LOS ANGELES — Twelve hours after claiming the scoring lead from Kobe Bryant on Monday night, Kevin Durant claimed he still wasn't aware that he had moved past Bryant and into sole possession of the top spot until notified by the media on the morning of Tuesday's matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers.
In this day and age, with social networking so prevalent, believe Durant at your own peril.
But the reigning three-time scoring champion then downplayed his latest achievement.
“I'm just more focused on trying to get better individually and then helping my team get better as well,” Durant said, “just passing, rebounding, just trying to do everything on the floor to help my team. If I lead the league in scoring, that's pretty cool as well.”
Entering the Clippers game, Durant was averaging 29.5 points. He had averaged 37.5 points in his previous six contests. That hot streak, coupled with a slump in which Bryant averaged “only” 24.1 points in his previous eight games, enabled Durant to make up what had been a sizable and season-long difference.
Durant officially took over after Bryant on Monday night netted just 16 points in a road loss to Chicago.
If there was anything at all special about leading the league in scoring again in Durant's mind it's that his lead has been built naturally. He hasn't focused on pouring in points. Instead, he's made it a point to become a more complete player this year.
Ironically, that's precisely why Durant doubts he'll hold onto his lead.
“I shot a lot of shots the last few games,” said Durant, who averaged 23.2 attempts in his previous six before Tuesday. “I'm sure I'm not going to be shooting 30 shots, 20 shots every game. I'm sure guys like (Carmelo Anthony), Kobe, LeBron (James), those guys are going to pass me here and there. I'm sure it's going to be a flip-flop between guys throughout the whole season.”
If Durant does hold on, he'll become only the third player in NBA history to win four consecutive scoring crowns.
Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan are the other two.
Let that sink in.
At 24, Durant would earn his fourth crown two years earlier than Chamberlain did and three years faster than Jordan.
George Gervin and Allen Iverson are the other two players who have won at least four scoring titles in their careers.
“Playing with him, I think we get spoiled,” said Nick Collison. “We see it all the time. He's obviously a special, special scorer and he's gotten a lot better. He's improved in a lot of other areas. He's more efficient scoring the ball, but he's also making better decisions passing. He's setting up his cuts better and catching the ball in better places. He's evolving and it's been a lot of fun to watch.”
With half the season in the books, Durant also continues to be on pace for a pursuit of historic efficiency. Going into the Clippers game, Durant was shooting 51.6 percent from the field, 40.4 percent from the 3-point line and 90.9 percent from the foul line. Only five other players in NBA history — Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki — have accomplished that feat.
“He's just so much more comfortable,” Collison said. “He knows how to counter or snap out of it if things aren't going well. He knows where to try to catch the ball to get an easier look or get to the line and things like that.”
The first two games of this six-game road tip illustrated Durant's growth. Unlike past years, Durant wasn't taken out of the offense when he struggled with his shot at Dallas and Denver. Though he only made a combined 20 of 51 shots, Durant still tallied 87 points in those two contests, largely by working his way to the foul line 21 times in each game. He made 41 of those 42 free throws.
As a result, the achievements continue to pile up — even if Durant insists he's not paying attention.
“He just plays,” Collison confirmed. “That's crazy that he can do those things. But it's not really a focus for him. I think it just comes naturally. He's extremely talented. He works extremely hard and now he's figuring out more and more about the game so he's going to keep getting better.”