The NBA never fails to produce drama, even the unexpected kind.
As the conference finals play out, perhaps nobody expected a Scottie Pippen vs. Kevin Durant battle to play out publicly via interviews and social media. Yet, here we are.
In an interview with GQ Sports, Pippen, who won six championships during the 1990 Bulls dynasty, claimed Durant's failure to lift the Nets past the Bucks in the second round of the NBA playoffs centered on his inability to understand team basketball. For good measure, Pippen offered a shot at first-year Nets coach, and fellow Hall of Famer, Steve Nash.
"When you’re leading the troops, you gotta know how to lead and win. And KD, as great as his offense was, it turned out to be his worst enemy because he didn’t know how to play team basketball when it came down to it. He kept trying to go punch for punch," Pippen said in the interview. "He needs to learn how to utilize his teams. He has to learn how to set up his teammates to be better. That’s it. As great as he is, there’s a [cap] to his [talent]."
With Kyrie Irving hurt and James Harden limited by a sore hamstring, Durant scored 48 points while playing all 53 minutes of the Nets' Game 7 overtime loss to the Bucks. He forced overtime with a long two-pointer but then shot an airball on a 3-pointer near the end of the extra session.
"He could’ve easily made that three, killed them in regulation, and we wouldn’t have been talking about this. But I knew going into overtime, he wasn’t gonna make it. He was taking all the shots. You done played the whole game, bro! And they’ve got guys physically wearing you down. You gonna lose. Giannis [Antetokounmpo] was under the same stress but not quite. Giannis got rest and he didn’t have to score every time. KD? He got no rest and pretty much had to put a bucket on the board every time they went down. And he did that, but that’s a lot. If he had a chance to do it all over again he would probably do it the same way. But he ain’t have no more. He shot that last shot and it was shorter than Giannis’ free throw shots.
"But, have you ever seen LeBron (James) take a shot like that? He ain’t gonna take that shot. He’s gonna be smarter. He’s gonna force a double team. That’s what KD wasn’t able to do. He was so exhausted he couldn’t even go to the bucket. I’ma be honest, I felt like Steve Nash should’ve put KD on the block and just let him sit there and throw passes so he could rest. But he kept him at the top of the floor where they were getting all up under him. It wasn’t fair. But that’s just coaching. Steve Nash is an inexperienced coach. So, he gotta know. He wore KD down."
Durant responded almost immediately via Twitter, where he has 19 million followers.
"Didn’t the great Scottie pippen refuse to go in the game for the last second shot because he was in his feelings his coach drew up the play for a better shooter??" Durant Tweeted.
That's, of course, a reference to Pippen choosing to sit out the final 1.8 seconds of a 1994 playoff victory over the Knicks when Bulls coach Phil Jackson asked Pippen to inbound the ball and drew up the play for Toni Kukoc. As Pippen sat, Kukoc sank a game-winning shot.
For good measure, Durant piled on by raising the painful memory of the time Pippen delayed his foot surgery until the eve of the 1997-98 season out of spite towards general manager Jerry Krause, which served as a flashpoint during ESPN's "The Last Dance documentary."