When Kevin Durant returns to Oklahoma City, he'll come back to awkward stares.
He's attracted them the past three years, as summer gave way to fall and another NBA season begun anew.
Each year, the gawking eyes are wondering one thing.
How much weight has Durant put on?
Whenever the NBA lockout is lifted, this year will be no different, regardless of how many points and highlights Durant has supplied this summer in what's become his nationwide street ball tour.
It seems most observers still want Durant to bulk up. To add tens of pounds to his frame in order to become an even more dominant player. It seems everyone expects, better yet wants, that transformation to magically take place in one summer.
Everyone except Durant and the Thunder.
“He's always going to be thin,” said Thunder forward Nick Collison. “I don't think you want him to bulk up. You always get concerned when you hear about a guy coming back to camp with 15 pounds of muscle because it totally changes his body and he might not be able to play the same way. So I don't think that's something he needs to do.”
The truth is, at this point, the Thunder is far more concerned with Durant chilling out on chicken wings rather than increasing his chest press numbers. Because Durant, roughly three weeks shy of his 23 birthday, still has a tendency to eat like a college kid.
“I could eat a lot better,” Durant recently admitted.
The two-time scoring champ can cram wings with the best of them. Durant loves them so much that Wingstop this year was a sponsor at his annual basketball camp in Oklahoma City, and there's been talk of Durant possibly signing on as a spokesman for the Texas-based chain. It's just one of his many food fetishes.
But after four seasons, Durant is finally figuring out the importance of healthier choices. As a naturally skinny person, Durant isn't likely to ever undergo the transformation most would prefer. Eating better, however, could help offset his inability to bulk up. It could improve Durant's conditioning and help protect that frail but growing frame.
“This past year, I was really big on eating a lot of foods with vegetables. That's all I really ate this past year was foods with vegetables,” Durant said. “I'm trying to stay away from the red meats and the fast food as much as I can, even though it's tempting.”
Durant, who has employed a chef during the season the past three years, recently hired a new cook to cater meals and ensure he's staying away from fatty foods.
“In the summertime is where I really kind of take a step back,” Durant said. “So I got to be mentally stronger and have more discipline and try to eat right.”
Though the Thunder's front office and coaching staff would like for Durant to get bigger, they know it will happen over time. In the meantime, they've witnessed him getting stronger, which has helped Durant play through contact better and stave off injuries.
But before his body can change, Durant must first change his diet.
Collison remembers refusing proper nutrition in his first few seasons as well. And that was after a four-year career at Kansas.
“I didn't eat terribly, but I didn't think about it as related to basketball,” Collison said. “Probably my second or third year in the league, I realized that everything I do is affecting the outcome of my career and where I want it to go.”
Now, after changing his eating habits, the 30-year-old Collison can boast of having less body fat now than he did in college.
Collison says Durant will soon get there, too, and see benefits on the basketball floor.
“It's about forming habits and then it becomes easy…I think he'll get that,” Collison said. “Kevin is as driven if not more driven than anybody with this organization. I think he sees that.
“He'll realize the importance of that, and he already has. He'll realize that he needs to try to do everything he can to try to put himself in the best situation.”