16 Feb 19
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kevin Durant arrived in this city because he represents one of the Warriors’ All-Stars along with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson that will play in Sunday’s game. Hordes of reporters surrounded Durant’s interview table, though, mostly because they wanted to ask questions on topics he would rather avoid discussing.
You know, the free-agency probes that made Durant snap at the media two weeks ago in a post conference.
What does he make of the speculation that he will leave the Warriors following this summer as a free agent?
“I don’t know, that’s on them,” Durant said on Saturday. “I’ll figure it out once we’re done playing.”
What does Durant think of the Knicks trading Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks presumably to clear cap space for him this summer?
“I play basketball for the Warriors,” Durant said. “My main concern is to be the best basketball player I can be. I have no concerns about trade moves or transactions throughout the season with other teams. That does not concern me at all.”
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Durant spoke in a calm and matter-of-fact tone, far from the reaction he showed in his infamous press conference two weeks ago following the Warriors’ double-digit win over the San Antonio Spurs. Then, Durant described his free agency speculation as “unnecessary” and told reporters that he does not trust them. He also expressed annoyance for the season-long fascination with his future and criticism he received for not speaking to local media following two games, a practice and morning shootaround.
On Saturday, Durant seemed more accepting of that reality. He echoed a thought that Warriors coach Steve Kerr invoked following Durant’s recent outburst.
“Just the NBA game in general is getting overlooked by speculation and everything. It’s the soap opera, and we’re all actors just trying to play our roles,” Durant said. “My role is to go play ball and answer questions the way I’m supposed to.”
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And so even if he felt sick to open NBA All-Star weekend, Durant remained thoughtful and honest about all types of questions.
Durant supported Porzingis’ trade request.
“I’m glad Porzingis is in a better place,” Durant said. “I’m looking forward to seeing him and Lula (Doncic) play there for years to come.”
Durant clarified what it means that the Knicks acquired DeAndre Jordan in the Dallas trade since the two remain close.
“It’s my friend that got traded. He’s in a good place and he understands what the business is like,” Durant said. “We talk about life more so than the NBA. He’ll be fine.”
Durant also offered a brief window into his business manager, Rich Kleiman, who has helped him expand his investment portfolio and has admitted that he would like to run the Knicks one day.
“He’s been somebody who has been with me for a while, a minute now,” Durant said. “So I trust him.”
Interestingly, Durant did not answer the expected softball and random questions that accompany All-Star weekend, including his favorite workout song or his favorite Michael Jordan memory. When asked about his favorite move, Durant simply directed a reporter to “go check YouTube.” Durant, perhaps knowing what the implication, claimed he does not have a favorite restaurant in New York.
As for the more thoughtful topics? Durant was all ears.
He addressed his well-dissected relationship with Thunder guard Russell Westbrook both as former teammates (2008-2016) and since Durant left for the Warriors two years ago.
“I don’t think it was in a good or bad place. I think a lot of you guys got in the way and tried to make it bigger than it was because you needed a story,” Durant said. “I understand because that’s your job, but that’s not really your job. I understand what that was like now that I’m looking back on it because I never really had a problem with nobody on this league, to the point where I didn’t like anyone or hated someone. It wasn’t really that deep. I think a lot of you guys just got in the way because it was the cool thing to do.”
Durant did not find it a cool thing that his departure validated persistent criticism regarding Westbrook’s demanding personality as well as his ball-dominant style.
“That criticism was always unfair. I thought that as a player that requires so much attention on the basketball court that any player would want to play with him,” Durant said of Westbrook. “He brings intensity and a passion that is very rare in our sport. But with me leaving, it was such a huge deal to so many people that follow the game. They brought up his name that no one likes him or wants to be around him because of me. That was always unfair to me. I always thought that was pretty ignorant. But I’m glad he ‘s going out there and playing well. He’s always playing the same way. More people are starting to realize what he brings.”
Durant knocked down apparent criticism echoed in Oklahoma City that he is upstaging former teammate Nick Collison for planning to attend his jersey retirement on March 20.
“I wanted to be there to see it. It ain’t about nothing else. I just want to experience it,” Durant said. “What people think or the reaction they have, I can’t control it. If they’re still reacting to me after three years, then am I really the problem? I just want to experience that and be there first hand because I was there for those days that people really didn’t see the work we put in as a group.”
Durant also had sympathy for New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, whose agent, Rich Paul, publicly demanded for his client to be traded before the Feb. 7 deadline. With the Pelicans refusing the Lakers’ various offers, Davis remains in an awkward position. The Pelicans have toed the line between playing him to make the NBA happy and also sitting him in crunch time to maximize lottery odds. New Orleans just fired general manager Dell Demps. And Davis left Thursday’s game against Oklahoma City so he could receive an MRI on his injured left shoulder.
“I’ve never been through that experience, so I can’t really tell him nothing,” Durant said. “But he’s playing there, with his team now while he’s going through this. So I don’t really know how that experience is. I’m definitely going to talk to him and ask him how it is. But as far as the fan base, they just go off what y’all say, to be honest. So if y’all just tell them to chill out for a second, I’m sure they’ll let him finish the season out.”
Durant also chimed in on where he thinks he stands among the NBA greats.
“I don’t believe I’m better than anyone,” Durant said. “But I don’t believe anyone is better than me. That’s how a lot of people feel.”
Durant also has felt annoyed about the constant attention with his free agency. On Saturday, though, the Warriors’ star refused to show it.
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