As the new-look Thunder continues to evolve, so does the overall game of three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant.
In OKC's 106-92 victory over Portland on Friday night, Durant led his team in rebounds (17), assists (seven), blocked shots (two) and, um, turnovers (six).
The Thunder's three-time All-Star — who is listed at 6-foot-9, stands 6-foot-11 and has a wingspan of 7-foot-5 — spent some significant time playing point guard before a sellout crowd of 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“There were a couple of passes I wish I could have back,” Durant said afterward. “I was just trying to make the right play. The defense always thinks I'm trying to score, so if I find my teammates and make the open passes, it will free me up a little bit as well.”
Durant is being too hard on himself. At least two turnovers came on threaded passes that should have been caught. A couple more came when he lost the ball out of bounds while being fouled, but no call. Another came on a charging call after another foul that was missed.
As the Thunder retools itself a bit more each season, part of the evolution process entails Durant becoming perhaps the longest point guard in NBA history.
“Kevin with the ball is a good look for us,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “I put him with the ball a lot. As our team continues to develop and evolve, we're going to see things that we haven't done in the past. That's the creative instincts that our guys have. They want to create, they want to make the game interesting and sometimes I have to pull it down and do baby steps.”
During one sequence, it was a wicked crossover and not a baby step from Durant that made the legs of Portland guard Sasha Pavlovic buckle.
“He made somebody fall. That was crazy,” said Thunder rookie Jeremy Lamb. “He (Durant) could pretty much play any position, guard any position. To be like that is amazing.”
Durant added 23 points on a night when his most impressive stat was 17 rebounds, one shy of tying his career high.
With 2:07 left in the game, Durant appeared to have hauled in his 18th until the ball was wrestled away by Portland's J.J. Hickson. “Yeah, I missed a few, too,” Durant said, shaking his head.
For only the second time in his career, Durant had a double-double by halftime after collecting 12 points and 10 rebounds against the Blazers.
Durant led OKC in rebounding last season with an 8.0 average and is well on his way to leading the category again.
“He has the ability,” Brooks said of Durant's rebounding. “He has a nose for the basketball. When he's really in tune and engaged at the end of the floor, he can get 10-12 rebounds a night. He can do that. We have to continue to stress that.
“But we still like him to do other things. He still has to score for us, he has to be able to playmake and he's doing it all. He's starting to really get excited about filling the stat sheet.”
Durant is so excited he quietly has set a goal to average a double-double this season.
“I don't like to talk about it, but it is in the back of my mind,” Durant said with a smile. “I've just got to go in there and help the bigs out because they do a great job of boxing out. They make my job easier. Sometimes I just run in and take the rebound from them. They get upset with me a little, but I'm just trying to help out.”