For the second time, Kevin Durant is in the NBA Finals. He’ll be with another team, the Golden State Warriors, that’ll be favored to win for the second time in three years.
Even in victory – and Durant will claim he doesn’t care what everyone says about how he got there – questions will remain for one of the league’s most prolific scorers.
Like LeBron James when he eloped to the Miami Heat to get his first two championship rings, credit won’t automatically come with it.
It took James returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to begin turn the page on “The Decision” in 2010 when he joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach.
James led them back from a 3-1 deficit to upset Golden State to win last year’s Finals.
That was without Durant, who has led a team that has yet to lose game in these playoffs with four-game sweeps of the Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs.
“They’re in a groove,” Spurs big man Pau Gasol told Bay Area News Group after they lost 129-115 on Monday night. “They know what it takes to win and obviously they’ve been champions, they’ve established records that have never been set before and they’re on a path to get another championship.
"In all my years in the league, they’re playing at the highest level right now.”
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With Durant, they should be that good. There's no extra credit for that. They have the league's most lethal shooter in Steph Curry, a two-way elite shooter in Klay Thompson and weapons galore. Durant had double-doubles in two of the wins vs. San Antonio, including 29 points and 12 rebounds on the closeout game.
He likely will make up for the 2012 disappointment with the Oklahoma City Thunder when they succumbed in five games to James and the Heat.
They appeared to be on the right track after winning Game 1 over Miami by 11 points only to lose the next four. Durant could never get back to the Finals, with his next biggest failure professionally coming a year ago.
The Thunder were on the verge of upsetting the defending champion Warriors only to blow a 3-1 series lead in the conference finals. And he responded by joining them.
At least when James bolted Cleveland to join Miami, he didn’t run to a team that had kept him from a championship. The Boston Celtics had eliminated him six games of the conference semifinals despite his triple-double.
Durant one-upped James with his surprising move in free agency, bypassing his hometown Wizards by not even granting them a meeting. Yes, he’s a one-time MVP of the NBA who is now the best player on Golden State that already has a two-time MVP with Curry.
There are a lot of reasons to want to play in the Bay Area. The location alone is enough. But co-owner Joe Lacob has created a fantastic environment with the front office led by Bob Myers and an elite coaching staff.
Durant's work won't be done by raising one Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy next month. They've done that in Golden State without him.
To the contrary, it'll be just beginning. He'll be judged by how much higher he can take them and in the end even that might not be enough.
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