Kevin Durant: Ejections, anger taint season

Kevin Durant has a league-high three ejections this season. Where has all of his sudden anger come from?

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(Photo Credit: Keith Allison)

Kevin Durant is arguably the most controversial player in the NBA. Among the points of contention, there is the fact that he joined the Golden State Warriors, the team that came back from a 3-1 deficit in the conference finals to beat his former side Oklahoma City. Since then, Durant has been dubbed by many fans as a snake. 

But more recently, Durant has been stealing the headlines for his hot-tempered on-court tussles. He’s talking back to referees and getting into scuffles with rival players. This has resulted in a league-high three ejections after just over a quarter of the season. It has also led many to ask: why all the anger, and where has it come from?


By the numbers

Durant’s talent is undeniable. He is one of the best scorers in the NBA today and his length allows him to be dominant on both ends of the floor. His numbers this season are very similar to the 2016/17 campaign. After the Warriors defeated the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night, a match in which Durant reeled in 35 points, 11 rebounds and ten assists, he is averaging exactly the same number of points per game as he did last season with 25.1.  

In the three games Durant has been ejected this season, he’s averaging 24.3 points per game. The disparity on his efficiency from the field in games he’s completed to games ejected doesn’t speak volumes, either. When ejected against the Orlando Magic, Durant was shooting 71.4% from the floor, whilst against the Memphis Grizzlies he shot 45.8%.

The most recent ejection, against the New Orleans Pelicans, came following a run-in with DeMarcus Cousins and has attracted the most attention. Durant and Cousins squared up before Draymond Green got involved and the referees ejected both culprits.

In the post-game interview, Durant claimed they were just talking, that they are both NBA players and therefore would not have thrown punches. But did their play up to that point in that game affect their decision to tussle? Let’s take a look:

Player Kevin Durant DeMarcus Cousins
Points 19 19
Rebounds 7 11
Assists 5 7
Steals 2 5
Blocks 1 3
FG% 38.1% 46.7
+/- -8 -32

Neither player seemed to be playing a particularly good or bad game, with both slightly under-performing based on their season averages.

So, Durant’s temper doesn’t seem to significantly impact his output on the floor. But, there is no doubt that it is hurting his reputation. Once deemed the most likely candidate to assume the status of being the best player in the league when LeBron James calls it a day, Durant is starting to attract attention for all the wrong reasons, which puts his legacy in jeopardy.

New Durant?

Durant’s three ejections this season came after only two ejections in his previous 810 games in the league. This newfound frustration comes as the Warriors have slightly under-performed in their first 26 games of the season. Last season, Durant’s first campaign with the Warriors, they had already accumulated 31 wins before hitting their sixth loss.  Following the win over the Hornets, they sit on 20-6, second in the Western Conference to the Houston Rockets.

The way Durant has been acting this season would definitely be considered out of character. But then again, Durant has never been in this position before. He’s never been on a team that has come off an NBA championship and is required to go through the rigmarole of another NBA season when only the playoffs really count to a team with such talent. Complacency kicks in, frustration comes in games you feel you should be winning, or calls you feel should have gone your way get under your skin that little more. 

Regardless, if the Warriors are to go back-to-back, Durant needs to keep that temper in check.