Kevin Durant wasn’t named to the NBA’s Western Conference All-Star team on Thursday as reserves for the Feb. 15 game in Phoenix were announced. "Just to be in the conversation for a young guy like me feels good,” Durant said. "It just pushes me to work harder and help this team get better. I’m excited to be playing in the rookie-sophomore game and be part of All-Star weekend.” Similar to a golfer who shoots his age, it’s unusual when an NBA player’s career scoring average is higher than his age. Durant, 20, already is ahead of other All-Stars before they reached legal drinking age. Sixth in the league in scoring (24.7), Durant is third in the Western Conference behind only Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki, who were averaging 13.8 and 8.2 points, respectively, at the same age. "He will improve,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "Players generally improve until they’re 30, and then they maintain what they have. Whether his scoring goes up, I don’t know. But his ability to make shots on demand will go up. His ability to get stops on demand will go up.” Because Durant’s averaging nearly 25 points as a skinny, budding star, it’s not unrealistic to think he could average 30 at some point. He’s not far off that pace in January (27.7). "Kevin will get stronger physically,” Brooks said. "He’s still thin. But from last year to this year (it’s been a big improvement). Last year, when he got hit, he was on the floor a lot. You don’t see him on the floor as much this year because he’s gotten stronger.” With one game left in January — tonight’s road game at Utah — Durant is averaging 27.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and is getting to the free-throw line 8.6 times a game this month. Those are All-Star stats for a seasoned veteran, much less a player who played only one year in college. "I don’t forget that he’s 20,” Brooks said. "I like the fact Kevin understands the game and respects the game. He does that through hard work. Guys that take advantage of the game, when the offensive part of the game comes easy to them, they sometimes don’t work as hard. "But Kevin works at it. He has a special talent offensively, but he works hard after practice.” Durant had said he should not be an All-Star until he leads the Thunder to more wins. "That quote he gave (about not being an All-Star until he leads the Thunder to more wins)says a lot about who he is,” Brooks said. Durant gave a glimpse of his long-term potential in Wednesday’s win over Memphis. After making a costly turnover in the waning seconds of regulation, a key play that allowed the Grizzlies to force overtime, Durant would then dominate. He had eight points, four rebounds and a blocked shot in OT. "I could be doing a lot better. I could be doing a lot more to help my chances,” Durant said. "I’m the type of guy that if I’m working hard I like to see the benefits. I know that may not happen, but if I continue to work hard, hopefully I can be an All-Star before my career is over.”
Breakdown of some All-Stars’ production before their 21st birthday.
→When: 8 tonight →Where: Energy Solutions Arena, Salt Lake City →TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma (Cox 37) →Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM →Live blog: blog/newsok.com/nbainokc Three things to know
→The Jazz is 17-6 at home but lost the last two to powers San Antonio and Cleveland. →Utah is 27th in the league in made 3-pointers per game (4.6). →Utah has split two meetings with the Thunder. Both teams won at home. Probable starters