Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Durant Should Be Top Draft Pick

In the coming months, the Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, or whatever other moribund franchise hits pay dirt in the NBA lottery, is going to face a tough decision. Or at least that’s what everyone thinks about the great Greg Oden v. Kevin Durant debate, the question rivaling Hamlet’s “To be or not to be?” for most over-used question ever. But it’s an easy question really. Not Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf easy, not Denise Richards or Rosie O’Donnell easy, but a simple one nonetheless.

Go with Durant. Here me out.

The Texas Longhorn is, at the current time, the better of the two. While he may have the wraith-like physique of Mary-Kate Olson and the baby face of Gary Coleman, Durant is a man among boys. During the winter, he used every inch of his rangy 6-foot-10, 220 pound frame to dominate the college game on both ends of the floor. His build may be more Kenyan marathoner, but he possesses a sprinter’s fast-twitch quickness that allows him to blow past defenders en route to the hole and spot up for jumpers from anywhere on the floor. His pterodactyl wingspan and prodigious basketball mind help him clean the glass and swat shots on the defensive end as well.

Oden, who has been blessed (or cursed) his whole life with the body of someone twice his age, may look more physically imposing when he trots out for the opening tip, but often times this season looked awkward when the ball was put in play. He had his share of I-cannot-believe-I-just-witnessed-that moments when he simply overpowered men three and four years his senior, but he regularly looked uncomfortable in his own skin, a timid cowpoke trying to tame his wild stallion of a body.

Most agree that Durant was the more dominant of the two during the 2007 season. It is Oden’s potential, however, that has NBA scouts drooling. Given his frame and athleticism, hoops pundits believe Oden could become a Bill O’Nealain, the kind of hybrid big man that would emerge if Dick Vitale suddenly became a mad scientist and threw Bill Russell, Shaq and Wilt Chamberlain all into one.

I think they are right – while Durant’s body of work maybe more impressive, Oden’s basketball body is more suited for hardwood stardom. That is, except for the most important part – his heart.

I simply don’t think Oden cares that much about basketball. After watching his performances on Big Monday on television and his Big Dance debut in person, I am not so sure the Oden has a passion for the game. I watched him sit quietly at his locker one day before the biggest game of his life, apathetically answering to the horde of media that surrounded him. I listened to him talk about how he wished he could be in the Ohio State Pep Band, about how he thought Brutus the Buckeye had the best job, because all he has to do is jump around to make people happy. I observed how, some 24 hours before his clash with Roy Hibbert, Oden seemed to be the only living soul in the building not enthused by the ballyhooed match up. A day later, I watched Oden pick up two quick fouls and sat listlessly on the Buckeye bench, face devoid of expression, as his teammates executed arguably their gutsiest performance of the season to advance to the title game. While he played hard in the final, there were no tears, vows of revenge, or even simple signs of dejection from the all-American center following his team’s loss. Oden didn’t so much as raise his voice in the locker room afterward.

If I were Danny Ainge or Jerry West, I might want someone who gets a little incensed over a loss. While not everyone is going to go all Bob Knight after each loss, a vital sign here and there is always a welcome sight.

“I guess the band is cool but it’s the band, man,” 2005 top-pick Dwight Howard said after a recent agic-Wizards game when told of Oden’s comments at the Final Four. While the Orlando Magic center refused to state a preference for either player, Magic point guard Jameer Nelson chimed in for his locker nearby. “Playing in the NBA is about love,” the former star at St. Joe’s said. “After that, it’s a business, so if you don’t love the game, you won’t make any money.”

Pecuniary matters are far from Oden’s mind right now, and maybe the star center was just sick of dealing with the media that day in Atlanta, but has he seen the swarm that forms around stars like Howard and Shaq each night in the locker room?

There’s nothing wrong with Oden’s apathy – in fact there is something innocently refreshing about a young man, who, with the world in the palm of his hand, decides to let it slip through his fingers. He will probably learn to love the game one day, but for now, I wish Oden had chosen to stay in school another year and keep doing what he, by all accounts, likes to do – learning and being a teenager. I doubt Mozart would have died a pauper at 35 if he had put down the symphony every once and a while and played a round of putt-putt with the boys.

But right now, I think he caves under the top-pick pressure due to a lack of fire. Anybody remember Ricky Williams?

You can’t question Durant’s fire. As unimpressive as Oden’s performance against Georgetown in the national semifinal was, the Texas freshman’s feat against Baylor in the Big XII tournament was equally marvelous.

After an abysmal first half in which he bricked his first five shots and scored only five points, Durant clamped down, scored 24 points in the last 20 minutes, and helped the Horns overcome a 20-point deficit and win the game. It was but one time that Durant’s enthusiasm willed his team to victory.

Oden hasn’t proved that he can do the same for a team yet, and who’s to say he ever will?

Were it up to me, which of course it’s not, I would take Kevin Durant in June.

Drink enough protein shakes and spend enough time in the weight room, and you can strengthen any muscle.

Except your heart.

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