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Steve Aschburner

The skills Kevin Durant (left) brings to the court are much like the ones Bob McAdoo had in his day.
Garrett Ellwood & Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images

McAdoo well versed in silky smooth game Durant brings

Posted Jun 19 2012 11:11AM

MIAMI -- Juwan Howard smiled, rolled his eyes, raised his eyebrows and gave every other amused, non-verbal answer he could think of when asked about Miami assistant coach Bob McAdoo's tendencies to go "back in my day" on the current Heat players.

Howard was being mock-polite. But McAdoo -- whose Hall of Fame NBA career was over before several of the current Heat players were born -- occasionally will regale them with stories of his exploits as an MVP and three-time scoring champ.

Sometimes he'll step on the court to demonstrate, at age 60, the uncanny shooting touch that hasn't entirely left him. And now McAdoo has fresh material, telling the guys on Miami's roster how much Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant reminds him of ... him.

"Trust me, he has made me aware of that," Howard said. "How, when Kevin Durant first entered the league, a coach -- it was [Thunder assistant] Maurice Cheeks -- came up to McAdoo and made sure that Kevin Durant was right there with him. Cheeks said, 'You remind me of this man right here, Bob McAdoo.'

"Kevin took that as a compliment, even though he had never seen McAdoo play before. But Maurice gave him a little history, some background on Bob, and that was a big compliment to Bob because he really appreciated it."

From such humble beginnings, a mutual admiration society was born. One lanky sweet-shooting All-Star for another.

"You could say I was Kevin Durant before Kevin Durant," McAdoo said before the 2012 Finals shifted to south Florida. "A lot of people now, the new fans, they don't know the NBA from the '70s and '80s. They didn't see me play. But a lot of the old-timers, I've had them tell me that."

Said Durant on Monday: "Well, that's before my time a little bit, but I heard a lot of stories about Mac, and how great a player he was. People compare me to him. He had such a great career that it's a little too early for that. Hopefully I can be as good a player he was."

One of the most striking things about Durant is how tall he actually is. It sets him apart from others who make their livings getting buckets by the bushel because, like McAdoo, he's built like someone who would dwell in or near the paint. McAdoo played at 6-foot-9, 210 pounds. Durant is listed as 6-foot-9, 215. But he's a full-service scorer. "He can make any shot the game has to offer," James said of Durant. "Off the dribble, off the catch-and-shoot, off pindowns."

Back in McAdoo's days, players of that height were supposed to bulk up, bang inside and go back-to-the-basket whenever possible. Giants roamed the Earth back then -- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Lanier, Wilt Chamberlain, Nate Thurmond and Artis Gilmore. It would be years before tall guys such as Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace, Tim Duncan and Chris Webber would make "power forward" the new center.

"A great shooter. From anywhere," said Jack Ramsay, the ESPN radio analyst who coached McAdoo his first four seasons with the Buffalo Braves. "Mac could run like a deer. He could post up. He could fast-break, play in the halfcourt. Other centers couldn't defend him. He could get off the floor, could block shots. I had a hard time getting him to pass, but he could knock down shots from anywhere.

"I told him the other day, 'Y'know there's something about Durant, he has a game similar to you.' He said, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah. I see me in him.' "

There are similarities beyond body type and marksmanship:

• Each won three consecutive scoring titles, McAdoo from 1974-76, Durant from 2010-2012.

• Each was named Rookie of the Year after being drafted No. 2 overall. Each stuck the Portland Trail Blazers with some regrets, considering the big men drafted No. 1 those years (LaRue Martin in 1972, Greg Oden in 2007).

• Each played one season of big-time college ball. Durant left Texas after his freshman season, McAdoo transferred to North Carolina after two years of junior college and left the Tar Heels with a year of eligibility left.

• Each brought hope, turning a struggling team into a playoff regular.

Each reached the peak of his powers fast, playing in a smallish market that might have dimmed his spotlight a bit.

McAdoo never led the Braves to The Finals but did get them into the Eastern Conference semifinals three times, the only playoff appearances of the franchise's eight years in Buffalo. He won his MVP award in 1974-75, finished second in the balloting the year before and the year after, and averaged 32.1 points and 13.8 rebounds those three seasons.

He played in five straight All-Star games (1974-78) and ranked among the NBA's top five scorers for three years beyond his scoring titles. Bill Russell, while coaching Seattle, was quoted during McAdoo's run as saying: "He's the greatest shooter of all time, period. Forget that bit about the 'greatest shooting big man.' "

Dave Wohl, who played with McAdoo in Buffalo and later was an assistant coach on Pat Riley's staff in Los Angeles, said: "Durant obviously has deep 3-point range that Bob never had to develop because the shot wasn't around early in Bob's career. But had it been, he would have loved adding that to his game. Bob was a fantastic competitor and lived for the head-to-head matchups because he believed he was better than anyone he played against."

McAdoo's career scoring average, 22.1, still ranks 27th all-time. His 18,787 points rank 53rd. But the greatest Buffalo Brave ever was a Knick by age 25, a Celtic by 27 and a Piston by 28, his middle career churned by some back issues, headstrong ways and trades. McAdoo fetched three first-round draft picks when he was traded in February 1979 from New York to Boston yet, by December 1981, he went from New Jersey to the Lakers for cash and a second-round pick.

He was 30.

He also was reborn.

L.A. had been searching for a backup big and McAdoo fit perfectly. His scoring dipped -- 9.6 ppg, 15.0, 13.1, 10.5 in four seasons in L.A. -- but that was largely a minutes thing. Pro-rate those stats to 36 minutes and averaged 18.9, 24.8, 22.6 and 19.8 ppg.

Now teamed up, rather than matched up, with Abdul-Jabbar, McAdoo went to four consecutive Finals with L.A. and earned rings in 1982 and '85.

"He was a great, great offensive player," longtime coach-turned-broadcast analyst Hubie Brown said, "but the Lakers took the best of what he had to offer at that time and put together the best halfcourt defense I've ever seen.

"The 1-3-1 halfcourt trap that the Lakers played with McAdoo, nobody's even close. They had [Michael] Cooper on the top. They had Kareem at the top of the circle. Facing out you have Magic Johnson on the left, James Worthy on the right. And you had McAdoo in the back. They would force you into a trap and then when you would rotate the ball into the corners, McAdoo -- because of his incredible athleticism and high-jumping ability -- could cover that guy like you've never seen anything covered, as Kareem would come back down."

Former MVP Bob McAdoo (right) is always willing to share his old war stories with Miami's players.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

McAdoo couldn't come to terms with the Lakers for 1985-86 and, as a free agent, haggled with Philadelphia too before joining the Sixers in January that season. He played 29 games with Cheeks, Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Moses Malone and old UNC teammate Bobby Jones -- a similarly lanky hybrid who defended him better than anyone, McAdoo said. Then he was on the move again, heading to Italy as a pioneer of sorts, playing seven more seasons when European basketball was still a great unknown for many in the states. He averaged 26.6 points and 8.7 rebounds in the Italian League, retiring in 1992 at age 41.

It's doubtful Durant will follow McAdoo's career arc. His $93 million contract extension could have him back on the market in 2016, when he's 28, in his prime for the Thunder or whomever. It figures to be a long prime, though.

"This guy is 23 years of age," Brown said. "You look at his development in rebounding. He's increased his assists with the drills they're doing, so he doesn't have 3.8 turnovers anymore. Then he has increased his game in steals and blocked shots. He's becoming a much better defensive player as he is learning the guys he has to play -- that takes time, where you learn all of their idiosyncrasies as offensive players.

"Give him credit here, because he's chasing LeBron James, the most difficult guy to guard in the entire league. And then you are still expected to get 30 and shoot over 50 percent. The foul shooting was always there. He wanted to be a high 3-point shooter -- he's over 35 [percent] now and he'll keep getting better. He's a great leader because, to me, he's shy. But he shows these other guys that nobody's going to outwork him."

Said McAdoo, whose confidence more obviously oozed back in his day: "What's scary is that he, basically, looks like he's got the same mentality as me. Every shot is a good shot. Every time he shoots you think he's gong to make it. Because he's a great percentage shooter too. You meet a player like that, he's almost impossible to stop. But I remember how I was: I was impossible to stop."

Impossible to silence, in a good way, now that McAdoo has been rediscovered a little during these Finals.

"I didn't get a chance to see Bob play much. I saw him near the tail end of his career, with the Lakers," said Howard, 39, the oldest Heat player by five years. "No offense to Bob, but I was locked in on Magic, Worthy, Kareem. Byron [Scott], Michael Cooper. I feel really bad I didn't follow Bob McAdoo so closely.

"He still goes out and plays a little 1-on-1 with some of the guys. Of course, he talks a lot of trash. Of course, they respect him a lot. They want to hear more stories of all the things he used to do."

The Miami players can listen. Or they can watch the tall man in the Thunder jersey right in front of them, stirring the echoes.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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