Posted Apr 7 2010 2:32PM
Thunder coach Scott Brooks is going to do everything in his power to get Kevin Durant the scoring title. Well, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration.
"If we're two points down in the game and he needs a 3 to get the title," Brooks said with a grin, "we're going for the 3-ball."
Otherwise, Durant could care less. Same goes for LeBron James, the guy that can collect scoring titles like muscles if he wanted. Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade appear to have even less interest.
Wasn't this once a got-to-get-mine league?
"I can't emphasize any more, I really don't care about it," Durant said of finishing atop the NBA Points Mountain. "LeBron, he can have it. He's been playing phenomenal. It's just something I don't care too much about. Like I say I'd rather be in the playoffs, I'd rather be a guy that just helps this team get to the playoffs."
Durant just so happens to lead the league in scoring after Tuesday night's 45-point outburst in an epic overtime loss at Utah. Oklahoma City also happens to be in the playoffs, ending a four-year drought for the franchise that previously called Seattle home.
As much as the scoring leaders want to downplay finishing first in the race, the correlation between filling up the basket and the win column can't be ignored. The top five scorers -- Durant, LeBron, Melo, Kobe and D-Wade -- each have their respective teams in the playoffs.
"Those guys are all great players, not just because they're great scorers, but because they do so much to help their team win," Brooks said. "Kevin not only scores, but he's really picked up his defense this year. He's getting more rebounds and he's even getting some assists. Of course we need Kevin to score that helps us win games. But he does so much more than that.
|Youngest Scoring Title Winners in NBA History|
|Kevin Durant will turn 22 in September.|
"What can you say about LeBron? He does everything at a very high level. Kobe is the same way and the other guys are too. So, yeah, it's not just about scoring. It's that plus everything else all those guys can do to help their teams win. I know Kevin cares more about our team winning games than he does about winning the scoring title, and I assume the other guys are the same way. Winning games is the most important thing."
Nine of the top 12 scorers are also guaranteed spots in the postseason, with a 10th (Chris Bosh) currently in position to extend his season. Bosh, though, suffered a nasal fracture Tuesday night, damaging eighth-place Toronto's playoff hopes. It's uncertain if he'll return this season.
Of the current top five scorers, Durant and Anthony have yet to claim a scoring crown. Melo has finished among the top four scorers three times. Durant, in position to be the youngest scoring champ ever at 21, was sixth last season as a second-year pro. Bryant (two titles), James and Wade have won every scoring title since 2006.
"Last year, for me, it was a big accomplishment," Wade said. "It was probably the only year I wanted to win the scoring title, because of all I went through with injuries and so forth. It's not like it's an important thing every year for me or for certain players, I don't believe."
|Top 5 Scorers | 2009-2010|
|* through April 6|
The race for No. 1 this season is razor close. Durant's third 45-point effort of the season lifted his average to 29.9, with James slipping to second at 29.7. Those two are the only two with a realistic shot of finishing first.
So who wants it? Do the principals even care?
"Not too many people know who won the scoring title each year," Durant said. "So that's something that I really don't worry about. It'd be cool to win it of course, but at the same time I'd just like to be able to say that I got better throughout the season."
I good-heartedly posed the following question on Twitter this week: What do point guards do San in Antonio's offense? One reader answered: Apparently get hurt. Ouch.
Well, one of those hurt point guards, in fact the lead one, returned to the lineup Tuesday night at Sacramento ahead of schedule.
Tony Parker had targeted Friday at home against Memphis as his preferred comeback date. That was before George Hill went down Sunday with an injured ankle and was lost at least until Friday. So with the Spurs desperate to maintain momentum and continue to climb in the Western Conference, Parker and Gregg Popovich plotted a new course.
Suddenly, the prospect of delaying the inevitable seemed unnecessary. The Spurs have games to win.
"It was 50-50," Parker said of the initial odds of playing Tuesday. "Pop was like, why take a risk? We're playing well. We can wait [until] Friday. But then when George went down, the 50 became 100 percent."
Parker played about 50 percent of his usual minutes, scoring eight and dishing out two assists in the win. San Antonio also moved into the sixth seed in the West, via the tiebreaker over Oklahoma City. The Spurs are at No. 4 Phoenix on Wednesday, and Parker joked he's ready to chase Steve Nash for 40 minutes.
Parker does expect it'll take a few games to regain his rhythm. The Spurs don't mind the wait.
"It's good to get him back," Popovich said.
For the majority of the season, it's looked as if the Rookie of the Year would come out of Northern California. But while Sacramento's Tyreke Evans seized control of race in December and hasn't eased up on the grip, another rook sharing roughly the same latitude has joined the fun.
A case can be made, especially by the folks in Golden State, that Stephen Curry has been the best rookie since Jan. 1. Consider the following:
• Five games with at least 30 points and 10 assists, tied for second most in NBA history for a rookie with Michael Jordan. No other rookie this season has one 30-10 games.
• On pace to become the first rookie ever to shoot 45 percent from the floor, 40 percent from 3-point territory and 85 percent from the line.
• Leads ALL rookies in scoring (20.1), assists (6.7) and steals (1.80) since January 1.
• Ranks in the top three in six of the nine prominent statistical categories for rookies overall -- scoring, assists, steals, 3-point percentage, free-throw percentage and minutes. No other rookie ranks in the top three in more than four categories.
• Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards for January and March.
• Evans is in rare company averaging at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. Curry has the most 25-5-5 games since Jan. 1 (10-6 edge over Evans).
Forgive Donnie Nelson for being defensive following his father's latest snub by the Basketball Hall of Fame. On the verge of being the all-time NBA leader in coaching victories, Don Nelson didn't receive a call -- again -- after the latest class was announced Monday.
When it comes to players, their entire body of work is supposed to be considered. This apparently includes college, pro and international competition. Donnie believes that the same should apply to coaches. In the case of Nellie, he was an All-American at Iowa, played 14 years in the NBA, won five titles and had his number retired by Boston.
Would Nellie the player/coach be a shoo-in for the Hall? Perhaps.
"It's crazy that a person gets in as a player, but as a coach and you can't combine the two," said Donnie, who's day job is being the Mavericks general manager. "That whole thing is such a crock. Whoever thought of that rule has zero basketball sense."
"They supported us when we were 3-29 and that's not easy to do. You know, my mom struggled supporting us at that time."
-- Thunder coach Scott Brooks on the Thunder's fans.
1. Can the Raptors just give their playoff spot to Chicago?
2. The Mavericks considered filing a protest Tuesday night on behalf of Kevin Durant and the Thunder to keep the No. 2 seed.
3. Anyone know when Game 2 of the Duke-Butler series is?
4. Word is after his latest extension, Kobe has entered into exclusive talks to buy the Bobcats from Jordan.
5. So you're a Russian billionaire ... I'm interested in the Nets job, too.
AG: Seems like you've picked things up like you were never gone a year.
JW: Playing with this team, my job is easy. There's so much talent around here. I play my minutes and just try to get the guys the ball where they want it.
AG: It must have taken some time to get back in the flow.
JW: The game is easy if you know how to play it. It's the same no matter what.
AG: Looking at the talent in Magic locker room, you guys must feel you don't take a backseat to anyone.
JW: We have more talent on this team than when we won a championship in '06 in Miami, one through 15 without a doubt.
AG: That's a bold statement.
JW: Obviously, D-Wade was a big part of that and did a lot, and other guys stepped up, too. But one through 15, I think we have the deepest team in the league.
AG: So it would be a disappointment if you guys don't go all the way.
JW: Yeah, that's our goal from the start, to win a championship. What else is there to play for? You can have 70 wins and no championship, what good is that? It's championship or nothing for us.
AG: Is that why you came back?
JW: I want to win another championship and this team has as good or better a shot as anybody. We're so close, on and off the floor, you can't beat that. I've never been on a closer team.
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