ORLANDO — Kevin Durant offered up one reason why he accepted the invitation to participate in this year's 3-point contest at All-Star Weekend.
“I did so bad last year, I'm going to be more focused and ready to make some shots this year,” said Durant, a late add into Saturday night's sharpshooting event as injured Atlanta guard Joe Johnson's replacement. “All that smiling stuff I was doing last year is going to be out the window. I'm going to look forward to making some shots.”
How bad was Durant last year? Out of 25 shots, Durant made just five for a total of six points at All-Star Saturday night in Los Angeles. One of his few made 3-pointers was a multicolored money ball, which is worth two points. It was the fewest points in a 3-point contest since Vladimir Radmanovic tied that same point total in 2005.
The performance gave credence to Durant's long-held claim that he simply isn't a 3-point contest type of shooter.
This year, though, Durant insists he'll be dialed in. Last year, his approach was so out of character that even the event's broadcasters could pinpoint Durant's downfall.
“That's not his natural shot that he's doing right now,” said TNT analyst Kenny Smith as Durant finished the second-to-last rack. “That's not the shot that he takes in a game. So he's trying to alter his shot because he knows it's so many racks. Even when you practice on your own, you take gamelike shots.”
Durant was aware of the difference last year, too.
Now, the reigning two-time scoring champion will seek to use his performance Saturday night as a lesson he can take with him throughout not only the final 32 games of this season but also the rest of his career.
“I got to shoot every shot the same,” he said. “It's sometimes I don't jump. It's sometimes I don't leave my hand up there. I've just got to be disciplined in my shot and hopefully this 3-point contest will help me out with that.”
From 3-point range, Durant is a career 35.8 percent shooter, a very respectable clip. He's shooting 36.5 percent this year, which is tied with his connection rate of seasons ago. His 4.7 attempts per game trail only last year's 5.3 average attempts for his career high.
But as he continues to evolve as a player, Durant says he needs to be more judicious with his 3-ball.
“I think I've got to keep it down,” Durant said. “I shot eight (Thursday) night. But I got wide-open looks. If I got a wide-open look, sometimes it's tough to turn down. And records show that if we turn down an open 3, we turn the ball over right after that. So I just try to take wide open shots … If they're open, I've got to take them. If not, I can't shoot a contested 3. I got to get something going to the rim.”