In the thick of what is shaping up to be a tight race for the league’s Most Valuable Player award, Thunder forward Kevin Durant appears more interested in team goals rather than entering into a battle of can-you-top-this with Miami forward LeBron James.
James scored a career-high 61 points Monday against Charlotte, stealing the spotlight from Durant as the possible MVP. One day later, Durant had a chance against Philadelphia to reclaim the attention with a big night of his own. But he settled for 42 points in a 33-point home win over the Sixers. He did not play the fourth quarter.
“Kevin just wants to win,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “I love his spirit. Love it. I believe in how he plays the game, how he approaches the game. And I’m fortunate enough to get to coach him and see it every day. He loves playing the game. If he wants to lead the NBA in scoring the next 10 years, he could do that. If he wanted to lead it last year, he probably could’ve done that. He wants to win. He’s more looking at 46 wins instead of the 42 points he ended up with.”
Durant essentially considered it a no-brainer to stay parked on the bench for the fourth quarter. He did the same on Jan. 31 at Brooklyn, where his 12-game streak of scoring at least 30 points ended because the Thunder was ahead by 30 points through three quarters. Durant finished that game with 26 points on 10 of 12 shooting.
“We trust our bench,” Durant said. “We trust those guys. Scotty is one of those guys, if they’ve got the team there’s no need for us to put the starters back in. And I’ve been on board with that for three years now.”
PRESEASON GAMES ANNOUNCED
The Thunder will return to Tulsa and Wichita, Kan., for the 2014 preseason, the team announced Wednesday.
Oklahoma City will host Toronto inside Wichita’s INTRUST Bank Arena on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. The Thunder will then play Minnesota at Tulsa’s BOK Center on Oct. 19 at 6 p.m.
This will be the Thunder’s third consecutive preseason appearance in Wichita and its sixth time visiting Tulsa during the exhibition season.
Tickets for both preseason games will go on sale in mid-April. The Thunder will announced its entire 2014 preseason schedule at a later date.
Caron Butler on the fan response in his debut Tuesday night — “I was in awe, trying to gather my thoughts. I have to say, for the second time in my career, I was actually nervous. It was, ‘Oh, wow, my first shot may go over the backboard or something.’”
The Thunder kicks off a two-game road trip Thursday at Phoenix. It’s the second of three meetings between the teams this season. OKC won the first game, 103-96, inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. Tip-off is 8 p.m.