MVP win would 'mean a lot' to Durant
NEW ORLEANS -- Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant diverted Friday from his longstanding campaign to downplay any conversation about personal achievements by conceding in an interview with ESPN Radio that winning his first league MVP award would "mean a lot."
In a sit-down for ESPN Radio's "Meet The All-Stars" show, which airs Saturday at 6 p.m. ET, Durant took the rare step of allowing himself to imagine how it would feel to hold off heavy MVP favorite LeBron James over the last 30-plus games of the regular season and break through to win the game's most coveted individual honor for the first time.
"It would mean a lot," Durant said Friday. "I mean, you can't never -- MVP in this league -- you can't ever downgrade that. Whoever you are, no matter how many you've won, you can't downgrade MVP.
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"Of course, the ultimate prize is to win the championship. [But] as far as regular-season accolades, I think it's right up there at the top. It would be cool, but it's out of my control. The only thing I can control is how I play and everything else out there, that'll fall in line."
Durant has generally tried throughout the season to deflect questions about where he stands in comparison to James. The game's consensus top two players will square off not only in Sunday night's All-Star Game but also next Thursday in Oklahoma City, when Durant's Thunder play host to James' Miami Heat.
James has won four of the past five MVP trophies and quickly established himself as a favorite to win again by maintaining a shooting percentage above .600 through Dec. 20.
But Durant promptly moved to the forefront of the MVP race thanks to a scorching January, when he averaged 35.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 6.1 assists while shooting 54.9 percent from the floor. The surge was made especially notable by the fact Russell Westbrook, Durant's most decorated teammate, missed the entire month while continuing to recover from his third knee surgery in a span of eight months.
Both James and Durant traded highlight performances while leading their respective teams to consecutive wins on the road leading into the break, but Durant insists it's OK to appreciate them individually.
"Let's just sit back and judge basketball as we play it; not just LeBron and myself, but other guys in the league, too," Durant said. "Just enjoy it, because it's here today and gone tomorrow. A lot of people take it for granted."
Durant, however, later told reporters at All-Star media day that he's grown tired of the incessant comparisons to James.
Asked to gauge his level of weariness with the subject on a scale of 1 to 10: Durant said. "Um, about a 25. It's every day, I mean. You should really focus on how good LeBron James is. I think people should appreciate that more than always comparing guys. In our world, you want to compare everything. You judge everything. That's just how we are."
Information from ESPN.com's Michael Wallace contributed to this report.