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Durant delivered a brilliant performance when it mattered most


Remember that crazy deep, satin smooth three-pointer that Kevin Durant hit for Oklahoma City at the end of double-overtime to win a game a couple of years ago?

Well, take a couple of dozen of those shots, add the excruciating pressure of the NBA final and the weight of expectations of tens of thousands of fans and the tremendous skill of the team he was facing and you might come close – close but not quite all the way there – to imagine what Durant did in the five games of the NBA final.

I’ve been around a few of these things – all or part of 17 was the count I got one idle day the last two weeks – and what Durant did for Golden State against Cleveland might be the most brilliant, sustained display of basketball excellence I have ever seen.

No, I did not cover last year’s finals in person to witness what LeBron James did in the last three games for Cleveland against the Warriors but even if I had, I’m not sure it would have matched what Durant did for five games in a series that ended with this story from Oakland.

And, yeah, on my list there was the Jordan flu game and Game 6 of Miami-San Antonio and I’ve seen seventh games between Detroit and San Antonio and Boston-LA and Shaq when he’s been dominant and Kobe when he’s been crazy good.

Obviously, I haven’t been around Durant all season but I have watched him rather closely the last two weeks, saw him at the all-star game in New Orleans last February and, heck, saw him the first time he ever played for the Warriors way back in October in Vancouver.

And he has always handled his situation with class and patience, I’m sure there were moments in the year when he was prickly because we all get that way; even in New Orleans at all-star, when the world’s media was trying to goad him into a conflict with Russell Westbrook, he stayed above the fray.

I don’t think any of us can remotely understand what life must have been like for Durant ever since he left Oklahoma City and presume to without having spent a considerable amount of private time with him is silly.

But we know anecdotally that a lot of fans wanted him to fail, were waiting for him to fail, were piling on the pressure and the expectations as the season progress.

And when it counted most, when everything was on the line, he produced one of the great, sustained individual performances in recent NBA history.

If he’d gone for 35 one game or even two games we could have chalked it up to just his talent shining through, to go 30-plus for five games under in those circumstances? That’s will and that’s heart.

He was proud of what he’d done, understandably:

“You can talk about whatever you want to talk about, but nobody comes in and cares about the game or loves the game as much as I do or works as hard as do I at the basketball game. You can talk about whatever happens on the outside, but inside those lines, I come to bring it every day. I work hard, I believe in myself, I believe in the game, I respect the game, I love the game, and I knew at some point in my life that it will come around for me. So I just tried to stay with those principles and keep grinding. I’m kind of lost for words right now.”

Oh yeah, the Raptors.

Remember them?

I vaguely do and the only thing I had remotely to do with them on this never-ending journey was running into on Mr. V. Carter in Cleveland one day last week and having a nice long chat with him.

Yes, he wants to play another year or two, he’s an unrestricted free agent and while I’m sure he’ll listen to anyone who calls (hello, Masai!) I’d be stunned if he went ring hunting at some ridiculously reduced salary. I’m thinking full mid-level of somewhere near $ 8 million a year or bust but who knows.

Anyway, as for this group and this summer, there are more draft workouts this week, a camp for free agents trying to cadge a summer league spot later on in the week and other routine business.

And since we are closing in on the draft, which I think is a week from Thursday and about the furthest thing from my mind, I will offer the usual annual warning:
This is a week of smokescreens and disinformation and outright fibbing so believe what you want at your peril. I’d suggest sitting back and waiting to see what transpires draft night and then reacting accordingly.

Totally late to this but I’ve been late to everything this past little while it seems, these time zones and travel days have really screwed me up.

But if this is summer, or close to it, it’s international basketball time and Canada is, once again, everywhere and I feel compelled to keep on top of it, if I can.

The women’s under-16 team just finished second at the FIBA Americas qualifier in Argentina, losing to the United States in the gold medal game but qualifying for next year’s under-17 world championships nonetheless.

It’s not a surprise because if Canada doesn’t qualify for the worlds in any age-group category, that would be shocking failure.

The development programs Canada Basketball has put together are top-notch and the experience the teenagers get will eventually translate to the senior team, I’m sure.

We’ll check in with the other programs tomorrow or the next day but we needed a quick catchup to where we are now.

Okay, this done, another story wrapping up the final to do, the long San Francisco-Minneapolis-Toronto travel day ahead and then a wrap on this season.

Lots to do coming up, a bit of project that’s slowly under way, the draft next week and then the Lowry drama but, trust me, I’m going to catch my breath the odd morning and may be late here some days.

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