This is the cover of a section in today's Oklahoman, a newspaper which just took a chainsaw to the idea that smaller cities are more loyal and forgiving than the big ones. Shots fired, as they say.
The headline is accompanied by a Berry Tramel column that rightly points out that Durant has not played all that well during this series against the Memphis Grizzlies, but wrongly calls Durant's performance "inappropriate":
Trouble is, Durant's aggression and positive attitude come and go. His shoulders have dipped repeatedly during rough stretches of this streetfight. His effort is spotty. His confidence is shaken.
That's not appropriate for a 25-year-old superstar. A 21-year-old star? Sure. When Durant made just 35 percent of his shots in that six-game Laker series in 2010, we knew it was growing pains. Knew that Durant was being hounded by Ron Artest, the Tony Allen of yesteryear, a guy who sold out to defense and could stage Les' Miserables for even the sharpest of shooters.
This column, and especially the headline, are just the latest examples of people's twisted conceptions of what greatness is. Transcendent talent goes a long way in the NBA, but it's not just a trump card that can be slapped down on the table any time matchups, schemes, or coaching start to make things a little hairy.
Kevin Durant is an all-world player, but the Memphis Grizzlies are a very good team with a stout defense and a stopper in Tony Allen who literally cannot be screened and is perfectly suited to make life hard for Kevin Durant. The Thunder are a team with a vanilla offense that is slow to adjust and rarely possesses a second option on any given play. All of these things have conspired to dampen Durant's numbers in this series—much more so, I'd wager, than the superstar's mental state. The same was true when LeBron kept getting bounced from the playoffs, and when Jordan couldn't overcome the Pistons.
Nothing that has happened to Kevin Durant in this series is "inappropriate," and he's done nothing that should make anyone seriously consider him "unreliable." This is just basketball—stuff happens. Fall back, Oklahoman. The series isn't even over yet.
Update: The Oklahoman has apologized for the headline, and that is hilarious.