The Philadelphia 76ers beat up on the Brooklyn Nets last night in what could be a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals. We didn't learn much from it, though, because James Harden, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin did not participate for one reason or another. A depleted opposing roster was of course not reason enough for the Sixers crowd to contextualize their accomplishment and they were feeling predictably emboldened in the game's final seconds.
Chants of "KD Sucks" rained down as Joel Embiid salted things away from the free-throw line with a minute to play. Durant, wearing comfortable clothes and simply watching from afar like the rest of the ticket-holders, was confused by the turn of events.
Stepping into the deep recesses of the fanatical mind is always a scary endeavor and one knows that there wasn't a tremendous amount of consideration given before telling one of the most talented basketball players on the planet that he sucks even though he didn't play in the game, thus allowing his team the chance to overcome his supposed dead weight. But that doesn't make it any less stupid.
Because Durant does not suck. He has incredible talent and is a world-class Twitter poster. He is funny and real and flawed and weird in the way that all of us are to some extent. Inside that global superstar is a relatable and complex individual that is infinitely more interesting than the replacement player.
Durant was a different dude in Oklahoma City than he was in Oakland and a different dude in Brooklyn than he was out West. The one constant is his innate ability to kill the opposition on the court. Which is still there on full display when he is both healthy enough and scheduled to play as the SuperNets try to pace themselves to be in peak position for the playoffs.
In 20 games this season Durant is scoring 28.2 points per contest. It's his highest total since the MVP campaign of 2013-14. He's shooting .535 from the floor, just .002 behind his career-high and is enjoying a .448 proficiency from beyond the arc and an effective FG percentage of .606. He may not be out on the floor for half the games, but when he is, it's essentially curtains.
Philadelphia may finally break through their processed ceiling this year, what with Embiid playing some all-time great ball for a big man. But the hubris of that fanbase after doing absolutely nothing of note in the playoffs and coming up small time after time is pretty rich. One need not a crystal ball to see that this needless poking of the bear is going to look a bit silly if Durant comes back and mauls them in the postseason. That is, if the Sixers even advance deep enough to force such a matchup.