Durant 2nd again to LeBron in MVP race
By JEFF LATZKE
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) When the NBA's MVP results were announced Saturday, Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant found himself in a familiar spot: second.
Just the seventh player to win three straight scoring titles, Durant ended up behind Miami's LeBron James in balloting for the league's top individual honor. It was the second time in the last three years that Durant finished second in the voting, both times beaten by James.
"I've been second since high school, man. Second drafted. Second-best player in high school. Second in the MVP votes twice," Durant said when the Thunder finished practice, shortly after James was presented his MVP trophy in a ceremony in Miami. "I'm over that being second stuff."
James earned 85 out of 121 possible first-place votes. Durant got 24 first-place votes, was second on 83 ballots and was no worse than fourth on anyone's ballot - getting just one tally in that category.
Durant finished fifth in the voting last season, when Chicago's Derrick Rose won it, and second in 2010.
"I'm always motivated. Me not winning MVP doesn't make me more motivated than I already was," said Durant, who was picked behind Greg Oden in the 2007 draft. "This is just a great opportunity for us to have a chance to compete for a world championship.
"I just want to go out there and be me. I can't think about it too much because I didn't win it. Just go out there and be me and I'll live with the results."
Durant said after the season that he considered it his best year yet, and that if he didn't win the MVP, it wouldn't overshadow the improvements he made in passing, becoming Oklahoma City's leading rebounder and shooting a career-best 50 percent.
James finished the season ranked third in scoring at 27.1 points per game and averaged 6.2 assists and 7.9 rebounds while shooting a career-best 53 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range.
Durant averaged 28 points, 3.5 assists and eight rebounds. He shot a career-best 50 percent from the field and made 39 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Both teams finished 46-20, second in their conferences.
"I'm proud of Kevin. He works every day to be in this position, to be considered an MVP-caliber player," coach Scott Brooks said. "He's 23. He has a lot of years to get that award if that's what he is going out looking to get, but he has never mentioned it to me that, `My focus is to get the MVP.' He wants to win the championship, like all the other guys on our team, and if that happens, it's great."
Durant and the Thunder were going through their seventh straight day without knowing opponent in the Western Conference semifinals. Denver and the Los Angeles Lakers were play Game 7 in their first-round series Saturday night, with the winner advancing to play in Oklahoma City on Monday night.
The MVP presentation was going on while the Thunder were wrapping up what Brooks called a "chippy" practice, noting that his players are "done seeing each other and competing against each other; they want to play another opponent."
Center Kendrick Perkins remained day to day with a strained muscle in his right hip and went through only noncontact work before practice started. Brooks said he could be a game-time decision Monday night.
In the league's postseason awards, the Thunder made a good showing. James Harden won Sixth Man of the Year, power forward Serge Ibaka finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting and Brooks was sixth place in Coach of the Year. Russell Westbrook tied for 11th in the MVP voting with Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki, getting one fourth-place vote and one fifth-place vote.
"LeBron, that's like unheard of for a guy to get three out of four MVPs," Durant said. "A good friend of mine. I'm happy for him and of course I would love to have the MVP but at the same time, I've just got to keep improving, keep getting better and hopefully I'll have one soon."
Durant is attempting to be the first player from the franchise, which relocated from Seattle in 2008, to be chosen MVP.
"Kevin has worked himself into this position, to be considered an MVP," Brooks said. "LeBron, Kevin and a few others are going to be in that position for the next 10 years. It could be a coin flip every year. Those guys put up great numbers and their team wins games."
Updated May 12, 2012