti must now want his own time machine like Uncle Rico in ‘Napoleon Dynamite’.

But Harden is gone and Westbrook is on crutches, so surely someone else could help out?

Aforementioned Martin is a scorer and a reliable perimeter shooter, but in terms of creating his own shot he is an artist that is devoid of ideas, an issue that has come to the fore since Westbrook’s absence.

The Thunder big man Serge Ibaka, a player averaging 13 points per game in the regular season, has been as cold as a mother-in-law’s kiss throughout the first three games. He has even found a way to miss his stock-in-trade under-the-ring lay ups and 12-foot jumpers.

Durant could be forgiven for thinking the Joker himself was at play; such has been comedic efforts of many of his teammates.

But Durant also must lay claim to some of the blame.

His shot selection and ball control late in Game 4 overtime left much to be desired. He turned the ball over at a crucial stage in Game 4 overtime trying to force a shot that probably was not there.

But even these criticisms must be tempered with the uniqueness of Durant’s situation.

It can be argued that these late game issues could all lead back to the fact Durant is a man trying to be everything to everyone on this team.

The Grizzlies know this and played Durant out of his comfort zone, trusting in his teammates’ lack of confidence to step up and get the job done.

Unfortunately for Durant OKC now find themselves in 1-3 hole against a Grizzlies team who pride themselves on tough defence and sharing the ball on the offensive end.

Durant has been a superhero so far in this series, though a mere mortal can only do so much. Unfortunately for him it will now take a super human effort to see his team through and keep their title hopes alive.

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