Posts Tagged ‘Dominique Wilkins’

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 116) Featuring Hall Of Famer Dominique Wilkins

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Dominique Wilkins is living life young hoop dreamers fantasize about. High school and college star, NBA superstar and eventually a Hall of Famer.

The Atlanta Hawks’ vice president of basketball joined us on Episode 116 of the Hang Time Podcast to talk about his journey as well as the path his Hawks are walking now as they embark upon a huge summer rebuilding project.

Does ‘Nique, 25 years removed from his famous Game 7 battle with Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics, see the Hawks making their way to another six straight years of playoff appearances with a new regime in charge? He sees that and more.

And he takes our advice and makes sure that Hawks GM Danny Ferry places a call to Phil Jackson (why not? Everyone else is calling the Zen Master these days), the Hawks could be on the cusp of the greatest stretch in franchise history. They’d have to pull off the stunner first, however, and actually get Jackson to take the call and even entertain the possibility of joining the Hawks in some capacity (which is longtime Hawks fan Lang Whitaker‘s hoops fantasy). And that would require some serious lobbying on the part of Rick Fox, who played on championship teams coached by Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers.

In the meantime, we’ll continue  to keep an eye on the playoffs and awards season and continue to debate which is more unpredictable. The Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers both won Game 1 on the road in their respective Eastern Conference semifinal series, while the Memphis Grizzlies won Game 2 and the Golden State Warriors will attempt to match that feat tonight in San Antonio (9:30 p.m. ET, TNT). We discuss how big a deal the shakeup has been on LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony (the top three vote-getters in the KIA NBA Most Valuable Player race).

We also got off into a heated debate about the merits of each candidate in the Coach of the Year race and whether George Karl’s runaway win makes sense with his team already gone fishing and other worthy candidates such as Tom Thibodeau, Mike Woodson, Mark Jackson, Lionel Hollins and others still working this season. (Trust me, it gets plenty messy … especially when we try to rationalize Vinny Del Negro getting a first-place vote and finishing ahead of both Doc Rivers and Scott Brooks).

You get all of that and much more, right here on Episode 116 of the Hang Time Podcast …


As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of,  Lang Whitaker of’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best engineer in the business,  Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

One Injury That Kobe Can’t Instantly Slay


Kobe Bryant will have surgery this afternoon, but even he knows it’s a formality. The immediate procedure for a ruptured Achilles tendon is an obvious one. The sensation it creates is unmistakable and Kobe knew the reality before he courageously limped in front of reporters Friday night, slumped on crutches and with bloodshot eyes.

The Los Angeles Lakers medical staff surely told him the news that must have struck him like a basketball in his throat: The typical recovery period is nine to 12 months, even for a Black Mamba, seemingly more a 6-foot-6, 205-pound piece of precision machinery than a mere fragile human throughout his incredible 17-year career.

“We have to question to ourselves, how special are these athletes?” noted sports injury expert and author Will Carroll Saturday morning. “Is there something mental that goes into the physicalness? Have we granted Kobe magical powers that he might not have? If he’s back in six months, then yeah, give it to him. If it’s 12 months like Derrick Rose (ACL injury), then he’s human.”

Even as the severity and consequence of the injury to his left foot was still soaking in, Bryant, 34, was telling reporters it was already fueling his desire to return better than ever. We can only expect him to pursue the accelerated Terrell Suggs model. The Baltimore Ravens linebacker played seven months after his Achilles injury, but Suggs is the clear exception in these cases.

Bryant’s path will include surgery likely as soon as the swelling recedes. Then begins the grueling comeback trail of rehabilitation.

“He might not be back until December,” Carroll said. “If we’re talking a 12-month recovery, and that’s the long end, we’re talking a full season. He does have some great factors going for him. He’s in great shape, he’s not that old and he’s very athletic.”

Bryant, of course, has one more season left on his contract and he recently indicated to that he planned to make a decision this summer on how much longer he wanted to play. He made several suggestions going back to training camp that he would retire sooner rather than later.

It’s impossible to determine how long it will take a particular individual to recover from a catastrophic injury. Carroll said Bryant’s chronic knee issues could complicate his recovery due to overcompensation as he works to strengthen his heel. Carroll said it can also be difficult to locate a donor tendon large enough to replace the highly developed one of a 6-6 elite athlete.

Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas retired at age 32 after rupturing his Achilles in April 1994. Dominique Wilkins has said the favorite portion of his Hall of Fame career was rupturing his right Achilles at 32, hearing that his windmill tomahawk days were done only to return with a vengeance. He increased his scoring average the next two seasons and made three more All-Star teams.

Clippers guard Chauncey Billups, 36, hasn’t been the same since his return 10 months after rupturing his Achilles tendon in Feb. 2012.

“Jumping is the toughest part,” Carroll said of basketball player’s return from a torn Achilles tendon. “That’s what’s going to test Kobe the most.”

Response to Bryant’s injury immediately focused on the heavy minutes he’s logged all season and primarily over the last seven games as the disappointing Lakers have made a desperate charge to secure the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Bryant had again played every second of Friday night’s 118-116 win at Golden State up to the three-minute mark of the fourth quarter when Bryant made his fateful move to drive by Harrison Barnes. Bryant stepped down on his right foot and fell to the ground.

Headed toward a third 48-minute effort, it was his eighth consecutive game of playing at least 41 minutes. He averaged 45.7 minutes in the six games before Friday night.

Some have pointed a finger at coach Mike D’Antoni for allowing Bryant to carry on that way, but it was the prideful Bryant who forced that issue during this mad playoff push.

Achilles injuries do seem to attack athletes in their 30s with more regularity, and certainly age and fatigue play a role in being vulnerable to such an injury. Those two factors can’t be overlooked in this case. But it’s impossible to declare it definitively. An injury can occur to any player, young or old, at any time, and Bryant has routinely played through injuries, such as his recent severely sprained ankle, that would sideline others for weeks.

“Every time you run you’re doing some damage. Age and fatigue are a factor, but not the only factor,” Carroll said. “Usually in a traumatic injury, you take a wrong step and it happens.”

The next step for Bryant is surgery followed by rehab. Then the countdown for his return from the first major injury of his career will begin in earnest. Bryant has never played fewer than 65 games in any season and he’s missed only a handful of games in each of the last eight seasons.

Right now, nobody can be certain when, or even if, he’ll be back for an 18th NBA season.

“Is it six months, eight months or is it 12 months?” Carroll said. “Is he the next Terrell Suggs or Derrick Rose?”


Magic’s $1 Million Dunk Offer For LeBron

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Finally, someone put their money where there mouth was instead of just whining about LeBron James making an appearance in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.

Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst and Magic Johnson made his plea for James to take his pregame dunk exploits (above) to New Orleans for All-Star Weekend next year, and sweetened the deal by offering to put up $1 million for James to end the suspense and help revive the contest that Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins made a must-see event 30 years ago.

“Please LeBron, get in the dunk contest,” Johnson said earlier tonight on ESPN’s Kia NBA Countdown pregame show. “I’m going to put up a million dollars. A million dollars to LeBron. Please get in the dunk contest. I go every year. I want to see you out there. A million to the winner.”

If Magic is offering up a that kind of cash for the winner, surely there might be a few other superstars willing to join the fray. Perhaps 2011 Sprite Slam Dunk champion  and Los Angeles Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin would be willing to consider accepting the challenge? Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook has yet to showcase his stuff on All-Star Saturday night. And there has to be a standing invite for the reigning champ, Toronto’s Terrence Ross.

Presumably, any other superstars willing to get in the mix are welcome, too (hey, it’s not our money. It’s Magic’s cash, and he’s got plenty). It’s not just about the money, though. It’s about the competition. A star-studded field in New Orleans could help revive the contest and finally end the speculation about what LeBron might do on that stage.

After coming under fire for his spectacular pre-game dunkfests earlier this week, LeBron said he was considering not participating in the Heat’s unofficial contests anymore. But he decided against it a day later and was up to his old tricks before the Heat took on the Memphis Grizzlies.

Now comes this offer from Magic and a chance for LeBron to not only win a cool $1 million but to donate it to the charity of his choice (you know he won’t keep the cash if Magic’s stunt works and he actually accepts and wins the contest).

All we need now is to hear from LeBron …

It’s Finally Time For Trailblazing Haywood

HOUSTON — Spencer Haywood was an MVP in the old ABA. He was a two-time All-NBA first teamer, four-time NBA All-Star and a member of the champion Lakers in 1980.

But nothing ever did had the impact of Haywood v. National Basketball Association, 401 U.S. 1204 (1971), a U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled, 7–2, against the NBA’s old requirement that a player may not be drafted by a NBA team unless he waited four years (which meant playing at the college level in most cases) following his graduation from high school.

Haywood is the reason that the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwight Howard were able to jump straight from the prep ranks into the NBA.

“They don’t know that, not most of the players today,” said the 63-year-old Haywood on the day that he was named a finalist for the Hall of Fame Class of 2013. “I was kind of thinking they were a little remiss here. I thought it would be talked about as that case.

“That was horrible, hard time. I went from the lower courts to the state court all the way to the Supreme Court and that was some pretty serious stuff there. Two of us were in the courts at that time and (baseball player) Curt Flood lost his case and I won my case. It was powerful.

When you see all these players today, even the older ones on this stage with me — Bob McAdoo, Clyde Drexler, Dominique Wilkins — they all fell under my rule. But those older guys all know.”

What perhaps the younger generation doesn’t know is that Haywood led the U.S. to the gold medal in the Mexico City Olympics in 1968 and then played a spectacular sophomore season at the University of Detroit, averaging 32.1 points and 21.5 rebounds per game. That’s when he decided to turn pro, was first turned away by the NBA and signed on with the ABA Denver Rockets.

“This feels tremendous,” Haywood said. “It’s hard to put in words in terms of how I feel. I’m this poor kid from the cotton fields of Silver City Mississippi, population of 100 people. To be on this stage and possibly on my way to the Hall, just being a finalist, it is tremendous, just something very, very special, beyond anything I could ever imagine.”

There an argument to be made that the honor should have come much sooner.

“No,” Haywood said. “I let everything happen on God’s time and not on my time, because, of course, I would have said years ago. But this is a good time, this is the right time and this is on time.”

Bernard King May Get Long Overdue Day


– Sometimes the announcement of Hall of Fame candidates is routine. Sometimes there are surprises.

Then along comes a day like Friday when the voters for the Hall have a chance to right a wrong, correct an omission.

Two decades after Bernard King finally stopped terrorizing defenses as one of the greatest 1-on-1 scorers of all-time, the former great was named among the finalists for the North American committee.

It was a day and a step forward that many current Hall of Fame members said was long overdue.

“Bernard King. Bernard King. Bernard King,” said Dominique Wilkins. “I’ve been saying that for years. Bernard King. There should be no debate about it. Bernard King should be in the Hall of Fame.

“I don’t understand why he isn’t there yet. I tell you, I never feared anybody that I ever played against, but I lived in fear of him. The guy was a machine. You could not guard him 1-on-1. You can ask any of the greats of that era. You could not guard him 1-on-1. It was impossible.”

King averaged 22.5 points per game and shot .518 from the field over a 16-year NBA career. The 6-foot-7 small forward set a Nets rookie scoring record, was an All-NBA first teamer in 1984 and 1985 and led the league in scoring (32.5) in 1985.

In 1984 King gave one of the greatest Christmas Day performance ever, playing for the Knicks he scored 60 points, including 40 in the first half.

But somehow King has managed to get lost in the mist of time and slipped through the cracks of the Hall of Fame for the 15 years that he’s been eligible for induction in the Hall.

“Bernard King,” said Bob McAdoo. “I always said that I couldn’t figure that out. I would scratch my head. I’m glad he finally got nominated and now I hope he gets in. Man, Bernard King, he was the truth.

“I don’t know he’s not in already. That’s how it is, I guess. I have people that tell me all the time they don’t understand why I wasn’t (voted) in the top 50 in 1997). When they research they find I was the only MVP and only scoring champ that didn’t make it.

“It seems that sometimes are overlooked. I think that’s what happened. Man, Bernard King was the truth.”

Sizzling Stars: LeBron and KD Meet Again

OKLAHOMA CITY – The historic impact of the supremacy of LeBron James and Kevin Durant is impossible to ignore. Legends are being made before our eyes, and before All-Star weekend arrives, the NBA gives us the final regular-season meeting between two of the most uniquely gifted players compiling two of the most individually intriguing seasons ever.

No, it’s not a stretch to make such a pronouncement about two players dominating individually and who also have their teams positioned for ultimate goal: a potential NBA Finals rematch in June.

James, built like a bull at 6-foot-9 and 25o pounds and defying every traditional position on the floor, is averaging 27.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 6.9 apg. He’s shooting 56.5 percent overall and 42.0 percent from beyond the arc. The Heat (35-14) have won six in a row and lead the Eastern Conference by three games.

Durant is listed at 6-foot-9, but everybody knows his 235 pounds (probably a stretch) are spread out over a near-7-foot frame and boasts a ridiculously wide wing span. He’s averaging 29.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg and 4.4 apg. He’s shooting 51.9 percent overall, 43.2 percent on 3s and 90.4 percent from the free-throw line. The Thunder (39-13) own the league’s best point-differential at plus-9.1, although they trail San Antonio by one game in the loss column.

When it comes to LeBron and KD, no matter the era, the numbers don’t lie.

“They’re two unique bodies and two unique styles of play,” said former Atlanta Hawks great and 1986 scoring champ Dominique Wilkins. “Totally different, but with the same efficiency. The thing with these guys is you rarely see them take a lot of bad shots. That’s why they shoot the percentages they are. When guys have great shooting percentages, they limit their bad shot attempts. That’s what both those guys have done.”

James floats into Thursday’s game at Oklahoma City (8 p.m. ET, TNT) on a run for the ages as the only player in NBA history to reel off six consecutive 30-point games while shooting better than 60 percent in each. And forget about 60 percent, James is 66-for-92 in those games for a blistering, almost unbelievable, 71.7 percent.

It’s the kind of stretch that has practically assures him of joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players to twice win consecutive MVP awards. And if he does win it this season, James and Bill Russell will be the only players named MVP four times in five seasons. Oscar Robertson — perhaps the player James most resembles — stopped Russell’s run at three in a row in 1963-64. Russell followed the next season by winning it again.

Derrick Rose‘s awesome 2010-11 MVP season stopped James at two straight and Rose could ultimately prevent him from being the first player to ever have won it five consecutive seasons.

Still, a fourth MVP would already give LeBron, at age 28, more than the three won by Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Moses Malone, while tying him with Wilt Chamberlain and moving him one away from matching Michael Jordan and Russell at five. A sixth would put LeBron with Abdul-Jabbar on the mountaintop.

In any other season, Durant would be the frontrunner for his first MVP. As it is, he’s locked in a battle with Carmelo Anthony for a fourth consecutive scoring title — both lead the league at 29.0 ppg. Only Wilt (1959-66) and Jordan (1986-93), each with seven consecutive scoring titles, have won more than three in a row.

Durant is one of just five players to claim three straight: Jordan (1995-98), George Gervin (1977-80), Bob McAdoo (1973-76), Neil Johnston (1952-55) and George Miken (1948-51).

If Durant — who is also on pace to notch the ultra-rare 50-40-90 season (50 percent field goals, 40 percent 3-pointers, 90 percent free throws) — claims the scoring title, he will tie Allen Iverson and Gervin — the player Durant is most often compared to because of his slender frame and cool demeanor — with four.

Even if Durant doesn’t pick up his fourth in a row, at only 24 years old, he’s still lined up to threaten Jordan’s unprecedented, and once thought to be untouchable, 10 scoring titles.

For history in the making, stay tuned.

Blogtable: Favorite Dunk Contest Dunk?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Week 16: All-time favorite Dunk Contest dunk? | On LeBron’s hot streak … | Winning it all without a star

What stands out as your favorite all-time Dunk Contest dunk?



Steve Aschburner: I’m going with my pick of the most neglected, underappreciated dunk in Slam Dunk contest history. When Andre Iguodala came from back amongst the photographers on the baseline on one of his throwdowns in Houston in 2006, the geometry seemed impossible. Somehow, as a helper bounced the ball off the back of the backboard, Iguodala grabbed the carom, ducked his head to avoid the both the glass and any support bars and dunked from behind the board. It was stunning, and remarkable that he didn’t slam-head-dunk-himself. The Sixers’ young forward had two other terrific dunks, including a windmill in which he passed the ball behind his back … and he came away with nothing. That was one of the years in which people were fascinated with Nate Robinson‘s little-man theatrics, which meant sitting through about 20 straight misses (yawn) till he got a big one right. Said it then and I’ll say it again: Iggy was robbed.

Fran Blinebury: I’ve seen them all in person since Larry Nance upset Dr. J in the first back in 1984 at Denver. Michael Jordan beating Dominique Wilkins at Chicago in 1988 was spectacular. Vince Carter putting his elbow on the rim in 2000 in Oakland was awesome. But I had the best seat in the house —  front row courtside, straight out from the free throw line — at Dallas in 1986 and 5-foot-7 Spud Webb was simply breathtaking. He started by slamming a backwards dunk so hard that ball went through the net and bounced off his head. He did a pair of 360s and a double-clutch, two-hander. Then he finally took down Dominique in the finals by bouncing the ball just inside the free throw line and off the glass, catching it in his right hand and slamming it home.  One of the photos from Sports Illustrated shows his feet even with referee Wally Rooney‘s chest. Air Spud. I can still see the little guy flying.

Jeff Caplan: I just ran into Dominique Wilkins the other night and he’s not all that fond of this year’s dunk contestants. Nothing against the guys personally, but he’d like to see some bigger names go at it like back in the day. So, I’m going way back to the Human Highlight Film’s windmill dunks because, frankly, I think he’s the one that introduced the windmill dunk or at least elevated it to an artform converging out-of-this-world athletic, finesse and raw power. So which windmill dunk? After all, Wilkins is a two-time dunk champ and probably should have won one or two more considering he was in five of them. Anyway, I’ll take Niques’ two-handed windmill jam that earned him the ’85 title in a showdown with Michael Jordan, who, by the way, brought out the rock-the-cradle jam.

Scott Howard-Cooper: If we’re talking NBA dunk contest, that leaves out the great Julius Erving-David Thompson moment at halftime in Denver in the ABA days. In the orange-ball world, I’ll go with Blake Griffin redefining the term carhop. So much hype had built through the season about Blake Superior and his dunk arsenal that it seemed there was nothing he could do step up to the moment. And then he did. The car, Baron Davis with the assist, the choir — pure theater. It was way over the top, but what the event needed after years of losing excitement.

John Schuhmann: There’s something — the power, really — about Dominique Wilkins‘ dunks that gets me fired up. My favorite in-game dunk might be the time he destroyed Larry Bird on a fast break, and my favorite dunk contest dunk was his two-handed windmill (8:20 mark here) in the finals of the 1988 contest in Chicago. He got up high, he brought the ball all the way around from left to right, and he almost tore down the rim. Elevation, finesse and oh, the power. We’ve seen more difficult dunks since then, but I’ll always think of ’88 as the best dunk contest ever, because it was two stars going head to head and just thinking up stuff on the fly. Nique did a variety of windmills that night, but the two-hander was the highlight. That the judges gave him a 45 (to open the door for Jordan to win on the final dunk) was pretty ridiculous.

Sekou Smith: “You’re going to a reunion of all the JET Beauty of the Week superstars of the past 40 years. Give me your favorite?” It’s an impossible question given all of the options. Being the lover of hang time that I am, it’s hard to ignore the icons of the contest (Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Dr. J). But as far as anticipation and delivery, I’d have to go with Vince Carter’s work in the 2000 contest. It was a rebirth for the contest, after a two year layoff, and an introduction to a new breed of dunk champ. Vince was the first guy I saw in the contest that took me back to MJ and ‘Nique. His first dunk, that 360 windmill with the cuff, was just plain wicked. Made me love the dunk contest all over again.

Green And White Fly Slam Dunk Colors

HANG TIME, Texas — The last time James White and Gerald Green were in a slam dunk contest together, they practically blew the roof off with a 2010 Russian Cup performance that’s become a YouTube cult classic.

So perhaps it is fitting that they will be comrades along with Terrence Ross, representing the Eastern Conference in the 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, as State Farm All-Star Saturday Night includes an overall team format for the first time.

White, Green and Ross will square off against the Western Conference threesome of Jeremy Evans, Eric Bledsoe and Kenneth Faried.

Evans, the 6-foot-9 forward from the Jazz, will be looking to defend the individual title that he won a year ago at Orlando.

The Pacers’ 6-foot-8 Green won the event in 2007 at Las Vegas when he leaped over a table to dunk in the final round to beat out Dwight Howard and finished runner-up to Howard in 2008 despite a crowd-pleasing first-round dunk where he blew out the candle on a cupcake that was sitting on the back of the rim.

State Farm All-Star Saturday Night, an all-inclusive skills showcase, will take place on Feb. 16 at the Toyota Center in Houston and will be televised live by TNT at 8 p.m. ET.

Two of the league’s long-range shooters — Stephen Curry of the Warriors and Steve Novak of the Knicks — will lead opposing teams in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest. Curry’s West teammates will be Ryan Anderson of the Hornets and Matt Bonner of the Spurs. Joining Novak on the East team will be Kyrie Irving of the Cavaliers and Paul George of the Pacers.

It’s worth noting that Novak will be returning to the Toyota Center court where he broke into the NBA with the Rockets in 2006, while the league’s top 3-point percentage shooter — Kyle Korver of the Hawks — will not take part. But Anderson has the most 3-pointers this season.

The Taco Bell Skills Challenge will have Texans Tony Parker of the Spurs and Jeremy Lin of the Rockets joining forces with Trail Blazers rookie Damian Lillard for the West against the Hawks’ Jeff Teague, the Sixers’ Jrue Holiday and the Bucks Brandon Jennings.

The Sears Shooting Stars Competition, which features NBA players, WNBA players and NBA legends, will have James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Tina Thompson, Maya Moore, Robert Horry and Sam Cassell of the West taking on an East team of Brook Lopez, Chris Bosh, Swin Cash, Tamika Catchings, Dominique Wilkins and Muggsy Bogues.

As part of the new format, points earned by each conference throughout the four All-Star Skills Competitions will determine the conference that earns the title of 2013 State Farm All-Star Saturday Night champion. Dwyane Wade of the Heat will serve as the East team captain and the Clippers’ Chris Paul will lead the West.

In addition, NBA Cares and State Farm will make a joint donation of $500,000 as part of the event, with $350,000 going to the winning conference’s charities and $150,000 to the runner-up conference’s charities. All of the charities will be selected by the conference captains, the NBA, and State Farm.

In drafting players for Team Chuck and Team Shaq in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal went in opposite directions with their top picks. Shaq built his foundation on the high-scoring backcourt of Irving and Lillard, while Barkley went for big men in Anthony Davis and Faried.

The 62nd NBA All-Star Game will be played on Feb. 17, at the Toyota Center.

Durant Drops Career-Best 52


DALLAS – How many players can go 13-for-31 from the floor and finish with 52 points?

KD can.

Kevin Durant is the first in the league to score 50 this season and the Oklahoma City Thunder needed every last one of his career high to secure a sixth consecutive win, downing the Dallas Mavericks 117-114 in overtime.

It goes down as one of the stranger constructions to the half-century mark with Durant going 8-for-22 on 2-point shots, 5-for-9 from beyond the arc and a season-best 21-for-21 from the free-throw line.

The Mavs thought they did a pretty good job of making things tough for the spindly Durant only to look up to see the scoreboard exploding. What can you say?

“You don’t have to say nothing when you do that,” said teammate Russell Westbrook, who dropped 31 points in the game. “You don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to say nothing at all. There isn’t nothing to say. Plain and simple.”

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle had this to say: “He’s a great player. Best offensive player on the planet. I don’t think there’s any question about that.”

Durant had 31 points on 50 percent shooting through three quarters and Oklahoma City led 81-72. The Thunder led by as many as 14 in the quarter as well as in the first half, but could never land a knockout blow. Then they nearly lost it in the fourth quarter. Durant suddenly went cold, missing 9-of-11 shots in the period. Yet he hit a jumper with 2:07 to go and then sank six free throws in the final 1:32. Westbrook’s two free throws with 5.9 seconds left put the Thunder up 105-102 and figured to end Durant’s night with 43 points.

O.J. Mayo tied it on a big-time 3 with 2.3 seconds to go, leaving enough time for Durant to get off a decent 20-footer that bounced high off the rim. Durant grabbed the ball and slammed it into the hardwood and smacked it back into his hands.

“I was upset with myself in the fourth quarter,” Durant said. “I missed so many shots and I wasn’t taking it to the rim. I wasn’t putting pressure on the defense, so I was just trying to make up for it in overtime.”

Durant’s OT got off to an inauspicious start. He threw the ball away on the opening possession and then fouled Vince Carter on a 3-ball. Carter made all three free throws and Dallas led 108-105. Then Durant made two more free throws, buried a 3-pointer with 2:05 to play for a 112-110 lead, hit a fallaway leaner going one-on-one with Mayo to retake the lead, 114-113, and then dropped the dagger, a 12-foot floater over Shawn Marion, for a 116-114 lead with 16.9 seconds to go.

“Experience is helping me a lot,”  Durant said. “Just knowing if I look like I’m out there panicking, my teammates are going to be looking the same way. So I’ve got to be cool. If I miss a shot, so be it. I’m sure the opportunity will come back around sooner or later. So I’ve just got to be cool and be confident.”

Which describes KD at the free-throw line where he’s shooting 90.6 percent on the season and remains on line to accomplish the ultra-rare 50-40-90 trifecta — 50 percent field-goal percentage, 40 percent on 3s and 90 percent from the free-throw line.

Durant’s free throws went like this: 5-for-5 in the first quarter; 1-for-1 in the second; 5-for-5 in the third; 8-for-8 in the fourth; and 2-for-2 in OT. He was two shy of tying Dominique Wilkins for most consecutive free throws made in a regular-season game.

“For a guy getting 52, I think this is about as good as you can guard him,” said Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki, who knows something about stringing free throws, having made an NBA playoff-record 24 in a row against the Thunder in Game 1 of the 2011 West finals. “Obviously, I think we could have kept him off the line on some occasions where we reach in or, you know, he gets to the line because he’s Kevin Durant.”

It’s good to be Kevin Durant. There’s really nothing more to say about that.

Ex-Hawk Roundfield, 59, Drowns

An idyllic vacation turned tragic when former NBA All-Star forward Dan Roundfield drowned while swimming off the coast of Aruba.

A police spokesman told the Associated Press that Roundfield and his wife swam beyond a protected reef area Monday on the southeastern tip of the Caribbean island. John Larmonie, the police spokesman, said Roundfield, 59, helped his wife to safety after they encountered strong currents but was swept away himself. His body was found underwater, trapped by rocks, about 90 minutes later by a search team.

Julia Roundfield of Detroit, the player’s sister-in-law, confirmed the report of his death to the AP.

Roundfield, a second-round pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1975, signed instead with the ABA Indiana Pacers, then entered the NBA with the Pacers the following year. In 12 pro seasons — three with Indiana, six with Atlanta, one with Detroit and two with Washington — the 6-foot-8 product of Central Michigan averaged 14.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists. He was even better in 40 playoff games (15.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg) and strung together six straight double-double seasons from 1977-78 through 1982-83. (more…)