Durant unleashed storm on NBA

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:32 AM ET

LeBron James and Kobe Bryant get all the ink, but it's about time people realize that there's another swingman out there that might just end up better than either.

His name is Kevin Durant and he has made a lot of people unhappy.

Like Portland Trail Blazers fans and the management team that selected brittle Greg Oden over Durant in the draft.

Like every basketball fan in Seattle, a town that never had an NBA scoring champion but cruelly got to see a rail-thin Durant average 20.3 points per game as a 19-year-old, before the franchise packed up and left for Oklahoma City.

Like anybody who tries to guard the man who is the height of a power forward but runs the floor as well as almost any guard.

Players such as Durant simply don't come around the bend too often. Like James and Bryant, he has the ability and determination to become an all-time great.

The scoring dynamo from Washington, D.C. is averaging 29.7 points a night as a 21-year-old. Michael Jordan didn't do that. Bryant either.

Nor did legends such as Julius Erving, Jerry West or Oscar Robertson who weren't even in the NBA at that age.

In fact, while man-child Shaquille O'Neal came close at 29.3 per night, only James, who put up a career-best 31.4 points per game, has ever averaged more at 21 than Durant's current number.

Today, Durant sits a miniscule .2 points behind James for the NBA scoring lead and scored 25 or more points in 29 consecutive games earlier this season, the longest such streak since Jordan did it in 1986-87.

Not that that matters much to Durant.

"Coming into this league, I didn't say, 'I want to win the scoring title to get more money.' I just want to be a champion," he said recently.

"If winning a scoring title brings a championship, then I'll be happy to do it. I just want to focus on my team trying to get better."

Thunder general manager Sam Presti lucked into Durant when Portland passed on him, but has also done a nice job adding pieces around him.

The Thunder are now a playoff contender, despite being the youngest team in the NBA. The scary thing for the rest of the league is Durant is by no means satisfied with his quick ascent.

"I've been working hard and it's starting to pay off," said Durant, whose favourite motto is: Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.

"But I've got a long way to go to get where I want to be as a player."

Consider him the anti-Vince Carter, an alarming thought for opponents who already don't quite know how to contain the former rookie of the year.

"He's just a real tough matchup," said Alvin Gentry, the Phoenix Suns coach after a recent game against the Thunder.

Indeed. Durant is listed in the guide books as 6-foot-9 and maybe he was when he starred for Texas, winning national player of the year as a freshman. But he has grown since then.

Now, like James, he's as tall as most power forwards, but spends most of his time at the small forward spot. And like James, he's all but unstoppable.

That's what happens when you combine top shelf athleticism and a smooth jumper with incredible speed and length.

"He's a freak of nature," said Sacramento Kings coach Paul Westphal. "He's got really long arms, he's really tall, he's very quick and he's got beautiful shooting touch. And he doesn't get tired of scoring.

"He's going to be a terror in this league for the next 15 to 20 years."


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