The longer Kevin Durant spoke after Monday's practice, the bigger his smile got. The nine-minute interview session seemed cathartic for the three-time NBA scoring champ as he explained what's gone wrong in the Thunder's disappointing 1-2 start.
What was missing in Sunday night's 104-95 loss at home against Atlanta?
“Effort. It's as simple as that. We've got to bring more on the defensive end. On the offensive end, I know I have to be more aggressive, strong and quicker and just do everything I can to help my team passing, rebounding and scoring. On defense, we all have to be on the same page.”
Coach Scott Brooks has thrown a lot of different lineup rotations at you. Has that thrown you guys off?
“We easily could have been 3-0. We're not putting it on rotations or anything on why we lost those two games. We had those guys (the Hawks down by nine) and we didn't execute. We (were up three at) San Antonio and we had two breakdowns in that fourth quarter. It's not like we're totally discombobulated (or) out of sync. We're playing together. We're passing the ball well, our defense is good at times, but it could be better. We've just got to lock in and focus in every single minute.”
What was the mood in the locker room today?
“It's not the end of the world, man. We're 1-2. We've got 79 more games. We've got a long ways to go. We're not going to come after every loss with our head down, mad at the world because we lost, man. It's just part of the game. You've got to bounce back and that's the type team we are. We bounce back pretty well. We'll see what happens.”
Sixteen of your first 24 games are at home, with Toronto up next on Tuesday.
“We want to win in front of our home crowd. That's our goal every time we step on the floor at Chesapeake. Our fans deserve it, so we've got to bring it every single minute, and I think we will.”
Before, people seemed to criticize you for just being a scorer. Now that you're rounding out your game, sounds like people want you to go back to just scoring. How do you balance those two?
(Laughing) “That's a good question. I wish I could do it a little better than I'm doing now. Just trying to play as hard as I can, man. Leave it all on the floor. I also want to find my teammates for open shots, make the right basketball play. I can shoot over two people, but that's not always the best shot. I know I could make that shot, but it's not always the best shot. I've just got to find the right balance. This is probably the first year where I'm passing the ball a little bit better, getting more assists, handling the ball a little bit more. But I've got to find the right balance of knowing when to go score the ball and when to give up the ball and make the right pass.”
On many of your turnovers, it seems like you're trying to make the right play.
“Last night I had a few where they stripped the ball from me. I had six (turnovers) last night and I think four of them were when I was trying to make the right pass. There's a few where I threw the ball too hard to my bigs and it went through their hands. There were a few I wish I could have made a stronger pass. I've got good intentions, I think. I've just got to continue to keep working at it, watching film and see where I can get better.”
Do your teammates have to adjust to the passing version of Kevin Durant?
“That sounds bad, though, like I never passed the ball before. I guess I've just got to slow it down a bit and make a simpler pass. It's not on my teammates. It's on me to make a good pass … I'm a work in progress.”
You're averaging 41.7 minutes a game. How long can you continue to play 40 minutes a game?
[Smiling] “For about 10 years. I feel good. Every time I come out of the game, I'm ready to go back in 30 seconds later. On the court, I don't feel tired.”
What have you done to become a better passer?
“I learned how to pass when I was real young. That's one thing I always knew how to do was find the open man. Once I got so big (scoring took over) … I can score the basketball, but I think I can pass pretty well or I can make the correct pass. I'm not the type of guy who's just going to throw the ball inbounds to a guy who's wide open. I can make the right pass.”
Other than at Rucker Park, have you ever handled the ball this much?
“Not really. I feel good doing it. It's not like guys are stripping me at half-court or I'm just losing the ball dribbling. I think I'm handling the ball pretty well, just trying to make good passes, man.”