The Norman Transcript

National Sports

April 6, 2014

Durant’s improvement in all facets fueling MVP talk

OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Durant’s unmatched scoring prowess has made him a strong contender for his first MVP award. It’s everything else he is doing that might finally push him over the top.

Durant’s new teammate, Caron Butler, has played with Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade. With all due respect to those stars, Butler said, Durant’s approach to the game stands out.

“Probably one of the most unselfish superstars I’ve ever seen play the game,” Butler said. “I haven’t seen a guy like him who can score pretty much at will, but is such a willing passer and facilitator. That’s the growth of his game.”

Durant still scores more than anyone else — he’s averaging more than 32 points and is closing in on his fourth scoring title in five years. He has scored 25 or more points in 40 consecutive games, the most by anyone in the NBA since 1988-89 when Michael Jordan did it for a second time.

Durant has scored at a career-high pace while also reaching a career high in assists and taking on more overall responsibility. Teammates and opponents say he is making the extra pass, handling physical play better, moving better without the ball — all with a fearless mentality that has helped his team stay at or near the top of the Western Conference standings all season.

“I’ve seen every type of defense,” Durant said. “I’ve seen every type of defensive player, so nothing is new to me. You can be physical with me, foul me. You can push me out. You can do whatever. I’m still going to play my game.”

Durant’s heightened awareness as a leader means setting the tone during practice and being vocal in the huddle during timeouts.

“I think we’re seeing a natural progression with him,” Thunder forward Nick Collison said. “He’s more mature. He’s more comfortable with himself and has a better understanding of the game. And now, he’s not just thinking about how he’s playing, he’s thinking about how the team’s playing: What can he do to help other guys?”

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