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Around the NBA: Expect to see more of Kevin Durant

Chris Beaven

Pick up most pro basketball magazines, and one of three players has a good chance of being on the cover — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony.

Ready to take over newsstands soon is Sonics rookie Kevin Durant.

Just 2 1/2 months into his NBA career, Durant is living up to the hype of being a future face of the league.

“Durant definitely has the charisma to be able to do that and the talent,” Cavs Head Coach Mike Brown said.

In his third season coaching James, Brown knows all about players being the face of the league. He has watched James do it and help the Cavs reach the NBA Finals last year.

“Forget about all those off-the-court things you have to do,” he said. “Just going out on a night-in, night-out basis and trying to help your team win, being the guy and learning how to play that many games in that many nights, that in itself is a tough deal.”

Brown, though, said there is little doubt Durant has “a chance to be special.”

For his own part, Durant is keeping a level head.

“I don’t think I’m bigger than the team or the organization or anything else,” Durant said. “I’m just trying to jell with my team.”

Durant’s biggest improvement will come as he better fills out his 6-foot-9 frame. He is listed at 215 pounds. Compare that to the 6-8 James who weighs a rock-solid 250, and Durant looks like the teenager he still is. Remember, Durant doesn’t turn 20 until September.

“It’s going to happen,” Seattle Head Coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “I don’t think he’ll be like (the rail thin) George Gervin his whole career. I think he’s going to be filled out and be a lot stronger. And that’s going to allow him to get places, point to point, where he can’t get right now. He’s just not strong enough to move people or to resist when people try to move in.”

Durant often gets compared to James, but those comparisons don’t take into account their body types. James entered the NBA weighing 240.

“He’s 19, and he’s a different 19 than LeBron was,” Carlesimo said. “LeBron was like a manchild when he was basically in high school. Kevin is not like that physically. He is quickness-wise and jumping-wise but not strength-wise.”

James’ strength from the outset allowed him to get into the lane and be a factor. Durant does not have that ability, yet. But Durant has a skill few have — the ability to shoot.

“I couldn’t shoot the ball as well as Kevin, at all,” James said in recalling his first year.

Less is more

Evidence of how less scoring by Kobe Bryant and better offensive balance from the Lakers equals more success for them was shown again this past week.

The Lakers played at Memphis and New Orleans on back-to-back nights. When they last visited those teams a year ago, they needed Bryant to score 60 and 50 points, respectively, to beat those teams by a total of 8 points.

This time around, with Bryant scoring 25 in Memphis and 19 in New Orleans, the Lakers won by 16 and 29 points, respectively.

“My role now has changed,” Bryant said. “I’m not the guy who has to go out and score 35-something points. They come to me to get buckets when we need a little boost here and there, and that’s as it should be.”

Eight Lakers scored 8 or more points in Memphis, with six reaching double-figures. They had 26 assists. Seven Lakers scored 9 or more the next night, with five in double-figures. They had 25 assists.

That type of play has the Lakers entering the weekend as winners of 14 of their last 17. They are in the hunt for the Pacific Division title, and Bryant’s scoring average is down from 31.6 to 26.4.

24-second clock

- Portland has just one loss in the previous 41 days, winning 17 of 18 games. The Trail Blazers also own a 12-game winning streak at home. “You have to protect your home court, and that’s what we’ve been doing,” said James Jones, who leads the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage (53.9). They open up a seven-game, 12-day road trip today in Toronto.

- Detroit bounced back from losses to the Celtics and Mavericks to beat the Spurs on the road. “We could lose five or six games in a row, but we’re the type of team where we don’t hang our heads, we don’t walk around moping,” forward Rasheed Wallace said. “That’s not us, because we want to win too much. Everybody in here is a winner.”

Detroit is 7-2 on the second night of back-to-backs.

- The Mavericks are coming around after star Dirk Nowitzki called them “suspect” the first two months. Nowitzki has led them in scoring 10 straight, another good sign for Dallas, which took a five-game winning streak into the weekend.

Reach Repository sports writer Chris Beaven at (330) 580-8345 or e-mail chris.beaven@cantonrep.com