Hasheem Thabeet missed a defensive assignment and Kevin Durant went bananas, barking at the first-year Thunder big man mercilessly as the two transitioned to the offensive end.
Reggie Jackson hesitated to throw an entry pass to Durant in the post, and the reigning three-time scoring champ ruthlessly chewed out his team's second-year point guard.
Dan Crawford called Kendrick Perkins for a foul on a screen that was supposed to free Durant for an uncontested shot, and the Thunder superstar callously cursed the referee, resulting in his first career ejection.
This, it seems, is the new Kevin Durant.
The NBA's most celebrated golden boy is increasingly exhibiting a mean streak. In his sixth season, Durant has grown more animated than ever on the court. Teammates, opponents and referees are all feeling his fury. No longer is it uncommon to see Durant throw down a highlight dunk and stare down an opponent. Or drain a 3-pointer in front of the opposing bench and turn and talk smack to the coaches.
In a home game against New Orleans last month, Hornets assistant coach Randy Ayers had to shoo Durant away as he belittled the bench immediately after a pivotal basket. Earlier in the year, on the road against the same Hornets squad, Durant and head coach Monty Williams got into a heated verbal exchange just before going their respective ways at halftime.
They're all antics that have been quite surprising from a player who, before this season, had enjoyed a more pristine reputation. Considering that track record, Durant's recent on-court conduct has been all the more confusing. He's mean mugging more, thumping his chest harder and swearing uncontrollably.
In a three-game stretch, from last Wednesday to Sunday, Durant was whistled for three technical fouls in three games. He was called for two consecutive techs in the final minutes of a Jan. 2 home loss to Brooklyn, resulting in him not being around to see the Nets put the finishing touches on a 17-point drubbing.
Two games later, during a Sunday win at Toronto, Durant picked up another tech. It prompted him after the game to jokingly blame Kendrick Perkins for being “a bad influence on my life.” Durant then vowed to be better and apologized.
“I got to calm down sometimes,” Durant said. “I get too excited and too emotional in the game and it takes over me for the bad when I get those techs … I just got to calm down a little bit because the refs are really doing a great job. We're getting to the line a lot as a team. I guess I'm trying to be a little greedy with the calls. I just got to calm down.”
Durant denied the notion that his growing temper has anything to do with his new Nike campaign, which is marketing him with the slogan “KD is not nice.”
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