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.”