Kevin Durant is not nice.
No, I’m not just talking about his Nike advertising campaign, which focuses on his cold-blooded play late in games. Rather, I’m talking about the Oklahoma City Thunder star’s tendency in recent years to be one of the biggest culprits of technical fouls for taunting or complaining to referees.
Durant had another fantastic outing against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday, scoring 35 points to go along with 11 rebounds and six assists. His other big stat, however, was one technical foul, which he picked up for taunting after he dunked an offensive rebound over Anderson Varejao.
The move earned him his 14th technical foul of the year, putting him only two away from the league-mandated one game suspension. This has been a trend in recent years, with Durant’s technical foul count growing with each progressive season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder forward came into the league in 2007 as a soft-spoken scorer. His rookie campaign saw not one technical foul, and he only had 12 technical fouls called on him in his first five NBA seasons. In the past two years, his superstardom may have changed his pension for big reactions. Last season saw him finish tied for eighth in the league in technical fouls with 12, behind league leader DeMarcus Cousins’ 17 as well as teammate Russell Westbrook’s 15. This year, he has surpassed his previous total already and with 15 games remaining is only one behind Cousins for the league lead.
What has prompted this change? What happened to the level-headed Kevin Durant of old? Don’t get me wrong, I love the ferocity and intensity that he plays with now, but the emotional sparkplug is not his role. That belongs to Westbrook.
The dynamic between the two Thunder superstars is complex. Westbrook is Westbrook, and Durant is Durant. But sometimes, Westbrook tries to be Durant and Durant tries to be Westbrook. Russell Westbrook is the emotional spark, using his athleticism to drive to the basket and finish spectacularly, and subsequently let out his excitement. Durant, meanwhile, is the silent killer, the MVP who makes all the big shots and then walks away from it like it was no big deal.
Kevin Durant is nice at heart. It’s the success of LeBron James that may be the cause of the change. James’ championship run has made Durant hungry, angry and set on winning a championship. He may need to tone it down a bit, because the Thunder cannot afford to be without the MVP frontrunner during the race for the one seed in an incredibly tight Western Conference. But either way, I like the new Durant. Because nice or not, a pissed-off Kevin Durant is the best Kevin Durant.
Read more Thunder rumors, news and opinion on our Oklahoma City Thunder page