Don't feed the troll. Don't feed the troll. Don't feed the … ah, forget it. We can't let this one go. Skip Bayless is commenting on games he hasn't watched again, getting it wrong as usual, and Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant is calling him out for it.
Apparently (we're blissfully unaware, because we've watched as many minutes of Skip Bayless on TV during the last decade as Bayless has watched Oklahoma City Thunder games this season; that is to say we've happily never watched Skip Bayless on TV) Bayless has been on a rant recently trumping up the tired storyline about how Thunder point man Russell Westbrook wants the team to be his, how the point guard shoots too much (Durant has taken seven more shot attempts this season than Russell), and that it's a damning stat when Westbrook ends a game with more shot attempts than Durant. Durant, because he's seen (and even played in) quite a few Thunder games this year, chimed in with this:
"That guy doesn't know a thing about basketball," Durant said of Bayless before the Thunder faced Memphis on Monday night.
Pretty much. Bayless does know his way around a treadmill, and makeup chair, and he's good at soullessly making polarizing statements that allow him to jump from newspaper gig to newspaper gig and stay on TV. There's no heart, there. And certainly no prep work. He finds a headline, and rants against it. Every Friday, he gets a check, and for some reason people tune into this. As many people that can tune into a basic cable sports show at midday, I suppose.
Durant, thankfully, went on:
"We're worse when I take more shots," Durant said. "Like I said, that guy doesn't know a thing. I don't think he watches us. I think he just looks at the stats. And traditionally, a point guard is not supposed to take more shots than everybody else on the team. But we're better when he does do that and he's aggressive. And I'm better when I'm out there facilitating, rebounding, defending and being more efficient on my shots with less shots."
Darnell Mayberry, the great OKC beat writer, pointed out that the Thunder are 20-4 when Westbrook takes more shots than Durant, but even a stat like that is cherry picking in a way.
Russell Westbrook usually ends up taking more shots when the Thunder's defense is working nearly as well as the team's top-ranked (let that settle in your head — "top ranked") offense. When Westbrook has more shot attempts than Durant, it's usually a function of the team's transition play, which is started on the defensive end. It's not as if Westbrook is looking off Durant as he pulls up for jumper after jumper. He usually piles up the shot attempts while finishing on the break. Westbrook is as close to unstoppable as players get in transition, and as Durant points out, the team is at its best when Westbrook is taking advantage of his significant gifts.
This isn't to say Westbrook, in his fourth season, hasn't had his growing pains. The same goes for Durant. Both have struggled to find their way towards the end of close games in the half court, a typical pang that young players go through. But if Bayless wants to ignore in-game action and go off of the stats, let's re-iterate. The Thunder is 20-4 when Westbrook takes more shots than Durant, as opposed to 20-9 the other way around. The team owns the NBA's best offense, statistically. Statistically, Skip Bayless is a fame-hungry boob and Kevin Durant is awesome. It's science.
Durant went on:
"I'll stick up for all my guys, especially against a guy that I have never seen at an NBA game before. It just starts to get sickening when you hear somebody talk about your teammate like that almost every day. So I'll stick up for him every single day."
Bayless is from Oklahoma City, and he doesn't have to be at the games to observe the Thunder. But it remains a ridiculous notion for anyone who can even remember playing a game of basketball to conclude that each offensive possession is an either/or proposition. You make choices. You go for the best attempt. It doesn't so much matter who takes the final shot of a late-game postseason possession in the half court as it matters what play is called, and how the team executes.
And it's a shame that ESPN, so full of talented basketball observers in several areas of its interwebs, won't be able to properly comment on what a joke this is. And what a joke he is.
But there we went, mentioning his name again, allowing for more potential fodder on a random Wednesday in April, filling up his televised segments for him. We fed the troll, and he'll get another show out of it. Shame on us.