As he has stated before, three-time scoring champion and four-time All-Star Kevin Durant is tired of finishing second to LeBron James, the Miami Heat, Greg Oden and several other facets in his basketball career since the age of 16.
However, this week will mark the fifth time Durant has finished first as Sports Illustrated's choice for the cover.
In an article by SI senior writer Lee Jenkins, Durant revealed he has his own analytics expert (not hired by the Thunder, contrary to a public relations release) and tailors his workouts to remedy imbalances in his game to improve his overall efficiency. This past season was by far Durant's most efficient since joining the league in 2007.
Durant also spoke of the flak he has received for his friendship with James and the two occasionally working out together in the offseason.
“People see two young black basketball players at the top of their game and think we should clash,” Durant said in the article. “They want the conflict. They want the hate. They forget (Larry) Bird cried for Magic (Johnson). A friend was getting on me about this recently, and I said, ‘Calm down. I'm not taking it easy on him. Don't you know I'm trying to destroy the guy every time I go on the court?' ”
Media workrooms at the Thunder practice facility were packed with roughly 50 reporters Tuesday, by far the largest media contingent at the building since the franchise arrived in OKC. (Interviews during the NBA Finals were held at Chesapeake Energy Arena.)
One contributing factor was the Rockets returning to Houston after Game 1 on Sunday night while media who cover the Rockets remained in Oklahoma between games.
Several questions centered on Durant, who has 20-plus points in 27 consecutive playoff games, the NBA's longest streak since Michael Jordan scored 20-plus in 47 straight postseason games (1996-98).
“We're all fortunate to play with him,” Thunder veteran power forward Nick Collison said. “I've been with him since he's been a rookie. He's a very genuine person. He works hard and keeps everything in perspective. He's been great for us.”
OKC coach Scott Brooks said of Durant: “KD is a star. He's a star (at) how he handles himself on the court, how he handles himself off the court. The guy is a classy, classy individual that commits to the team every day. I say that time and time again, but you don't get bored coaching KD because he brings everything he has.”
Houston flew back to OKC on Tuesday afternoon.
TAKING THEIR SHOT
The Rockets shot just 36.3 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from 3-point range during their 120-91 loss in Game 1 at The Peake.
However, in the regular-season finale against the Thunder, Houston shot 47.8 percent from the field and 45.5 percent (15 for 33) on 3-pointers, which included shooting 61.5 percent (8 for 13) beyond the arc in the first quarter.
“We know they're going to play better,” Brooks said. “They're a very good team, well-coached.”
TIME TO REST
Game 1 was Sunday, Game 2 is Wednesday and Game 3 will be Saturday.
Brooks said having two days off between games might be beneficial to both sides.
“I think it helps both teams,” Brooks said. “Any time you can have a couple days' rest. Everybody at this time of the season is banged up.
“Today's practice was outstanding. I thought our focus was good, our intensity level was very high.”
WHERE'S THE LINSANITY?
Last season, Linsanity was all the rage in New York City.
In Game 1, however, Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin was 1 for 7 from the field and finished with four points, four assists, three rebounds, four turnovers and five fouls in 32 1/2 minutes.
“Jeremy just needs to go play,” Houston coach Kevin McHale told the Houston Chronicle. “Jeremy is going to be fine. His best attribute is his toughness.”
Lin also has excelled against OKC, finishing with 29 points, seven assists, six rebounds and two steals in the regular season finale.
McHale on his team having to improve from Game 1: “They took it to us hard that first game. How much of that was us? How much of that was them? How much can we control? … They're (Oklahoma City) good enough. They're plenty good enough without us feeding them. We don't want to do that.”