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NBA: Why Kevin Durant Will Steal the Show in the League's Second Half

Published by Bleacher Report on Wed, 11 Feb 2015

Who could have predicted that heading into the second half of the season, the Atlanta Hawks and the Golden State Warriors would sit atop their respective conferences'Sure, Steve Kerrs club has started to build momentum the last few seasons, and Stephen Curry was becoming one of the leagues best players, but the rise of the Warriors has almost seemed ahead of schedule. To say nothing of the starless Hawks, who have created a powerhouse without having a superstar on the roster, no offense to the four All-Stars on the team.But, with NBA All-Star Weekend almost upon us, it is just about time to leave the first half of the season in the rearview mirror and look ahead to the next five months of basketball and who will have the biggest impact on the league.The player most primed to take control in the second half of the season is one who has done so before, and is easily one of the NBAs best playersOklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant.As of Wednesday afternoon, the Thunder sit a game out of the playoffs behind the Phoenix Sunsand tied with the New Orleans Pelicans. But despite the 27-25 record compiled during the first few months of the season, there is reason for optimism.Durant has missed 27 games so far this year, and Oklahoma City has struggled without him, going 11-16 with the reigning MVP out. But with him available, the Thunder are 16-9.Although Durant wasnt back to 100 percent health as recently as Feb. 6, he has played big minutes in three consecutive games, and he has looked back to his old ways.In the Thunders last three, Durant has averaged 36.3 minutes and 32 points per game, and the team has gone 2-1, with only a last-second three-pointer by Anthony Davis standing between the team and another win.With the added time that comes with the break, eight nights between games, it will give Durant the time needed to fully rest and recover for the stretch run of the season.It also helps that Durants partner in crime, Russell Westbrook, has seemingly hit his stride as well after missing significant time earlier in the season.I know I am not alone when saying that if I were an NBA team, the last thing I would want to see was a fully healthy Thunder as a seven or eight seed in the playoffs come May.But it feels like that is the way things are starting to trend. Durant and Westbrook are both on the upswing, the Thunder are right in the playoff mix and the Suns are in a bit of a rut, losing five of their last six contests.Beyond statistics and trends, though, it just feels that Durant is primed to jump all over the NBA like he did before the injury issues that have plagued him this year.There has been a decided attitude change from a player who, at least for me, was never the most vocal of superstars. He now seems to be embracing a more antagonistic side, and it is really working.Whether it be his challenge to Western Conference players who felt snubbed by Durants All-Star selection this year, or his now-infamous staredown of Chris Paul, or his taunting of Kenneth Faried Monday, Durant has started to channel his inner Larry Bird, and it is awesome.Even if this newfound trash-talking Durant fades as the season drags on come April and possibly beyond, odds are youre down 20 now, homie, will stick with us for quite some time.Durant is one of the leagues best players, and he is back to his best just in time for the All-Star break. The rest of the NBA needs to tread lightly.
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