Kevin Durant, LeBron James and the Era of Minutes Restrictions

Kevin Durant is on a minutes restriction and this makes me sad. Ever since he came back from his foot injury the Thunder have scrutinized his every movement as if they were a group of NASA engineers observing the trajectory of the Orion spacecraft.

Part of the joy of watching Durant play basketball use to be that Scott Brooks could run him out there for 40 minutes a game, night after night, and he would be no worse for the wear. Now were stuck watching Anthony Morrow and Jeremy Lamb get significant minutes and, no offense to either Morrow or Lamb, they’re no KD. And the real bummer is that the old Durant, the one we knew and loved for nearly a decade, might be gone forever. Again, this makes me sad.

Apparently the type of injury that Durant sustained to his foot was stress related, the byproduct of repeated motion not some sort of freak one time occurrence. In other words, the very things that made Durant 1A to LeBron’s 1, his rangy athleticism/explosive first step, are also the reasons for him missing the first 18 games of the season. And there’s no guarantee that he doesn’t re-injur this same foot in the future which is exactly why Oklahoma City is being so mindful of his minutes right now.

Speaking of LeBron James, the same thing’s going on with him in Cleveland right now, although to a much lesser degree than with Durant. Ever since carb-free LeBron came back to the Cavs he has been weaker, slower and not as explosive which offers a stark contrast from how he use to look just going back to last year’s NBA Finals when he played for the Miami Heat. Watch the tape. We’re talking about two different body types here. And before you think that I’m just reacting to some sort of popular internet theory here know this, LeBron sat out last night’s game against the Thunder with a sore knee. LeBron is not supposed to miss games with injury. He and Durant were supposed to be indestructible.

Deep down I know that it’s smart for both the Thunder and Cavaliers to take every precaution with their star players. They are valuable investments after all and as an NBA franchise you want to maximize both short and long term returns. The Thunder are in the unenviable position of needing Durant to play as much as possible because they’re so far behind in the Western Conference standings right now due to, of all things, the injuries to Durant and Russell Westbrook. And while the Cavs can probably afford to give LeBron the occasional night off every once and a while I’m hoping that David Blatt doesn’t suddenly morph into Gregg Popovich and leave us with more court time for Matthew Dellavedova. Again, no offense to Dova, I like his game, especially for a rookie, but LeBron was not supposed to wear down like others players. Neither was Durant. This makes me sad.

I’m not trying to eulogize either Durant or LeBron. They still have a lot of life left in those legs and we should look forward to watching them for years to come. However, it will take some time to get use to minutes restrictions and DNP-REST for two players who were always such a joy to watch play basketball in part because of their energy level and the fact that they didn’t ever need a break. Until now. And this, makes me sad.