Kevin Durant Saying (And Doing) All The Right Things
Kevin Durant’s evolving maturity and leadership was on full display Tuesday, 10 minutes after the conclusion of an Oklahoma City Thunder practice and roughly two hours before the team boarded a flight to Memphis for its preseason opener against the Grizzlies.
It started with a scene that we’ve quickly grown accustomed to seeing inside the team’s training center on N. Lincoln Blvd. No. 35, in his sweat-drenched blue mesh jersey, lingered on the far end of the practice court with assistant coach Brian Keefe. The two worked their way around the arc, starting in the far right corner before slowly working their way to the opposite side. Durant took passes and drilled on jab steps and step ins, set shots and pull-ups, fadeaways and free throws.
Twenty minutes later, he walked over to a group of media members before he could catch his breath. That’s when he followed up on his actions by saying all the right things. He sounded like a veteran, confident, poised, focused and prepared to embark on his third NBA season. At one point he even stopped and chuckled when he caught himself referring to rookie big men Serge Ibaka and Byron Mullens, both one year younger than he, as “The young guys.”
If Oklahoma City is to climb the Western Conference standings this season, Durant will be the catalyst. In his 6 1/2 minute interview with reporters, Durant gave the impression that he’s ready to accept the challenge and lead the charge. He talked about how the team is playing harder now than it did at this point last season. How this preseason schedule is important to build confidence and not take steps back. How, above all, all he wants to do is get better.
(Note: I also asked Durant a few lighthearted, reader-submitted questions. Thanks to @Bbingham526 and @BryanNix for submitting good questions via Twitter.)
Q: What have you learned about your going into tonight’s preseason opener?
A: We play hard. We play harder than we did last year around this time. Guys are playing together and buying into what we want to do on both ends of the floor. So I’m excited to be a part of this team and I can’t wait to start playing.
Q: What’s the vibe like with some of the rookies who are going into their first preseason game?
A: We’re all excited. I can speak for everybody when I say we’re tired of playing against each other every day. We want to go out and show it in the game. So we’re excited. We’ve just got to do the things we’ve been working on.
Q: What is the team trying to get out of the preseason?
A: We just want to get better each and every game. Work on what we’ve been doing in training camp and try to get our wind, try to get in some game shape. It’s tougher to get in game shape here in practice. So we want to get some reps up and have fun.
Q: Can you gain momentum if you play well in preseason or does it not matter?
A: It’s important for us to not take steps back. That’s the only thing is to always get better, whoever’s on the floor. I don’t think you can gain momentum because in preseason teams aren’t playing their regular five throughout the whole game. The bigger name players don’t play that much. But it does give us a little confidence going into the season. But I think we have to do our best by coming in here and practicing and working hard and also translating it to the games.
Q: What’s your favorite preseason game memory?
A: I think our first game here last year at the Ford Center was my favorite. That’s when I first saw fans come to the game and cheer the whole game. It was a good game for us but we lost. But the fans showed how much they appreciate us so that was probably my favorite one.
Q: How will the early injuries to Nick Collison and Thabo Sefolosha impact what the team is able to accomplish this preseason?
A: I think we have enough guys to step in for them while they’re hurt. I think they’re going to be great teammates while they’re not playing and are going to cheer us on. But I think we have guys that fill those roles pretty well. And once they get back they’re going to help us out. It’s bad that they’re hurt but at the same time we have guys that can come in there and fill that role.
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