With expectations for the Thunder rapidly rising, the team is relying on Durant more than it ever has. He recently was named team captain along with Green, and he figures to average about 40 minutes this season.
Durant has become more vocal and is now complementing his work ethic on the court with time spent studying the game in the film room. After avoiding additional film sessions as a rookie, Durant adopted an appreciation for game footage last season when he couldn’t practice or play for seven games because of an ankle injury. He says he now watches film after every game.
"He feels like it’s his team now,” Collison said. "He’s always been our best player, but he’s feeling more comfortable in a leadership role.”
Two plays Wednesday night demonstrated Durant’s payoff.
With the first-quarter game clock winding down, Durant waived off Thunder coach Scott Brooks as he instructed Collison to set a ball screen at the top of the key. Durant took two dribbles, bounced a pass to a cutting Kevin Ollie and watched the play end in a layup. Durant later recognized the Kings in a matchup zone early in the fourth quarter and calmly whipped the ball from the left wing to the right corner, finding rookie James Harden for an uncontested 3-pointer.
"That’s what film’s for,” Durant said. "It gets you better. That’s the mental part of the game.”
Durant’s psyche hasn’t developed as much at home, where losses to his brothers and close friends in games of NBA 2K10 on his Xbox gaming system have led to temper tantrums.
"I threw my controller through my windows and threw it in the pool before,” Durant said. "Even though it might sound kind of foolish, that’s how it is. It’s bragging rights to us. That’s all we do, since Sega.
"But without them knowing, they’re giving me the competitive edge to win.”