3 In The Key: Durant and Westbrook, Steve Nash, Kyle Lowry
1. The Durant-Westbrook dynamic
It seems that we’re headed towards an entire season of whether Durant and Westbrook can co-exist. Last week’s overblown stories about their argument on the bench will not be the last we hear about a fractured relationship, which may be real, may be manufactured, or may eventually be manufactured into something real. But why is there any predisposed expectation that two superstars have to like each other?
Egos are a natural part of being the best, or perceiving yourself as the best. It didn’t matter how much or little Shaq and Kobe got along as long as they were in sync on the basketball court en route to three straight championships. Remember, when the Lakers finally decided to trade Shaq to the Heat, it wasn’t because of their fractured relationship, but because they decided he wasn’t worth the money he wanted in exchange for his declining basketball skills.
And that should be the same for Westbrook and Durant. If they eventually split, it will be because the Thunder come to the conclusion that there isn’t a fit on the court. In the same breath, if the two stars aren’t on speaking terms by the end of the year, I’m sure no one in Oklahoma City will care if they’re lifting the championship trophy.
So let’s keep the focus about how they co-exist on the basketball court, because anything besides that is meaningless.
2. The need for Steve Nash to contend
I’m not sure how many more years Steve Nash will compete at an elite level. Maybe one. Maybe two. Judging by his early numbers this season, maybe none. And that’s why as a basketball fan, I have an urgency to see him on a contender before it’s too late. While he has no plans to demand a trade, from time to time I like to picture Nash on Portland, or New York, and it frustrates me. I don’t want to see him going for a championship in a few years as a passenger, but as a main contributor, as the point guard with the keys to the team.
I’ve always liked the storyline of a veteran player going for his first championship to complete their resume. Look around the league, the main contenders are either teams that have a young core and many years to build towards (Miami, Oklahoma City, Chicago, New York, Memphis, Los Angeles Clippers) or veteran teams who have won titles (Los Angeles Lakers, Boston, San Antonio, Dallas).
And beyond all the reasons why we choose to hate Miami, that’s why it was so fascinating to see the Mavericks win the title last year. There was an urgency to Dirk Nowitzki’s championship run. It was entirely possible that it was Dirk’s last chance at a title. Seeing him make the most of it before the window closed made it that much more thrilling.
Like Dirk last year, or Karl Malone and Gary Payton in Los Angeles, or David Robinson’s first title with San Antonio; whether they succeed or fail, the urgency of the championship chase makes the story that much more fascinating.
I’d like to see Steve Nash star in that storyline before it’s too late.
3. Another elite point guard
Take a look at this game log for a particular point guard from last March and April. Who would you guess after scanning the numbers?
The answer is Kyle Lowry, who I think is the most under-rated player in the league. The diminutive point guard has continued his stellar player into this season and will be in the running for the Most Improved Player award.
The NBA is point guard porn right now, and conversations of elite point guards will have to include Lowry if this keeps up.