LOS ANGELES — Two-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant said he will not sacrifice team play for a chance at a three-peat.
“I've noticed playing in this league for five years that if you force anything, that's when bad results come,” the Thunder All-Star forward said before Monday night's game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. “I never want to force nothing.”
Durant entered Monday's game with a 27.8-point scoring average, trailing Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (28.1). Miami forward LeBron James was a distant third (26.9).
Bryant has missed the last five games with a shin injury and possibly might sit out the remainder of the regular season.
If Bryant does not play again, Durant would have to score 184 in the final six games of the season, an average of 30.7 points per game, to pass Bryant (28.075 to 28.071) for a third straight scoring crown.
“That's hard to do in the NBA, man,” a smiling Durant said of averaging 30.7 points the remainder of the season. “That's the farthest thing from my mind. I just want to keep being efficient, that's what it's about. Doesn't matter if I have 21 points or 30 points, I want to be efficient.”
Two seasons ago, Durant averaged 30.1 points and became the youngest scoring champion in NBA history (21 years, 197 days).
Last season, Durant averaged 27.7 points and became the third-youngest scoring champ in league history (22 years, 196 days) and sandwiching Max Zaslofsky of the Chicago Stags at 22 years, 121 days.
The following hypothetical was given to Thunder coach Scott Brooks: In OKC's season finale at home against Denver, the Thunder's playoff seed in the Western Conference already has been determined. Would Brooks allow his team to conspire in an effort to help Durant try to win another scoring title?
Brooks said he would handle the situation exactly how he handled last year's finale at home against Milwaukee when OKC already had clinched the No. 4 playoff seed.
In that game, Durant played 23 minutes, 22 seconds. He left for good with 37.6 seconds left in the third quarter when OKC owned a 74-64 lead. No Thunder starters played in the fourth quarter, and the Bucks went on to win 110-106 in overtime.
“I'm not going to sit him (Durant), but he's not going to play the 37 or 38 minutes that he (usually) gets,” Brooks said of the scenario. “If he can get it done (score enough points to win the title) in 28 minutes, then good luck.”
Brooks smiled and said, “We'll go to him early … and often.”
Asked if he would do all he could to win a scoring title if it's what his teammates wanted, Durant said: “That's different then. It tends to sway you away from team concepts, and I think we've been playing good basketball all season on the offensive end, you know, so who cares?
“If it (winning a third straight scoring title) comes, it comes. If not, that won't mean I had a bad year if I didn't win the scoring title.”