The two best players in the NBA are frustratingly polished when it comes to the media, so there's rarely any hint of a real rivalry between them. This will have to do: LeBron James says he's "jealous" that Kevin Durant gets to shoot so much.
Is this James casting a bit of doubt on KD's league-leading 29.8 ppg figure? Casting a bit of shade toward the man who just surpassed him as the oddsmakers' pick for MVP? Probably not, but it's at least evidence that James is hyper-aware of what his peers are up to.
"I get jealous sometimes when I look over at KD and he's like 16-for-32 (from the field) and then 14-for-34. ... Man," James told ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh.
"But there are games where I have it going, and then at the end of the game, I'm like, damn, I shot just 12-for-16? Why don't I get up at least six or seven more? I definitely notice it."
Were we shit-stirrers, we could interpret this as James saying, "I could destroy him in counting stats if I wanted to, but not at the expense of my team." We're not, though!
It's important to note that James's comments came in the context of a story on some of his numbers being down this year, and amid accusations that he's coasting until the playoffs. He might sound defensive, but at least when it comes to his shots, he's not wrong. He's actually more efficient than ever: His FG% is a career high .591, and his true shooting percentage (incorporating threes and free throws) is .672, which would be an NBA record for anyone taking 15 FGAs per game.
There might also be a hint of wistfulness in James's comments. Especially with Russell Westbrook fighting injuries, Durant has to be The Man almost every night. James doesn't. That's exactly why he came to Miami. With Cleveland, LeBron used to have to shoot in volume, and he hated it. As noted by Royce Young, Durant has had seven career games with 30 or more shot attempts. LeBron has 27, only two of them coming as a member of the Heat. (One of those two games went to overtime; the other, double OT.)
With the season nearly half-over, Durant is averaging 3.3 more field goal attempts per game than James. That sounds significant, yet much of the difference lies not in their individual styles of play, but with their teams'. Matt Moore points out that the Thunder play at a faster pace, creating more shots overall. Durant accounts for 30.1 percent of OKC's attempts, while James isn't far behind, with 28.3 percent of the Heat's. If James truly wants to chuck, Miami's not the place to do it.
So maybe this is just some pie-in-the-sky dreaming from LeBron. Wouldn't it be fun? he wonders aloud. Yes, yes it would.
"I always think about it, though. If I get up high-20s, 30 shots a game, what could I do today, with the way I'm playing?"
It'd be a show, and we certainly hope that late in the season, James decides for a week or even a game that he's just going to go for it. But shooting more would take away from the other things he does so well—creating space for teammates, grabbing boards, getting back on D. LeBron and Durant are two very different ballplayers, and they're both at their best when they keep it that way.