by Myles [email protected]
I haven’t been here in a while, so I walked in the building expecting to see the league’s worst team and one of its best scorers.
I was half right.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are an embarrassing 9-34, but I refuse to believe that this team isn’t capable of more. It’s particularly frustrating to compare their struggles to the success in Memphis and OKC, but it’s worth mentioning that while those teams began rebuilding at the same time as Minnesota, they haven’t rebuilt as many times. So despite a failure to keep up with their peers in the standings, it’s still quite possible that they could find themselves ahead of the pack next year.
I know, I know. Next year. I’m surprised it isn’t stitched into the jerseys and printed on the programs. It’s practically become our slogan. But for those who can bear to watch, there have been encouraging developments as of late. Particularly from Corey Brewer. He’s managed to corral a once reckless energy and is playing the best ball of his short career. The secret? His workouts with renowned guru David Thorpe. Corey didn’t stick around, so I didn’t have an opportunity to chat with him about it.
But there’s always next time.
Kevin Durant’s arms are long. Comically long. No chest, no rib cage, just the gangly, awkward frame befitting a Tim Burton character. All arms. Amongst the chiseled chests and sculpted shoulders of his teammates, an uninformed observer would rightfully presume KD to be the team’s weakest link. “Look at him!” they’d exclaim, “It’s a wonder he can even move without tripping over himself!” Much laughter and mocking would ensue.
This of course, would also be the scene where Kevin reveals the talent belied by his physique, carving masterpieces of the competition with an unnatural grace and precision. He’d score in bunches. He’d score from the perimeter, driving to the basket, from the line, fading away and on the occasional slam just for emphasis. Having converted his tormenters, their mouths agape in awe, Durant would saunter out of the arena with the same humility with which he arrived, arms dragging behind him all the way.
Kevin Bucketarms, they’d call him. Or some other such fuckery. It really doesn’t matter. The box score is filled, credits are rolling and he’s on to the next one.
SLAM: There hasn’t been much roster turnover from last year, but things are drastically different. What clicked for you guys this season that was missing in the past?
KD: “It takes time. A lot of people from the outside looking in think that if you do that, the next year you’re supposed to be good. But it takes time and you have to grow together as a group first to create that chemistry. You’ve gotta build your defensive schemes, your offensive schemes, you’ve gotta build everything from scratch and that’s tough to do in this league when there are so many veteran teams. So it’s all about just working hard as a group.”
SLAM: What was it that changed for you personally? There were a lot of predictions about you breaking out and scoring big numbers this year and you’re fulfilling that.
KD: “I just work on everything and let things come natural to me. I couldn’t just pinpoint one thing I worked on and go from there, I worked on a lot of different things and stayed the course. I just give thanks to everybody that worked with me because they didn’t have to do that. Working me out everyday, helping me to get better. I just thank everybody that worked with me and believed in me. I have a long way to go before I’m where I want to be, so it’s all about working hard.”
SLAM: What is the goal for you?
KD:”I want to be one of the greatest to ever play this game. I know that sounds kind of cliched, but that’s what it is for me.”
SLAM: You and your teammates are pretty close. Is that something that happened instantly or did it develop from being around each other all the time?
KD: “We’re young. We just like hanging with each other and joking around. Eric came a little later than the rest of us, but we welcomed him and just like being around each other.”
SLAM: You guys are definitely close on twitter.
KD: “Yeah, everybody’s close on twitter. We’ve got a lot of time on our hands, so why not?”
SLAM: But you see your teammates all the time. What else is it about twitter that appeals to you?
KD: “I like talking to the fans. I try to put myself in their shoes. If there was twitter and you could talk to your favorite players when I was young, I’d have been on there too. Some people, it might make their day or week or year that you talk to them. So it’s pretty cool and some fans give you tips on what you can do in games.”
SLAM: Good advice?
KD: “Yeah, I try to listen to everybody.”
SLAM: What’s something good you’ve taken out of it?
KD: “ A guy told me earlier this year ‘If you go to the basket more, you’ll get fouled and the free throw line will help your jumper.’ And it did. I know a lot of people told me that, but to hear it from someone else was cool. You never know what people know. They might know more about the game than you do.”
Initially I scoffed at the very idea of it, but Durant’s comment that his twitter followers may know more than he does about his job was a genuine reflection of his humility. Now this wouldn’t be the first time we celebrated the meekness of a player ready to inherit the league, but there is something particularly refreshing about KD’s brand of modesty. It isn’t the polished duplicity of a Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, men willing to say the right things to appease potential consumers, but an honest and unassuming forthrightness.
It could erode over time as it has with his predecessors, but for now it’s more encouraging to consider how humility and hard work have been all he’s needed to assume the role of leader and fan favorite.
Because they’re all he really needs to remain one.