Yours truly explains why the annoyance of a certain Oklahoma City Thunder guard will hopefully blossom into a rivalry for the Nuggets team and their fans.
I knew exactly what I was doing.
When I compared Kevin Durant to Reggie Miller, I knew Thunder fans would get up in arms. I believe this is a somewhat valid comparison to make personally, because Miller is who I envision every time I watch KD launch a 40 foot off balance jumper on one leg. However, I also knew that, for most fans for some reason, comparisons to Miller get under people's skin. Miller annoyed the heck out of people and those memories of his playing days continue to do so today. I absolutely knew what I was doing, and the 25 or so emails I received from disgruntled Thunder fans tells the story about how annoyed they were.
Yes, I knew it would upset certain portions of the population. What I didn't expect was some Nuggets fans taking umbrage with it and feeling the need to come to Durant's defense over what was partially designed to get Thunder fans upset, and partially what I consider to be a valid comparison. Nuggets fans defending a rival ... during a playoff series against them?
In hindsight I think this goes back to the way the Thunder have been presented to the NBA world - a team that, while young, does things the right way. A team made up of players who can walk your elderly grandmother across the street during the day and play straight up fundamental basketball at night (outside of the immensely overrated Kendrick Perkins). Chief among those is Durant. While I appreciate his can-do attitude and his undeniable talent, I can't bring myself as a Nuggets fan to fawn over him as some do. If he is not playing in a Nuggets uniform I can't be a pseudo cheerleader who wishes he was on our team. Makes no sense to me.
Remember, before the playoffs started I said I couldn't muster up enough basketball-hate for the Thunder to consider them a true rival (like the Utah Jazz are to the Nuggets). I too fell under the "these are nice guys" spell. That is until I saw the antics of one Russell Westbrook. Mr. Angry Face himself. A guy who singlehandedly destroyed the perception of the Thunder as a team that does things the "right way" from top to bottom. However, I think we as Nuggets fans owe Mr. Westbrook a sincere thanks for becoming the guy who created the burgoning rivalry between the two teams. This, my friends, was the spark that was needed. So while my well intentioned bit of columnist theater may have missed the mark with certain Nuggets fans, Russell Westbrook gladly (I think) took up the banner. Good for him
While the Thunder have separated themselves from the rest of the division, it can be said that teams in the Western Conference are pretty evenly matched (aside from the Timberwolves of course). The Thunder won a closer series than the 4-1 mark showed over the Nuggets. The Mavericks won in a very close series over the Thunder. The Nuggets handled the Mavs well in the regular season. There is hope that the Nuggets can find that playmaker they so desperately need going forward. I know that the Nugget consider Danilo Gallinari to have that potential. We shall see. All I know is it gets my blood boiling to have another rival and another team to get up for during the long 82 game season. This can only benefit both the Nuggets and the Thunder to have that team that makes you angry, considering the Jazz look to be down for the next couple years. Hopefully the Nuggets can retain some of the talent they have assembled and add some pieces that will put them over the top to ramp up this rivalry even more.
I can't wait for next season (whenever that will be). Oh, and congrats to the Miami Heat. I'm not one of those who holds anything against Lebron James for leaving Cleveland. Miami is pretty clearly the best team in the East and deserved to win (even though the Bulls choked unbelievably in the final three minutes of Game 5). However, it doesn't stop me from rooting for the Mavs in the finals to exact a little 2006 revenge - funny - the NBA is good at creating fairy tale story lines. Curious.
On with this morning's links!
James, Wade lead charge as Heat eliminate Bulls - Denver Post
We have our NBA Finals matchup folks! Heat vs. Mavericks. Rematch of 2006. Something tells me there's a lot of brand new Mavericks fans out there as of last night.
Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose: No pain, No Gain - J.A. Adande, ESPN.com
JA Adande makes the apt assumption that without pain, you receive no gain. Funny though, why wasn't anyone writing this about the Nuggets after they lost the Lakers in the WCF in 09? Double standard much?
Mike Brown agrees to be Los Angeles Lakers head coach - Chris Broussard, ESPN.com
This ... this is an odd one don't you think? Maybe Jim Buss convinced Jerry Buss that Bunsen Honeydew (thanks Andy!) was the best muppet coach out there? Will beaker be his assistant coach? These are the questions.
Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams lead the way - Sam Amick, SI.com
Another day, another mock draft. This time from SI's Sam Amick. He says the Nuggets will select someone named Marshon Brooks from Providence at number 22. He's a shooting guard. This article also makes the assumption that J.R. Smith will be let go via free agency. Huh...his guess is as good as ours at this point.
Have a great morning.