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Kevin Durant talks LeBron James, MVP and more from Miami

by Darnell Mayberry Published: January 29, 2014

Hours before the Thunder square off with the Heat in a highly-anticipated showdown, Kevin Durant addressed the media for 10 minutes Wednesday morning in Miami. Here’s the full transcript of his interview.

Q: Can you talk about Scotty (Brooks’) honor as being named All-Star coach again and what it means to you to have him there?
A: It means a lot to us. For a coach to be recognized as the coach of an All-Star (team), that means they put in a lot of work. And we helped him out along the way. He’s been such a great leader for us throughout the whole year, and he deserves it. So I’m happy for him.

The All-Star reserves are going to be announced Thursday. Could you make a case for Russell (Westbrook) making the team even though he’s missed 21 games?
Yeah, if Chris Paul makes it, he should make it, too.

Is there a little more when you’re playing the Heat, whether it’s here or at your place?
It’s a little more when we play the Heat, when we play the Utah Jazz, when we play the Sacramento Kings. It’s a little more when we play everybody. It’s competitive nature, man. If you turn it on for just the top tier teams and you don’t care about the teams whose records aren’t that good, then you’re not a real competitor in my book. That’s my opinion. So I turn it on for everybody.

If you’re defending LeBron, is this an opportunity for you to see how people feel when they’re going up against you, just as a prolific scorer?
I mean, I’m just going out there and trying to play hard, man. He’s a tough guy to cover. But I’m going to go out there and play with extreme effort every play and just give it my all and rely on my teammates. I know I can’t do nothing on this court by myself. I just got to rely on my teammates.

As far as these two teams and why they’ve been so good over the last several years, what sets you guys apart?
I just think that the work you put in, the extra work. The coaching staff does a great job preparing us; watching film, going through scouting reports, I think that stuff helps. And just building habits every single day. That’s what we do here, and I’m sure they do the same thing over in Miami and San Antonio and Golden State. All those other teams as well, they make sure they build their habits every single day, which is just doing the same stuff over and over again and making sure it’s tattooed on your brain and you go out there and perform.

Is there a part of you that feels like you’re the Bird and Magic of this era, you and LeBron given the accomplishments you’ve had and how you keep rising?
No, I don’t think so. I mean, we’ve been in the Finals one time. That’s it. I try not to get into that debate. Those two guys, Bird and Magic, they’re on another level, and I try not to get into that. It’s Kevin Durant versus LeBron James when we’re matched up on that court. But it’s Oklahoma City versus the Miami Heat. That’s how I try to look at it. And I try not to think about nothing else but who I’m guarding and how are team is going to try to come out there and get a ‘W.’

What makes them so good? What do you appreciate about there play?
Well, they’ve done it for a long time. They’ve won championships. That’s what determines players now is championships.

As far as what you guys need to do in this arena and getting off to a good start, what stands out in your mind?
We got to take care of the basketball. Defensively, we have to be locked in on all their shooters and their rollers. We got to make sure we stop the ball in the pick and roll. We just got to play hard. I think that makes up for a multitude of sins if we just go out there and play hard.

What do you think about what Greg Oden is doing here in Miami, and how eager are you to see the progress that he’s making?
As a friend, I’m excited that he’s back in the league and he’s overcome a lot in his career. It’s a great story that he has: five knee surgeries, he was thinking about retiring before the age of 25, but he came back and he’s out there playing extremely well. It’s fun to see him back. He’s a good friend, somebody I’ve known since high school. I’m excited for him.

With Russ out, do you expect them to load up more on you, and does that make it more important for you to rely on your teammates tonight?
Everybody does that.

But every defense isn’t like Miami’s when they’re on the top of their game.
Everybody does that, whether it’s Atlanta, whether it’s Portland, everybody does it. They have some good defenders here, but I just got to play the game, see how they play and then try to adjust from there.

Did you talk to Greg Oden over the years when he was out with injury at all?
Nah, I didn’t get a chance to talk to him. But when he signed with the Heat, I texted him and just told him congrats and I’m happy for him. I know that’s big for him trying to get back into the league, and I’m happy that he’s back.

LeBron recently noted how your play motivates him from day to day, night to night, he checks what you’re doing. Is that a two-way street?
Yeah, I check everybody’s stats. Whoever’s playing, I’m one of those guys who just loves to see what guys are doing. I want to see exactly what he did that night and see what their team did. But I check everybody’s stats.

He also noted yesterday that you cannot be guarded one-on-one. Your reaction to his assessment of you?
Flattering (laughs). But he’s one of those guys that takes on the challenge, and I’m looking forward to just going up against him. Everybody wants to see the one-on-one matchup. I know that’s the big thing. But we’re going to matchup together, so I’m sure you guys are going to get what you want. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the Thunder versus the Heat, and it’s going to be fun playing against them.

Having a guy like LeBron in the league who’s won four MVP’s, a guy who’s at the top of the summit, how much does it push you to have him out there at the top?
(Clears throat) To be honest, I’m going to be totally real, like, I don’t go in every day, when I go into the gym and work on my game, I don’t have a LeBron picture, or I don’t have his name in my mind when I’m going in there and working. It’s all about trying to get better for myself. And I know how I feel about myself. I know the confidence I have in myself, but also I want to compete against the best, and I want to go out there and prove myself against the best. But I don’t go into the gym every time I step onto the court and think about LeBron James and how I could outdo him. I’m just going out there and trying to get better and live with the results.

You only play each other a couple of times a year most years. How important is it for you to put a memorable performance out there every time you face him and his team?
For me, I’m all about going out there and playing hard and having fun and doing the best I can every time I step on that court. And sometimes it’s going to go well. Sometimes it’s not. And I can live with that, because I put in the work and I prepare the right way and I approach the game the right way. So no matter who’s on the court, I just try to do the same things.

What do you make of all this talk now that people say the MVP is now a race? You have, over the course of these last few weeks without Russell, have elevated your play. Your team is playing great. How do you look at all that stuff?
I don’t. I don’t. You guys pump that up. Fans pump that up more than the players, I think. Every day is a process for me. I’m just trying to work every single day to get better. And at the end of the year, I guess, we’ll see where we’re at. But every single day, I just try not to look past it and just keep working and see where we are. I try not to worry about that because I can’t control none of that. All I can control is how I play, how I approach the game and how I prepare and the rest will take care of itself.

Is it fair to say that the bigger goal is the title for you?
That’s everybody’s goal. That’s everybody’s goal. Individual accolades come along with it, but that’s everybody’s goal is to be the last team standing.

How tough was it for you last year, you guys were on pace to play the Heat again in the Finals but Russell gets hurt? Was that tough to kind of deal with?
I mean, like I said, we came in every single day not worrying about who we were going to play in the Finals. I mean, we had to get past the Januarays, the Februarys, March, the playoffs, the first round, we had to get past that before even thinking about who we were playing in the Finals. But we knew we had a good chance. And when Russ went out, we just tried to make up for it. It was tough, but it was a great learning experience for us. It’s something that we needed to go through in order for us to get where we wanted to go. So we’re going to look back on this, when Russ was out, and kind of just laugh at it. Look how much Reggie (Jackson’s) gotten better. Look how much Serge (Ibaka’s) gotten better. (Kendrick Perkins), myself. Just go from there.

Taking the stats away, are you at your highest level of intensity and hunger on the floor every night at this point in your career?
I mean, I’ve always been like that. I mean, I don’t show it like Russell. But I play with emotion. I play with passion. I’d never say just now this is the best, most intense I’ve played. I always play intense. Sometimes it results in good, sometimes it’s bad. But I’m just going out there and playing as hard as I can, man. And I’ve learned a lot along the way in this league and how I can be better and how I can help my team more and more each year. But I’ve always been intense, and I always want to win. I always want to compete.

How much does defending LeBron during a game take away from you at the other end, or does it at all?
It doesn’t. I’m a two-way player, that’s how I look at it. I play both ends of the floor. if you like it or not. If you think so or not, I play both ends of the floor. Ask my coaches and my teammates, they rely on me on the defensive end. And I know if you play this game and you want to be a good player you’ve got to do it on both ends. And I’ve realized that over the last few years, and I think I’m doing a better job of playing hard on the defensive end and also playing off my teammates on the offensive end, not thinking I can do it on my own. So once you realize that, you put your pride to the side and know that you need to rely on your teammates you can do anything on the floor.

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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