Q&A: Kevin Durant

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 with No comments
Courtesy of Sam Amick 

Q: So how long did it take you to move past the loss to the Spurs?

A: "It took me some time. As a competitor, you always want to end the season off on a great note, whether you're an up and coming team ending the season off well knowing that you're building towards something. It's like a few years ago, (in 2010, when) we weren't satisfied, but we were like, 'Alright, we played well in the playoffs and we know we can do this,' so I think going into the summer we were confident. Now, it's 'Well, let's get into the Western Conference Finals again,' and then (last postseason) being close enough to tie the series up and be close to swaying that thing and going to the Finals, I felt that going into the summer it was a big summer for us all.

Q: You still feeling good about the group, especially considering how young everyone is?

A: "Yeah, I mean look, we're all 25, 26 years old, and stuff happens. Injuries happen. Bad breaks happen. It's a part of sports, and we understand that. Look, we're excited about the team we have, excited about Russ (Westbrook) and Serge (Ibaka) being back healthy, but you never know what happens. We want to just take it as slow as we can man, a day at a time, continue to help our young guys get better and we get better as well. Just trust in each other and know that you can't predict what will happen in June right now, but we can kind of dictate it in the way we approach our jobs."

Q: Those kids were coming on quick (as he left the Friday event with Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin), but you made their day staying and signing a few things. So who was that guy for you when you were a kid (growing up in Seat Pleasant, Md., outside of Washington D.C.)?

A: "It was Vince (Carter), but I'd never seen Vince before. So I remember I was playing in this little hoop-it-up three-on-three tournament in downtown DC. And with the part of town I'm from, you go downtown and it's like '(Expletive), I'm in Vegas.' So many big buildings. So Calbert Cheaney and Juwan Howard came out, and I was like, 'Dang, those are NBA players.' I got them to sign my shirt, and my Mom washed it. I was pissed.
"I understand (the kids' enthusiasm). I'm sure it was an appearance (for Cheaney and Howard), and they were probably ready to go (that day), but they signed for me. So I was like, 'Dang, I'll never forget that.' That was the only time, really, as a kid."

Q: On a different note, where's your head at in terms of the race relations in the league right now. Between the (Donald) Sterling saga and the Hawks' situation (in Atlanta), are you comfortable with how (NBA Commissioner) Adam (Silver) has handled things?

A: I think he has done a great job. We've come so far as a country that (race) shouldn't even be a factor anymore. And as a black player, it was tough to hear about because we've gone so far. You take two steps back with those comments and a lot of the stuff that has gone on the past five or six months. But I think Mr. Silver has done a great job controlling it and not letting it get out of control. With the owner with the Clippers, and I haven't really read up on the Atlanta situation and am not sure what happened with the owners or those guys over there, but…

Q: But specifically, what about the idea of a front office executive bringing ethnicity into the equation when it comes to roster discussions?

A: "I don't want to offend anybody at all, but as a GM you know what type of people you want. You know some guys may come from different backgrounds, and they might handle situations differently, but that's not because of the color of their skin at all. Maybe it's just because of how they were brought up. I think that's maybe what might go into some of these things that GMs are thinking when they're bringing in their teams, because culture is big. Core values are big. I don't think that's a conversation you should have about the color of a guy's skin. I think it's more getting to know the person no matter what. That's what some of these GMs may want, is 'How does this guy handle losing 10 in a row and not playing well?' He may handle it differently than some guy who was brought up differently, you know what I'm saying? And that's not a race thing at all. That's an experience thing and a situation thing.

"Where I came up, I maybe came up differently than, let's say, (Thunder teammates) Steven Adams or Nick Collison, but that's not because of the color of our skin. It's experience. That's how I view those types of things. It's far from a race thing, and Luol Deng (who was disparaged in the Hawks' situation) is by far one of the classiest, most down to earth, humble (guys). He's a star in this league, one of those guys who I really can appreciate. To hear those things about him, that's the last guy you'd think to categorize. It's one of those things where everybody can learn from. I'm not going to ever say that (Hawks general manager) Danny Ferry (who took a leave of absence after making the comments on a conference call with the team's owners) – I don't know him – so I can't really say that that's how he always is. I've heard great stories about him, but everybody makes mistakes, everybody says things sometimes that they don't really mean, so I'm the type of person where, 'Of course there's consequences to what you say and what you do, but also know that Luol Deng is a phenomenal person outside of a basketball player.' That's the main thing that people should know about this whole situation, that he's a guy who I would love to have on my team and go to war with. That whole thing just needs for people to learn from it and move on."

Q: You talk about being more open with how you see things, and the fact that it's ok for you to get upset, and it reminds me of a moment I saw in the playoffs where you were chirping with a woman in the stands in San Antonio. Is it hard not to respond sometimes?

A: "Yeah, I mean I've got a quick trigger with people talking (expletive) to me. Whether it's other players or whether it's fans, (Thunder media relations director) Matty (Tumbleson) tells me all the time, 'Don't say anything,' but it's hard.

"I remember we played Dallas and I fell into the stands, and I was talking trash back and forth with some lady and she threw the middle finger at me, and we've been great friends since then. I go over there and hug her every game, and we've been really good friends, because I understand that. I don't take it personal. I get pissed on the court, because it's just like, 'Man, I've got to take my anger out somewhere' and it's on the court. But those moments like that man, I just learned that it's not about losing your cool but about how this might push me over the top and get me to the space where I need to be in order for us to win this game. But the pressure on top of that is, I learned not to care no more. Either you're going to win or you're going to lose, and of course I'd love to win but I'm going to be me all the way through and live with the results. That's always how I've been these last few years, actually. Since 2012, I've really been feeling comfortable with myself."

Q: Why 2012?

A: I don't know. I think the lockout really gave me time to reflect on some stuff, and to really appreciate the game more too because it was like, 'Man, we may not play again, so I'm not going to take this thing for granted no more.' I'm going to go out there and hoop. I was like, 'Man, I'm ready to play in the league again. I'm ready to see 18,000 strong standing.

Q: So is that on your mind looking ahead, I'd imagine? (Players and owners have the ability to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement after the 2016-17 season)

A: "I'm just hoping for the best, but also preparing for the worst too because it could be worse than last time. But I guarantee you it won't be like the last lockout as far as me playing everywhere and stuff like that, but at the same time it will be a big summer.

Q: Do things like that, and maybe the Paul George injury (at Team USA training camp in Las Vegas in July), force you to keep that short-term outlook, just because you never know what's coming next?

"That's professional sports, man. You see it in every sport – football, baseball, basketball man, hockey all of that stuff. Anything can happen so quickly, so you just try to live in the moment and it's easy to take it for granted, especially when you've played so many games and you get your contract, so you kind of like take stuff for granted because you feel like, 'Alright, it's always going to be here.' We really got a dose of it when James (Harden) left (in his Oct. 2012 trade from the Thunder to the Houston Rockets), because everybody in the world thought that we were going to be together forever, and professional sports hit us. Being in a business hit us. Now we just kept the truck moving, and nobody talked about us winning 60 games (in the 2012-13 season), 59 games (last season). It's like nobody cares, (and) nobody is going to feel sorry for us. You've just got to keep going, so why are we going to sit there and dwell on the past when we can just move forward?"

Q: (Thunder general manager) Sam (Presti) made it clear the other day that you guys will have a defense-first mentality again, but the offensive evolution will continue too. Where do you see that part of this season?

A: "Each year I think our assists, our team assists, have gone up each year. We're moving the ball and shooting at a higher percentage each year, and that's because everybody is getting better. Serge is getting better, Russ, myself, Steven, Perk (Kendrick Perkins). Everybody is getting better, and once we move that basketball like that (it's good). We've got penetrators, we've got scorers, Reggie Jackson shoots at a high percentage and gets into the paint.

Q: Speaking of Reggie, how do you see his situation in terms of starting vs. coming off the bench? (Jackson, who is hoping to secure an extension before the Oct. 31 deadline, has made it clear he wants to start this season)

"Yeah, I mean, as kids we're taught that being a starter means that you're it. But I've seen starters average 10 minutes a game, and not finish games. But Reggie finishes games for us, and I think that's more important. I also think that in his head, playing behind Russell, (and considering) they're the same age, but he finishes games for us and I think that's what's important to him. He finishes games for us, but just like any other player, when you get people talking and you have your friends and your family talking to you, (saying) 'you can flourish when you're by yourself.' It's a matter of, 'Does he want to come off the bench for us and man that second unit and be that guy, and also be able to play with Russell and myself?' I think that's what he wants to do. He's a humble kid. He enjoys living here in Oklahoma City. He loves the team. He loves the organization, so I don't see anything (bad) happening on that front. I think it's going to all work out. That's how I feel. That's just my opinion.

Q: You did an Esquire interview recently talking about what inspires you. So who's on that list right now?

A: "A lot of guys man. I was just thinking about this the other day…Andre Ward, the boxer. I've read some interviews about him, and heard about his background, how he grew up, his father passing away, stuff like that, his faith and his family, and how he handles all that stuff. Just looking him up on YouTube, that's someone I look up to. I don't really know him that well. We text here and there before, and I've met him a few times. But I just admire how he handles everything, from his profession to his circumstances to how he grew up to how he has continued to be the man he is no matter what. It's kind of hard to stick to what you were taught as a kid when you're a professional athlete, so I respect everything he has done.

"(New Orleans Pelicans head coach) Monty Williams has been a big influence as well, just coming from the same area I come from, knowing his background and knowing his story ... to know him from afar, just knowing that he put in so much work to become a head coach, just being around him for a week with USA basketball and knowing how great he is with the guys. He is a phenomenal leader, so he inspires me a lot because he's from the area I grew up in and the route he took to making it in the NBA and being a coach and being just a great leader.

Q: So did you enjoy seeing those guys win it all (in FIBA World Cup in Spain)?

A: "Ah man, when I saw (Team USA win the gold), I was like, 'Oh man, I would love to be there with them and enjoy that moment because I know how special it is and I know how fun it is to win that gold medal.' So I was very happy for him, and excited for the guys who were there for the first time. I was really excited for (Denver Nuggets forward) Kenneth Faried, to see how well he played, and to take on that role. I think he was better at that (forward) position than me. He played extremely well. He was good. I was happy for him. Nobody thought he'd make the team, and he did. (Golden State Warriors guard) Klay Thompson played well. I always thought he'd make the team. Being a young guy on that team a few years ago (when he won gold with Team USA in 2010 at the FIBA Tournament), we had all guys who were 21, 22 years old, and I saw how close we got over there on that trip and I'm sure it was the same way with those guys."

Q: You going to be there in 2016 (for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro)?

A: "For sure. I've got to do it. Got to. Brazil, too? Whew…"