Kyrie Irving called Kevin Durant the PG (point guard) from PG (Prince George’s County, Md.) because there’s more to his game than just scoring.
And after hanging a career-high 16 assists in the Nets’ regular season finale against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, Durant delivered a reminder to those who may not have been paying attention: He’s been this good of a facilitator for almost a decade.
“So this is about to be 10 years of this,” Durant said after setting a new personal record for dimes in a game. “I feel I’ve been an elite passer since 2013. I think people have started recognizing now because I’ve gotten more popular and more people know me.”
The numbers back him up. Durant is averaging a career-best 6.2 assists but has been hovering in the four-or-more assists per game range since 2013. This is his sixth season in the last nine years averaging more than five assists, and one of those years he sat out entirely after rupturing his Achilles.
“It just shows you how special he is when he just allows the game to just flow and he’s not overthinking or anything like that, he’s just being himself,” Irving said of his superstar teammate. “And the other night when we had him up here talking, you can hear he just has a poise about him: 14 years in in this league, he’s seen almost everything, all the adjustments. So nights like tonight happen for him because he just plays the game the right way.”
To go even further, Sunday marked Durant’s 32nd game with 10 or more assists in his career. Durant logged his sixth 10-plus assist game against the Pacers on Sunday but logged seven double-digit assist games in his 2013-14 season as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant suggested he still doesn’t get enough respect for his passing abilities because people aren’t paying attention to his entire game.
“It’s like last game, a few of my friends were like, ‘Yo you started shooting one-footed shots?’” he said. “I’m like, ‘Where the f--- y’all been?’ So that’s how I feel about my passing, too. A lot of people just either focused just on my scoring or haven’t really focused on me at all as a player, so I expect to come out there and make the right reads and get my teammates some good looks.”
This season, however, has been different for Durant because defenses have religiously bailed on their principles to throw two and sometimes three additional bodies at him. Durant said there are times when he brings the ball up the floor and all five opposing defenders on the floor have their eyes on him. He has seen every defense an opposing team can conjure up. Usually it boils down to opposing defenses either having a help defender shadow him, send a full double team or completely sell-out on their defensive game plan to get him out of his shooting rhythm.
“I feel like I’ve been playing amongst those three (defensive schemes) throughout the whole season,” he said. “Each coach is going to throw something different at me each game. Sometimes I come down court, and I see the whole team just staring in my eyes. You know what I’m saying? That’s a tough position to be in. I’ve got to make the right read.”
The defenses have forced some errors. Durant is averaging 3.5 turnovers but consistently said the wild defenses he faces have made him a better player.
“I’ve turned the ball over. I’ve had some wild turnovers this year, but for the most part I thought I did a good job of finding guys and playing the game a little slower and seeing things develop before they actually do,” he said. “It was good for me to get that kind of coverage earlier in the season. It’s prepared me for what’s about to happen.”