Monday, March 12, 2007

Pass Durant the Ball!

I've seen Texas play at least 10 times this year and about fives times in the past two weeks. And the same problem keeps coming up in each and every game: Texas doesn't pass the ball to the best freshman I've ever seen. It's absurd, it's ridiculous, it's the college hoops equivalent to Nixon wiretapping a presidential opponent that he was beating by 40 points in the polls.

I know Durant still winds up taking a ton of shots, but when you watch the game, you can't help but be struck by how dumb this team is. They run almost no plays for the best player in the country. They let A.J. Abrams bomb away with impunity. They allow D.J. Augustin to dribble for 25 seconds at a time and then heave fadeaways. I'm telling you, this is Crazy Town. And all of this ignorning takes a massive toll on Durant, who always seems to look worse as the game goes on. In fact, while I don't have the stats to back this up, I would say that his stats during the first 10 minutes of the second half are by far his worst splits. Because this is the time of the game where all the other greedy bastards in burnt orange start jacking up shots. So when Durant finally gets a touch, he is getting frustrated and he can almost feel the expectations of the entire crowd pressing down on him. He knows he must score and be aggressive for his team to win, so after he runs up and down the court seven straight times without a look (while blocking shots and rebounding like a madman all the while), he is getting pretty antsy. That is when he tries to do too much and throws up those hideous airballs or falls down like a colt that can't run quite yet.

If Texas would just run a freaking offense and make sure to get Durant a touch, he wouldn't feel that way. The offense would run through him and he could concentrate on making reads and taking what is there. The Longhorns could isolate him on the block and work off the double-teams that are sure to come. They could get him in the high post ala Dirk Nowitzki. They could even just hand him the ball and get out of the way, which is pretty much the Cavs' whole offense when the fourth quarter rolls around. There are a million ways to get him the ball and keep him from pressing and feeling pressure to do something magical every time he touches it.

The whole thing is such a shame, becuase Rick Barnes is wasting the greatest talent some of us have ever seen in the college game. He's allowing this incredible player to get worn down, frustrated, and exploited during virtually every game he plays. It is downright tragic. And I promise you that this is going to end badly. There is no way that the team I saw blow a 32-10 lead to Kansas today can beat North Carolina. And frankly, I'm not even sure they can get that far.

Maybe in some weird act of Texas state pride, the Mavericks can lone Avery Johnson to the Horns for the next three weeks. It's not like Dallas needs him - it doesn't seem that they can be defeated even if they started up a "coach the team for the day" fan contest.

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