Our Steve Luhm had good stuff earlier today on DeMarre Carroll's thoughts on his budding rivalry with Kevin Durant. Carroll, you'll remember, came to the aid of teammate Alec Burks on Feb. 12 after the NBA scoring leader flattened the young Jazz guard on the fast break. A month later, in Oklahoma City, Carroll retaliated with a similar foul on Durant (although he said afterward it was not meant as payback).
So, what does Durant, the NBA's scoring leader, think of the back-and-forth relationship between the two?
He was asked following Tuesday's shoot around:
"That's what it is for everybody I play against now. Everybody's been playing physical something I don't shy away from. You can push me, you can foul me, you do what you have to do, I'm going to keep coming at you. DeMarre Carroll's one of those guys who presents a good challenge. It's going to be fun, I don't know if he's starting or not but it's going to be fun playing against their whole team. They're always physical and playing in this building where they hate you, it's pretty fun, as well."
Carroll is not expected to start, but due Marvin Williams (illness) and Alec Burks (sprained left ankle) both listed as doubtful, could be the first wing player off the bench for the Jazz.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks was complimentary of Carroll, saying, "You can never, ever discount that on your team, a guy that can come in and plays hard every possession and that's what he does."
But does the Jazz small forward truly get under Durant's skin? Does he bug him in the way that Jazz fans have come to believe? Brooks isn't so sure.
"It's pretty hard to get under his skin," Brooks said. "I very rarely have ever seen him get rattled. He might get frustrated at times for a play, but in order to get a guy, get under his skin you've got to do it throughout the game. I don't think it ever will happen."
How does Carroll view himself? As a Junkyard Dog, of course. But he don't be surprised if he starts referring to himself by a new a nickname.
"When you're a pest," Carroll said, "people don't like you. You don't like a gnat in your face all the time, do you? You try to swipe it out of your face and when it comes back it gets on your nerves, you want to kill it. I just try to be like one of those gnats, one of those pests."
The Gnat, anyone?