Through 54 games played, Thunder forward Kevin Durant still led the league in scoring at 28.5 points per game. He kept up that pace throughout February by averaging 26.8 points in 11 games, including a 43-point performance in a 104-93 win over the New Orleans Hornets to start the month.
But look at his numbers for the rest of the month and one statistic should stand out: those 8.9 rebounds, by far the most he’s averaged in a month this season.
As easy as it is to talk about Durant’s scoring prowess, how he makes putting the ball in the basket look so effortless, one part of his game that often gets overlooked, or even swept under the rug completely, is his knack for rebounding.
Well, it’s actually more of a skill than a knack.
Durant has always been a steady rebounder dating back to his lone season at the University of Texas, where he averaged 11.1 boards a night.
Admittedly, Durant said he got away from rebounding in his first two seasons in the NBA. Now in his fourth season it’s become a point of emphasis, so much so that the Thunder coaching staff has continued to tell Durant that he has the potential to average a double-double.
That was no more evident than the way he attacked the glass in February.
Durant recorded double-doubles in each of the first four games of the month and followed it up with a 16-rebound performance in a Feb. 25 loss at the Orlando Magic.
His length, athleticism, speed and ability to attack the right seams on the floor make him a sound rebounder and the Thunder’s best this season at 7.2 per game. How many other 6-9 small forwards can handle the ball, stretch the floor, play a mean midrange game and rebound like KD does?
Obviously, February was more than just rebounding for Durant, who welcomed in a trio of new teammtes at the trade deadline in Kendrick Perkins, Nate Robinson and Nazr Mohammed after a busy NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, where he hosted a live stream session on nikebasketball.com from Santa Monica Place before hundreds of fans. On Friday night he sat courtside to cheer on Thunder teammates James Harden and Serge Ibaka in the Rookie Challenge. On Saturday he participated in the 3-Point Contest and served as Ibaka’s coach in the Slam Dunk Contest. And in Sunday’s All-Star Game, KD’s second straight and first as a starter, the Thunder forward nearly stole the show with a 34-point performance to help the West top the East, 148-143.
This time, surrounded by the game’s best players, Durant said he felt like he belonged. He certainly played like it.
“I felt a lot more comfortable,” Durant told the Oklahoman. “I think me being a starter helped me out a little bit, and also having my teammate there. Last year, I was a bit nervous just being around the guys. But this year, I felt like I belonged.”