kevin-durant-mr-unreliable

Game 6s in the NBA have more if not equal amounts of legacy and history attached to them than Game 7s. For brief history, see Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals, also known as “The Worst Officiated Game In NBA History” or Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals where LeBron James absolutely turned into The Man in leading Miami back to the confines of American Airlines Arena with a 45-15-5 performance that nearly touched on the absurd.

Or Game 6 of last year’s Finals.

The point here is that tonight, there are three Game 6s with intricate storylines attached to each. The Hawks could oust the Pacers and usher in the most talked about future 30 For 30 not dealing with Donald Sterling. The Clippers could dump the Warriors and move on to the second round for only the third time since they moved to Los Angeles but nothing seems as tantalizing as what could occur in Memphis with Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder down 3-2 to the Memphis Grizzlies.

I’ve joked that Kevin Durant, the league’s presumed Most Valuable Player this season will be accepting the Maurice Podoloff Trophy via satellite much like Dirk Nowitzki did in 2007 should things not go he and the Thunder’s way in the next two games. I’ve nearly jointed the faithful on Twitter who tease and hint that the relegation of Durant’s successes falls upon his disregard for rapper Lil B who then proceeded to curse him in 2011.

Those are my jokes from afar. The truth of the matter is, a combination of calamities have plagued the Thunder over the course of these five games, the last four of which have gone into overtime, an NBA record. They all center in on Russell Westbrook’s refusal to not shoot like a madman despite snagging a triple double and Scott Brooks trying to outduel Kevin McHale for worst head coach of a pretty damn good basketball roster.

The noise surrounding the Thunder, Brooks and Durant in particular has incensed Berry Tramel of The Daily Oklahoman into writing a headline deeming Durant “Mr. Unreliable”, an accusation which not only has Thunder fans screaming at the top of their lungs for Durant to not even consider his free agency choices in a few years but wondering if they peaked the year they were ahead of schedule and vanquished the Spurs in 2012.

Tramel’s words about Durant and in particular Allen doing everything short of telling him which basketball to shoot at when they’re on the court together are brutally accurate. “Allen is inside Durant’s head. Durant is dazed and confused. Hesitant and docile,” he wrote. “The Memphis Doberman has turned Durant into mere mortal this Western Conference playoff series. The Thunder is on the brink of elimination, and if Durant doesn’t return to something approaching the Slim Reaper in Game 6 Thursday night, Grim Sleeper is going to be more like it.”

It’s clear that Scott Brooks inherited a far worse pattern of inexcusable play calling and decision making in late game situations from whatever lame duck head coach he played for and assisted under. The Thunder have zero direction late, all dependant on a Westbrook or Durant bailout shot while both of them are doubled or tripled team. There are few chants of “Thunder The F*ck Up” among the OKC faithful, it’s “Scott Brooks & The Thunder Are About To Be The F*ck Out”.

In all likelihood, Brooks is gone if the Thunder cannot find themselves into the second round, two years removed from a Finals appearance. Durant’s admission of Tony Allen being in his head, his shooting splits looking far more J.R. Smith like than that of his own germinated talents and his free throw percentage, considered his safe haven getting eclipsed by the likes of Blake Griffin.

If the Thunder rebound and find a way to win this series, all of this will be considered moot — temporarily. These growing pains and issues for Durant seem far more parallel to those of James than of his NBA scoring champion counterpart Michael Jordan. Unlike that Cavaliers team which had zero business being in the Finals in 2007, Durant’s Thunder squad was young, sharpening their teeth with the confidence that said they’ll be here again. James ran into a brick wall named the Celtics, Magic and Mavericks in ensuing years – Jordan with the Pistons before that.

Durant however can’t be complacent with not touching the ball late in game situations, more Servant and trying to concede happiness to every player on the team. Westbrook won’t be shouldered with this blame and Brooks will be gone. Durant? Durant will have to eat it because he’s the superstar — and this is his team.

Time for him to own up to it.