Kevin Durant has been on some kind of kick lately.
Over the past four days, the Thunder star and frontrunner for the NBA's Most Valuable Player award has gone on and on about how he needs to be better.
He's talked about his perceived need to do more. To shoot less. To play smarter.
“That's what I love about him,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “He's always tough on himself.”
Despite appearing at times like a one-man band since Russell Westbrook underwent his latest surgery, Durant is shouldering the responsibility for the Thunder's recent sluggish play.
Oklahoma City is 7-5 this season without Westbrook and just 5-4 since he was shut down following a third surgery on Dec. 27.
“I'm not doing enough to help them,” Durant said of his teammates. “I'm shooting too much. I'm shooting too many 3s. I'm not helping them out at all. So it's not on them.”
Durant averaged 18 shots with Westbrook in the lineup. He's averaging 20.2 shots in 12 games without Westbrook and 22.1 in the past nine.
Most would assume that to be a natural and necessary spike in shot attempts.
But not Durant.
“The first few games without Russell, we did a great job moving the ball,” Durant said. “I think now I'm just flat out shooting too much. I have to find a way to get my teammates easier shots. I've been thinking these last few games in order for us to get it going I have to do it all offensively. But, nah, we have to do it together. It's a great learning experience for me. It's the first time I've really been in that type of position. But I just have to get everybody involved. I may have to pass up a few to find a better shot.”
Durant unveiled his new approach Saturday against Milwaukee. He turned down multiple good shots, especially in the first half, to get his teammates better shots. It wasn't always pretty, and his decisions at times led to hesitation, over thinking and over passing. But ultimately, it worked.
Of course, it helped that his teammates made shots, something they've struggled to do even when Durant has set them up.
In the last nine games, Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Thabo Sefolosha, Derek Fisher and Kendrick Perkins — five players that make up more than a third of the Thunder's offense — are all shooting below 42 percent.
Durant, meanwhile, has been blazing, with averages of 31.8 points, 11 rebounds and 4.4 assists while shooting 45.6 percent over that same span.
“He cares about his teammates,” Brooks said. “He wants to make sure everybody is involved and everybody is having success. Shooting too much? I wouldn't label him as a guy that's taking too many shots.
“I like him taking shots if they're good shots. But I like him taking 3s if they're off the pass, unless we're in a situation where it's a two-for-one then I like that pull-up 3. I think he's taken maybe too many 3s that are not from a pass … If I want to criticize one area of his shot selection it's probably that.”
Over the past nine games, Durant has hoisted 6.9 3-pointers on average. He tied his career high with 13 3-point attempts last Tuesday at Utah, a game in which he also tied his career high with 34 shot attempts.
“I just can't keep thinking about myself,” Durant said. “It's messing up the rhythm. So I got to figure out how I can help them out. It's not about them helping me. It's about me helping them.”