When Kevin Durant turned down the NBA in mid-December for this year’s dunk contest at All-Star Weekend, observers admired the star Thunder forward’s humility and honest admission that he’s just not a flashy dunker.
But what’s gone unnoticed and untold is how Durant’s bland in-game throw-downs — typically a one-handed tomahawk jam — typifies the trend of the entire Thunder team. Oklahoma City could be the most vanilla-dunking team in the league, a remarkable revelation considering the athleticism the franchise’s young core possesses.
Watch a full 48 minutes of any Thunder game, and the most exciting dunk you’ll ever see is the occasional "poster” dunk over an unsuspecting defender. Thunder players fearfully avoid the gravity-defying 360 degree stuffs and reverse slams. They have yet to impress with a windmill or a between-the-legs jam.
"That’s not us,” said third-year forward Jeff Green. "We just want the two points.”
For the Thunder, dull dunks seemingly symbolize a more significant standard than just securing two points. In Oklahoma City, a certain culture is being constructed by general manager Sam Presti, who cut his teeth on the mundane model down in San Antonio. The Spurs’ no flash, no frills approach is playing out inside the Ford Center, and simple slams have become one small example.
"I think crowds like seeing that, but they also want to see diving on the floor,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "They want to see getting offensive rebounds, and they want to see (players) taking charges. I think our crowd appreciates effort and hard-working plays.
"I’m not saying our guys have to be boring and vanilla, but there’s a time and place for it and you have to be sharp with your decisions.”
Brooks, who proudly said he never dunked during a game during his 10-year playing career, instructs his players to refrain from risky highlight-reel finishes. His reasoning: the Thunder paced the league in turnovers last season with 16.2 per game.
"It’s important that we keep everything simple,” Brooks said. "The more flashy things happen, the more likely you’re going to not have success. That’s why we don’t throw a lot of lobs.”
Players have bought into Brooks’ belief.