Kevin Durant continues to be standing as a member of the Brooklyn Nets.
After a tumultuous summer season, and a fair rougher begin to the season, the celebrity who requested a commerce some seven months in the past enters Friday’s sport towards the New Orleans Pelicans (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) enjoying arguably the very best basketball of his profession. He completed the month of December averaging 28.3 factors a sport whereas capturing 58% from the sector.
The 34-year-old finds himself in a very good place and says he believes the league is in a very good place as properly. Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford spent final season working with Durant whereas serving as a guide on Steve Nash’s Nets workers, and identified Durant’s ardour and information of the sport. “He’ll are available in and say, ‘Did you watch St. Peter’s/St. Francis?'” Clifford stated. “He is at all times watching basketball, school or an all-star sport. I wager should you spoke to him, I wager you he is aware of a number of the high highschool gamers. He lives it.”
The 6-foot-10 ahead, in his sixteenth 12 months, has been the pillar of stability on a Nets workforce typically outlined by the alternative. He has vaulted the Nets — winners of 16 of their previous 18 video games, whereas pushing himself to the forefront of one other MVP dialog.
Durant sat down on a number of events all through this season with ESPN’s Nick Friedell to debate his commerce request over the summer season, how the Nets managed to remain collectively when issues might have break up aside, what the league can do to enhance the common season and if he believes tanking is an issue as groups watch the event of high 2023 draft prospect Victor Wembanyama.
[Editor’s note: Answers have been minimally edited for clarity and brevity.]
Why did not issues splinter aside after all of the Kyrie [Irving] stuff — why have you ever guys come again collectively now when issues might have simply exploded?
As a result of we was collectively regardless. I believe coming into the coaching camp, we understood that it is going to be so much on us from a media standpoint, from simply the noise usually round our workforce, so I believe that made us tighter as soon as camp began. So we was capable of take the Kyrie stuff and transfer in stride as a result of we had been already caught collectively earlier than that. We began to win some video games, began to get higher as a workforce, and do some issues on the market that work for us. And now it looks like all the things was patched all collectively, but it surely felt prefer it was at all times cool, to be sincere.
Over the summer season, if you determined to return again, why had been you so assured that you just guys nonetheless might compete for a title?
I do not even take a look at s— that approach. My complete factor was like — are we, does the method matter to us? And that is one factor I did know that individuals right here take pleasure in, grinding. In order that was a very powerful factor for me. Titles and stuff include the method wherein you — the way you put together. It was extra so, “All proper, are we going to observe tougher? Are we going to pay extra consideration to element?” Not simply everyone else, all of us, me included. Is that going to be preached to us day by day? I had the religion that that might occur as a result of I voiced that all through the summer season as properly. Even behind the scenes, like, “Yo, that is what I love to do. That is how I wish to observe.” I have been saying that for the final couple years, so I figured at that time with me going by that, they understood what I worth. That is what I used to be hanging my hat on, the preparation aspect of it.
“As a result of we eat all the things always, we’re beginning to take lots of stuff without any consideration. The NBA is considered one of them.”
Brooklyn Nets ahead Kevin Durant
As you properly know, on lots of different groups, when a star participant asks for a commerce, I am pondering of James Harden with the Rockets, Jimmy Butler with the Timberwolves, Anthony Davis with the Pelicans, all the things round that workforce appears to disintegrate even when that participant stays after …
However you bought to understand with their conditions, when did that occur for them? In the course of the center of the season.
Properly, Jimmy’s began in the summertime …
[He got traded] through the center of the season, when he was in Minnesota. Keep in mind, he was enjoying video games when he wasn’t — he was sitting out some video games, he bought traded in the midst of the season from Minnesota, proper? James, the identical approach. AD, the identical approach. This was a summertime factor. We wasn’t enjoying no video games. I did not intrude with what we had been doing on the court docket day by day. It wasn’t a query of what you had been asking my teammates day by day after a sport or a observe. What I did did not get in the best way of the video games that was being performed, so I felt like that is the distinction in all the things. So we hashed that each one up proper earlier than camp, and it was cool, it did not get in the best way of the hoops. So that is the distinction between what occurred with these guys and [me].
Having lived what you simply lived over the summer season, do you assume there may be an excessive amount of give attention to free company?
The NBA has been round for thus lengthy, the common season — for actual basketball followers, they benefit from the common season for [what it is]. However our league is filled with informal individuals who take pleasure in basketball, but it surely’s probably not — they do not look after it as a lot, you realize what I am saying? They like to look at it as a passion, but it surely’s not — there’s some people who find themselves actual followers of the sport, you realize what I am saying? …
In terms of folks and it involves how they eat issues — all the things seems prefer it’s doing unbelievable proper now. So including free company, summer season league, common season, all that stuff, I believe that is simply one other avenue for folks to be engaged within the sport. Free company is a big deal — they usually wish to see the place their favourite gamers are going, or their favourite groups are getting, as a result of they see guys beginning to transfer. So it is vital, however the video games are the one factor that basically issues, to be sincere.
What do you assume the league can do to enhance the common season?
What do you imply — “enhance?”
Make it so that there is extra depth throughout regular-season video games — or be at liberty to disagree with me should you do not assume that is a difficulty?
I do not assume there’s a difficulty in any respect. I believe the sport is in a very good place. I believe folks have realized how you can eat issues just a little totally different. They may not admire a basketball sport as a lot as they used to again within the days. The extra one thing’s round, the extra folks take it without any consideration. We’re an enormous, big company. We transfer lots of issues on this earth, as NBA gamers, as a league, so at this level persons are simply nit-pickin’ trigger the numbers present the recognition, all of those scores, analytics how common the NBA is as a result of persons are intrigued and watching all elements of the NBA — common season, summer season league, free company, commerce deadlines, draft. They’re all, it looks like from the chatter and recognition of the league, that everyone loves us, so I do not see the place an issue is.
Do you assume there’s a notion difficulty in these regular-season video games that do not get the additional highlight, that the common fan wonders simply how onerous any person is enjoying in a mean regular-season sport?
Followers have turn into extra entitled than something. In order that they’re beginning to query our motives for the sport, or how we strategy the sport. Those that do query — like who’re you? Simply shut up and watch the sport tonight. We go as onerous as we wish to go. We go as onerous as our our bodies enable us to go at this level.
They solely see us when the video games come on, however the journey, the practices, the shootarounds — we’re continuously shifting round. So each sport’s not going to be a high-intensity playoff sport. It will be occasions the place as a fan you are going to have to look at and see, “Oh, these guys traveled. That is the final sport of a highway journey. They might should dig just a little deeper to win this sport. It could be just a little sloppy tonight. We are able to admire that in regards to the NBA as a result of there’s so many video games and these guys undergo lots of shifting round all through the season.” So if followers simply cease taking us without any consideration, for one. Cease placing an excessive amount of strain on every athlete to reside as much as their requirements. However then everyone admire what we deliver to the desk. … (Laughs) It is seven, eight video games on an evening. Each day. You not often get a break day as a fan from the NBA, so be taught to understand the grind that we undergo and cease simply wanting on the cash and anticipating us to only carry out for you and carry out from the requirements — these excessive expectations that you just placed on every considered one of us as people. After which the dialogue across the sport would not be, would not be so — what is the phrase I am in search of?
Yeah, tense. Diluted. It is narrative-driven. It is agenda-based. Biased. I simply assume lots of stuff — as a result of we eat all the things always, we’re beginning to take lots of stuff without any consideration. The NBA is considered one of them.
Do you want the thought of that midseason event?
I do not hate it, I do not prefer it. It’s what it’s. It would not have an effect on the season. I believe we’ll nonetheless go on about it as [part of] the common season. However the video games will imply just a little bit extra, so it actually do not matter to me so long as we’re enjoying.
You comply with the sport as intently as anyone I’ve come throughout inside the sport. Do you assume the league goes to have a difficulty this 12 months given how a lot depth there appears to be round Wembanyama — on the tanking points coming again as much as the forefront?
Nah, groups have been tanking for a minute. What, you are going to power them to be aggressive? I do not see an issue with it, as a result of annually there’s just a few groups that may win it anyway. So the remainder of the league is making an attempt to determine the place they’re. And that is fairly good enterprise should you’re a workforce and you realize you are not going to be a playoff workforce or play-in workforce, you would possibly as properly attempt to play for [the No. 1 pick]. You would possibly as properly attempt to get a number of the guys who most likely will not get actual rotation minutes in case you have a very good workforce, get them some reps and possibly these guys can change their lives as properly.