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The best of Kevin Durant from All-Star media day

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: February 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm •  Published: February 18, 2014
West Team's Kevin Durant, of the Oklahoma City Thunder, left, speaks with the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. before the NBA All Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
West Team's Kevin Durant, of the Oklahoma City Thunder, left, speaks with the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. before the NBA All Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

Kevin Durant spoke to the media for 38 minutes Friday as part of his media obligations at All-Star Weekend.

He touched on a variety of topics, some of them serious, some of them entertaining, all of them interesting. Here’s what he had to say.

On if he knows he’s the No. 1 player in the league after saying he was tired of being No. 2: “I’ve always felt that I was…I had confidence in myself. I’ll just say that. Everybody else around always thought of me as No. 2, but I always had confidence.”

If it’s gratifying that he’s now earning more recognition as the MVP and best player in the game: “I think people got that No. 2 thing a little confused. What I was saying is that I was really No. 2; drafted, I was No. 2 in the MVP voting, I was No. 2 in high school. I mean, that was really it. I wasn’t saying I think I’m the No. 2 player in the world. Like, I was really No. 2-rated by “experts.” So I think a lot of people got that confused. But I always had confidence in myself no matter what. I always think that when I step on the court I have to be the best player. So I never really thought about how people rated me as an NBA player. I was just talking about in terms of being drafted No. 2, being the No. 2 high school guy. But I always had confidence in myself.”

If it’s gratifying that the perception is changing: “No. Because just like it didn’t matter when they said I was the No. 2 player in the NBA, it doesn’t matter now. That doesn’t float my boat. I just go out there and play the game and have fun. It’s cool for people to say I’m the best player or an MVP candidate or whatever. But you got to ignore good and bad noise, and I think that’s the reason that I’ve been at peace with myself. Just realizing what I’m playing the game for and it’s much more than what people rank you as a player.”

On who he’d like to see added to the Team USA family for the World Cup: “Paul George. Dame Lillard. Kyrie Irving. LaMarcus Aldridge. There’s a lot of other guys that played in 2010 and 2012, but those guys I would love to see play with us because they’ve got so much to offer. Blake Griffin, he didn’t get a chance to play last time so it’ll be cool to see him play.”

On the Thunder adjusting to Westbrook coming back: “I don’t think it’ll be too much of an adjustment. He’s a dog, man. You just got to let him go out there and be him. He has great intentions. He’s a team-first guy so it’s going to work. I’m excited to have him back. I know he’s excited to play again. We just got to ease him into it a little bit. He’s been out 30, 31 games, I think. So just make sure his body is right and his stamina is up. But he’s a high energy guy. But we’ll see. We’re looking forward to having him.”

On maintaining his killer instinct when Westbrook returns: “I always had a killer instinct. That’s how you survive in this league, especially being 6-9, 200 pounds. You got to have something different to stand out with, and I think I always had that. I’ve been showing a little bit more emotion these last few years. But I always had an instinct. Whoever’s in front of me, I got to do my best to try to destroy them.”

On how his playing style will change with Westbrook returning: “I’m willing to do whatever the team needs me to do. Playing on a team is about giving yourself up for the betterment of the group, for team success. Whether coach wants me to sit in the corner and let Russ create, I’m willing to do that. I want to do that. If it’s going out to make everybody else better, I’m willing to do that. When you talk about making your teammates better it’s not always just making a pass and being an assist guy. It’s about giving yourself up, being a decoy sometimes, playing as hard as you can and inspiring your teammates. That’s how I look at making your teammates better, much more than just passing them the basketball.”

On whether he and Westbrook will have to have a conversation to get on the same page: “No. We’ve been playing together for so long. You guys must forget. We played six years together and it’s 25 games that he’s missed. I mean, out of six years that’s not a lot. So we shouldn’t have to talk about anything. He’s a dog. You got to let the dog off the leash sometimes and go play. And that’s the guy you got to let off the leash.”

On if he still misses Westbrook after having so much success without him: “Yeah. He does a lot for our team. We’re a better team when he’s on the floor.”

On how much of a higher level the team will play at when Westbrook returns: “It’s all yet to be seen. When we played those 25 games early on, we were playing really good. We had a nice groove going. The first and second units were playing well. And, of course, the injury threw a wrench in our project. We wanted to hold the fort down until he came back, and we’re just looking forward to him going out there and being himself, creating for his teammates, creating for himself, wrecking havoc on defense. And I think his transition is going to be really smooth.”

On how Westbrook stayed connected to the team while sidelined: “He’s been traveling with us every trip. He’s been at every game. So he’s definitely connected. Every game he’s been coaching me up, letting me know what he sees from the sideline as a point guard. It’s definitely been a big help. So he was never away from the team. He was always connected. He’s at practice, at shootarounds, definitely at the game, just giving his input to everybody. He’s been the ultimate cheerleader and that’s great to see.”

On whether he’s made it a point to reach out to Westbrook more: “Nah. Surprisingly — I wouldn’t be this way — but his spirits were high ever since he’s been out. I know I would be frustrated. I would have good days. I would have bad days. But he’s been consistent with just his energy as far as encouraging his teammates, being there as a leader, being there like a coach. He’s been great. But I’m more excited to have him back on the court.”

On if Westbrook’s positivity and connectedness will shorten the adjustment time when Westbrook returns: “I don’t think it’ll be an adjustment at all. He’s just going to come in and keep rolling. He’s going to jump on the train with us and keep going. It’s going to be easy for him to just go out there and play. That’s what we’re going to tell him to do, just go out there and play.”

On why LeBron James has been so vocal in his opinions of Durant recently: “I don’t know. To be honest, I don’t focus on (the media). I don’t focus on any other players and what they have to say at all. I just try to worry about how I can control what I can control, which is coming into work every single day as hard as I can, enjoying the game and giving it my best. And I can live with anything after that, no matter what guys have to say. Everybody has their opinions and I respect that. But it doesn’t matter to me at all.”

On how sick he is of being asked about LeBron, on a scale of one to 10: “Uh, about 25. I mean, it’s every day. You should really focus on how good LeBron James is and the growth that I have as a player. I think people should appreciate that more. They’re always comparing guys. In our world, you want to compare everything. And you judge everything. That’s just how humans are. But just sit back and enjoy basketball that’s being played. Not just LeBron and myself but the other guys in this league. So just enjoy it, man. It’s here today and gone tomorrow. A lot of people take it for granted.”

On if a part of him enjoys the LeBron comparisons: “It’s something that comes with it. That’s how I look at it. It’s part of the job, man. I don’t see it as good. I don’t see it as bad. It’s a part of the job. But I figured out what keeps me peaceful is just trying not to focus on it. If I just work as hard as I can, have fun with the game, play as hard as I can and give it my all I’ll live with everything else after that.”

On altering the schedule to reduce injuries: “You can’t complain about everything. We make a good living. We’re blessed. It’s 400 guys in this league and it’s a billion people that want to be here. We just got to play. Of course 82 games is a lot and the travel is crazy. But once you get used to it, it’s pretty cool. It’s fine. But they pay us a lot of money to play basketball. And it’s definitely a blessing. So I can’t complain about anything.”

On how much he trained with LeBron in the summers: “All together, in two summers, probably four days.”

On if it’s strange that the best two players worked out together: “It’s not strange. I read the good book. It’s called the Bible, and it says “Iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens another.” So if you look at it that way, either way you’re playing against a guy who’s at the top of his game and is only going to make you better. So that’s how I look at it.”

On the biggest celebrity he’s ever met: “Probably Obama, if you consider him a celebrity. That’s probably the only person I really got star struck and a loss for words around. I’m not really big on being star struck. But he’s a guy that had me feeling that type of way.”

On how Scott Brooks still flies under the radar despite all the Thunder’s success: “I don’t know. That’s a good question. I don’t know. He definitely should get more credit. But Scotty doesn’t do it for that. He doesn’t care about that. But I think he should get more credit. Just how he’s led us throughout the whole year, especially with Russell being out. He’s done a great job. But he just wants to see us get better. He only has one goal, and we all know what that is. I’m glad his our coach.”

On if he’s “going to kick Ibaka’s ass this summer in Spain: “I’m definitely going to kick his ass, and I’m going to let him know about it. But Serge is my brother, man. He plays extremely hard. We compete extremely hard. We almost fought a few times in practice from playing one on one. But we’re friends right afterward. So we compete hard against each other, and it’s definitely going to be fun. When we played them last time in the Olympics, he walked past me in the hallway and I didn’t even give him a look or talk to him at all. And he didn’t hesitate not to talk to me, either. So that shows the competitive nature we have within our group. It’s good for the game and it’s good for our team as well. I’m looking forward to hopefully playing against him this summer.”

On Ibaka’s growth: “I was around him when he couldn’t speak English. He didn’t know how to drive a car. So I really watched him grow as a man. Definitely as a basketball player he’s grown leaps and bounds. He’s focus, his approach has changed. He works extremely hard. It’s kind of gratifying to see how hard he works. I’m just happy to be around him. I’m glad he’s on our team because he’s intimidating.”

On Stephen Curry: “His shot is just so effortless. A lot of guys shoot like he does as far as mechanics. But he has that touch and every shot looks like it’s going in. It feels like that when he plays us as well.”

On the best shooter in the game right now: “Steph Curry is the best shooter ever. I think. Just the array of shots that he can hit. He can shoot off the dribble. He can shoot off the catch. He can shoot off the pick and roll. Pump fake shot. He can hit any type of shot.”

On the All-Star jerseys: “I don’t mind. I mean, I play in T-shirts. I played in hoodies before. So it don’t matter. Just give us a basketball. We’ll go play.

On which mascots could use a makeover: “I think they got it right with those guys. I’m fine with all of them. Some of them I don’t like because they get a little too involved in the game. But for the most part, they provide entertainment for the fans.”

On LeBron’s Mount Rushmore: “It’s hard to name just four players. But that’s a great four to have. I mean, I’ll take that four any day. So you could mix and match all those guys. It’s so many great players that came through this league. It’s hard to just name four.”

On LeBron saying somebody will have to come off to put himself on: “That’s confidence, man. That’s confidence.”

On if he feels he’ll be on Mount Rushmore one day: “Man, I respect the legends. I respect everything they’ve done for the game. This my seventh year in the league. Hopefully I got a long time to play. So we’ll see after that. But right now, I don’t think I should be on there at all. I shouldn’t even be thought of being on there.”

On the Mount Rushmore of shooters: “I would say Reggie Miller. Curry. Ray Allen. Mark Price. He’s a sniper. It’s a lot of guys that can shoot the basketball.”

On his impression of China: “They love basketball, and I love anybody that loves basketball. I’m excited to go back.”

On how his game has evolved: “I think the game a little bit more. I would say two years ago it started to slow down for me and I started to see the game in a different light as far as being a scorer, being a facilitator, defender. So it slowed down for me in the last three years. And I definitely have to get better to get where I want to be. But my goal is just always learn from my mistakes, stay strong for my team throughout the tough times and adversity and have fun at the end of the day. And everything else I feel is going to take care of itself.”

On which two players, one from the past and one from the present, he would pick as teammates if he had a 3-on-3 tournament for $1 million: “That’s a tough question. I’d play this game for free, first. From the past I’ll pick Larry Bird. And I’d go with another slow white guy. I’d pick Dirk. They’re my favorite players. Dirk’s my favorite player to watch. Just his footwork. Just his jump shot. Just his energy and intensity. Just his different moves. He does it all. He can shoot it. Larry Bird, I like his trash talking, for one. He didn’t back down from nothing. He was the toughest guy I’ve ever watched. I didn’t watch him when I was growing up, but Hardwood Classics taught me a lot. He was super tough. I watch his highlights all the time and he’s talking trash to guys and elbowing guys. I love that. I’ll take those two. I could facilitate. Being the more athletic one, I could facilitate. And you can’t help off either one of those guys because it’s going down. The shot is going in. So I like our chances.”

On whom from that three-man team would take the last shot: “I’d give it to Larry. He’s a champion and an MVP and has hit big shots after big shots. I’d give it to Larry.”

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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