Kevin Durant opens up about commerce request, tanking, followers and free company

Kevin Durant remains to be standing as a member of the Brooklyn Nets.

After a tumultuous summer time, and an excellent rougher begin to the season, the famous person who requested a commerce some seven months in the past enters Friday’s recreation in opposition to the New Orleans Pelicans (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) enjoying arguably one of the best basketball of his profession. He completed the month of December averaging 28.3 factors a recreation whereas capturing 58% from the sector.

The 34-year-old finds himself in place and says he believes the league is in place as properly. Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford spent final season working with Durant whereas serving as a guide on Steve Nash’s Nets employees, and identified Durant’s ardour and data of the sport. “He’s going to come in and say, ‘Did you watch St. Peter’s/St. Francis?'” Clifford mentioned. “He’s always watching basketball, college or an all-star game. I bet if you spoke to him, I bet you he knows some of the top high school players. He lives it.”

The 6-foot-10 ahead, in his sixteenth yr, has been the pillar of stability on a Nets staff 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 time, how the Nets managed to remain collectively when issues might have cut 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 prime 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 feel coming into the coaching camp, we understood that it’ll be lots on us from a media standpoint, from simply the noise basically round our staff, so I feel 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 have been already caught collectively earlier than that. We began to win some video games, began to get higher as a staff, and do some issues on the market that work for us. And now it looks like all the pieces was patched all collectively, nevertheless it felt prefer it was at all times cool, to be sincere.

Over the summer time, once you determined to return again, why have been you so assured that you simply guys nonetheless might compete for a title?

I do not even have 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 crucial factor for me. Titles and stuff include the method through which you — the way you put together. It was extra so, “All right, are we going to practice harder? Are we going to pay more attention to detail?” Not simply everyone else, all of us, me included. Is that going to be preached to us day-after-day? I had the religion that that will occur as a result of I voiced that all through the summer time as properly. Even behind the scenes, like, “Yo, this is what I like to do. This is how I like to practice.” I have been saying that for the final couple years, so I figured at that time with me going via that, they understood what I worth. That is what I used to be hanging my hat on, the preparation facet of it.

“Because we consume everything at all times, we’re starting to take a lot of stuff for granted. The NBA is one of them.”

Brooklyn Nets ahead Kevin Durant

As you properly know, on plenty of different groups, when a star participant asks for a commerce, I am considering of James Harden with the Rockets, Jimmy Butler with the Timberwolves, Anthony Davis with the Pelicans, all the pieces round that staff appears to disintegrate even when that participant stays after …

However you bought to comprehend with their conditions, when did that occur for them? Throughout the center of the season.

Effectively, Jimmy’s began in the summertime …

[He got traded] in the course of 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 acquired traded in the course 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 have been doing on the courtroom day-after-day. It wasn’t a query of what you have been asking my teammates day-after-day after a recreation or a apply. What I did did not get in the way in which of the video games that was being performed, so I felt like that is the distinction in all the pieces. So we hashed that every one up proper earlier than camp, and it was cool, it did not get in the way in which 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 time, do you assume there’s 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, nevertheless it’s not likely — they do not take care of it as a lot, you already know what I am saying? They like to look at it as a interest, nevertheless it’s not — there’s some people who find themselves actual followers of the sport, you already know what I am saying? …

On the subject of folks and it involves how they eat issues — all the pieces seems prefer it’s doing unimaginable proper now. So including free company, summer time league, common season, all that stuff, I feel that is simply one other avenue for folks to be engaged within the recreation. Free company is a big deal — and so they 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 actually issues, to be sincere.

What do you assume the league can do to enhance the common season?

What do you imply — “improve?”

Make it so that there is extra depth throughout regular-season video games — or be at liberty to disagree with me in the event you do not assume that is a difficulty?

I do not assume there’s a difficulty in any respect. I feel the sport is in place. I feel folks have realized learn how to eat issues a little bit totally different. They may not admire a basketball recreation 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 plenty 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 time 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 situation in these regular-season video games that do not get the additional highlight, that the typical fan wonders simply how onerous anyone is enjoying in a mean regular-season recreation?

Followers have turn out to be extra entitled than something. So that they’re beginning to query our motives for the sport, or how we method 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 permit 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 transferring round. So each recreation’s not going to be a high-intensity playoff recreation. It is going to be instances the place as a fan you are going to have to look at and see, “Oh, these guys traveled. This is the last game of a road trip. They may have to dig a little deeper to win this game. It might be a little sloppy tonight. We can appreciate that about the NBA because there’s so many games and these guys go through a lot of moving around throughout the season.” So if followers simply cease taking us without any consideration, for one. Cease placing an excessive amount of stress on every athlete to stay as much as their requirements. However then everyone admire what we convey to the desk. … (Laughs) It is seven, eight video games on an evening. Day by day. You hardly ever get a time off as a fan from the NBA, so be taught to understand the grind that we undergo and cease simply trying on the cash and anticipating us to simply carry out for you and carry out from the requirements — these excessive expectations that you simply placed on every one in all us as people. After which the dialogue across the recreation would not be, would not be so — what is the phrase I am on the lookout for?

Tense?

Yeah, tense. Diluted. It is narrative-driven. It is agenda-based. Biased. I simply assume plenty of stuff — as a result of we eat all the pieces always, we’re beginning to take plenty of stuff without any consideration. The NBA is one in all them.

Do you want the thought of that midseason match?

I do not hate it, I do not prefer it. It’s what it’s. It does not have an effect on the season. I feel we’ll nonetheless go on about it as [part of] the common season. However the video games will imply a little bit 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 recreation. Do you assume the league goes to have a difficulty this yr 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 every year there’s only some 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 in the event you’re a staff and you already know you are not going to be a playoff staff or play-in staff, you would possibly as properly attempt to play for [the No. 1 pick]. You would possibly as properly attempt to get a few of the guys who in all probability will not get actual rotation minutes if in case you have staff, get them some reps and perhaps these guys can change their lives as properly.