The best NBA West player on the best NBA West team may not be Mr. Nice Guy this playoffs. The Thunder is camped out in Oklahoma City for their last two regular season games (Sacramento Monday and Milwaukee Wednesday), after Kevin Durant put them into first place in the Western Conference with a three game winning streak that included a blowout at Golden State with 31 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and then one uncharacteristic throat-slash motion.
Durant is one of only nine college players to ever be worth more than 11 percent Value Add to his team at www.valueaddbasketball.com for his 2007 freshman season at Texas. However, his toughness was questioned from the beginning when he was unable to bench press 185 pounds even once at the NBA combine. (NFL players bench 225 pounds at their combine.)
Nonetheless, he has been dominant on the court. This season Durant is the clear choice for No. 2 in MVP voting behind LeBron James, and he has taken the Thunder to the second best record in the NBA behind LeBron’s Heat in the East.
The Thunder now holds a 1/2 game lead of San Antonio for home advantage throughout the Western Conference Playoffs, with the Spurs playing the Kobe-less Lakers Sunday.
Kevin Durant is typically not an expressive player. The elite Thunder forward is not known for trash talking or taunting, but, his throat slashing gesture was followed by folding his hands as if in prayer after an impressive dunk.
Durant described the gesture as “kill ’em and pray for ’em after the game.”
The NBA responded by passing down a $25k fine on Durant for the display which was done in the Thunder’s victory over the Warriors. Durant is competing for the NBA scoring with Carmelo Anthony, but more important would like to get another shot at the NBA title by getting through the Western Conference playoffs behind a tougher Durant.