Kevin Durant said Carmelo Anthony “can have” the scoring title, but Durant’s actions say otherwise, at least according to David Thorpe of ESPN ($):
More importantly, he seems solely focused on winning another scoring title, which is driving his number of contested shots up and his field goal percentage down.
But lately Durant has become visibly frustrated when things stand in his way of winning the scoring title. In a recent game, he barked at the scorer’s table when he noticed they had not yet recorded his bucket on the JumboTron. In another instance, he chided Jackson for electing to pass to a more open teammate on a 3-on-1 break, despite the play resulting in a dunk that put the game out of reach late in the fourth quarter. Why? Durant knew the opposing team would call a timeout and in all likelihood he would not re-enter the game.
Durant also yelled at teammates for not pushing the ball when he alone would benefit from an easy basket, even when not pushing the ball was the better choice. And more than ever before, Durant can be seen raising his hands as he stands on the perimeter, calling for the ball as if his teammates don’t know where he is at all times. It is not easy to commit to an action when your team’s best player — and the league’s leading scorer — is looking for the pass.
George Gervin’s and David Thompson’s scoring race in 1978 – when Thompson scored 73 point on the season’s final day only to lose the season title to Gervin, who scored 63 points later in the day – has been remembered fondly as a great individual battle.
Why can’t Durant and Melo try to repeat that magic?
The Thunder are fairly solidly slotted into the NBA’s third-best record. Even if they force-feed Durant a little bit – and maybe they should, considering his true shooting percentage is his career best, and his usage percentage is still below his career average – Oklahoma City’s playoff positioning is very likely to remain unaffected.
Durant is a superstar, and if he wants to chase the scoring title, the Thunder should accommodate him. Superstars have made much more unreasonable requests. That’s the nature of the game. Superstars get their way. If this is the most Durant taxes the Thunder for his services, they should be so lucky.
An obsessively competitive person with an otherworldly ability to score wants to win a scoring title? So long as his focus shifts to winning first once the playoffs begin, Durant should get the leeway to chase this if that’s what he wants.