As Kevin Durant continues to recover from his Achilles injury, he took some time to talk to J.R. Moehringer of the Wall Street Journal about life, joining the Brooklyn Nets, and everything else. Here are some things that stood out:
On his love/hate relationship with the trappings of fame the NBA has afforded him:
"Some days I hate the circus of the NBA. Some days I hate that the players let the NBA business, the fame that comes with the business, alter their minds about the game. Sometimes I don’t like being around the executives and politics that come with it. I hate that.”
Commissioner Adam Silver has talked about players being generally unhappy, and you get a sense of that here. KD has been under the microscope since he was a freshman at the University of Texas, and his professional choices have led to distaste and hatred from large portions of the viewing public. It's taken away from our appreciation of his skills. Over at Yahoo Sports, LaJethro Jenkins noted how the public has treated KD, writing:
During his time as the most hated player in the league, he was in his prime and played some of his best basketball, but did anyone really appreciate it? He was treated as if he were almost a criminal, and in return his humanity was almost snatched from him. Everything he did was considered suspect. Even up to the very moment he was injured, his desire and toughness were questioned. It took a torn Achilles and him lying on the court for us to give him back his humanity. It took him putting his body on the line for us to see what the game truly meant to him. It took a devastating injury to see how much of a business the NBA truly is. It took all this for us to finally see Kevin Durant as he sees himself. A regular guy who just plays basketball on TV sometimes.
We've seen a lot of worries about Durant's state of mind, especially when he goes back and forth with people online. However, he looks to form relationships with fans and sends words of encouragement to young ball players and others who ask for his help.
When Durant returned to Oklahoma City in 2017,
the reaction was hostile as expected. However, the Durant family witnessed something far more sinister:
Fan behavior has become a bigger problem than usual in the NBA lately, and that incident stands out among a sea of trash. There's a level of entitlement that allows for someone to question a stranger on the career choices they make for themselves and their families. That entitlement has allowed inexcusable actions to be excused as just "heat of the moment, fan behavior." Athletes have been pusbing back at that for a while and they need to keep it up.
That moment, combined with the cool reception members of the Thunder organization showed him when he came back with the Warriors, has him not wanting anything to do with the Thunder anymore. Time tends to heal wounds so as Durant's life and career progresses, we'll see if his feelings change.
Durant spoke about the Warriors offense, and said this:
“The motion offense we run in Golden State, it only works to a certain point. We can totally rely on only our system for maybe the first two rounds. Then the next two rounds we’re going to have to mix in individual play. We’ve got to throw teams off, because they’re smarter in that round of playoffs. So now I had to dive into my bag, deep, to create stuff on my own, off the dribble, isos, pick-and-rolls, more so than let the offense create my points for me."
There's a lot here so let's take our time with it. When we think about the Warriors v Houston Rockets playoff series in 2018 and 2019 and the 2019 Finals vs the Toronto Raptors, we saw just how crucial it is to have a second player that can get their shot off at any time. When one person has to set teammates up, get their own shot, be the focal point of the crunch time offense, and rescue possessions when their teammates can't get anything for themselves, it takes a toll. Having a second star who can score over anyone at any time makes life easier for everyone around you. Durant's former teammate, David West, said as much last year in an interview with The Undefeated:
The hard thing about sort of being in the position that the Warriors are in, everybody gets to adjust to you. Everybody gets to sort of gear up and figure out ways to beat you.
Having a diversified attack that can account for any obstacles and allows for improvisation helped lead Durant to the next chapter of his career.
That brings us to Brooklyn. Compared to his first time in free agency, this one was a lot quicker. Durant made his decision to join Brooklyn at Cipriani's in Soho with his agent, Rich Klieman. Kleiman described the scene to Moehringer...
Kleiman met Durant for lunch at Cipriani, a chic restaurant in SoHo, and gave him one last overview of all the teams and all his options. Durant said: “All right. Well. I’m going with Brooklyn.” Just like that.
Kleiman was taken aback: For real? Yes, Durant said. End of discussion.
Durant didn't speak to the Nets beforehand, but knew that the Nets were the right team for him. He cited the love Brooklyn fans always showed him when he came to town...
...and having the opportunity to play with his friend Kyrie Irving brought him to Flatbush and Atlantic. Durant mentioned honing his improvisational game, and he'll be playing with one of the league's trickiest players to guard in Irving. Kenny Atkinson's offense will allow for KD to explore more aspects of his game and a new environment can serve to reinvogorate him as well.
He wanted to go someplace where he’d be free to hone that sort of improvisational game throughout the regular season. His tenure in Bay Area was great, he says, but because of media speculation, fan anxiety, “it didn’t feel as great as it could have been.”
Durant also cited the intimate connection the Warriors' big 4 had with their fans, a connection he'd never have:
“I came in there wanting to be part of a group, wanting to be part of a family, and definitely felt accepted. But I’ll never be one of those guys. I didn’t get drafted there.… Steph Curry, obviously drafted there. Andre Iguodala, won the first Finals, first championship. Klay Thompson, drafted there. Draymond Green, drafted there. And the rest of the guys kind of rehabilitated their careers there. So me? Shit, how you going to rehabilitate me? What you going to teach me? How can you alter anything in my basketball life? I got an MVP already. I got scoring titles.”
Brooklyn could represent a chance for him to make that connection. Fans here are passionate and desperate for a winner. Under the Sean Marks administration, they've made a more concerted effort to be a part of the community and connect to fans. Durant can make the city his by being himself and dominating like he tends to do. Building a title team from the ground up can allow him to make a long lasting connection with fans without the risk of them turning on him if he does something they disagree with. In short, he’s looking for completion...
Durant says he’s decided to wear No. 7 in Brooklyn because it stands for completion in the Bible. (God rested on the seventh day after creating Heaven and Earth.)
Moehringer also reveals KD will be headed east today, to look for new digs. While others have suggested he settle in Manhattan, Durant told Moehringer that DUMBO might be more his speed.
- Kevin Durant’s New Headspace - J.R. Moehringer - Wall Street Journal
- Kevin Durant was ‘just different’ than the rest of the Warriors - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Takeaways from Kevin Durant’s WSJ feature: His decision to join Nets, NBA drama and more - Ian Begley - SNY
- The inside story of how Kevin Durant picked Brooklyn and the Nets - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Kevin Durant talks Nets, Porzingis and Warriors - Steve Popper - Newsday
- Durant: ‘Some days I hate the circus of the NBA’ - ESPN
- Kevin Durant Talks Relationship with Ex-Warriors Teammates, Joining Nets, More - Kyle Newport - Bleacher Report
- Kevin Durant: I never fit in like other Warriors - Dan Feldman - NBC Sports
- Kevin Durant says he realized he was ‘different’ from rest of Warriors, still doesn’t trust Thunder - Michael Kaskey-Blomain - CBS Sports
- Kevin Durant rips into Warriors coach Steve Kerr’s motion offense - Dalton Johnson - Yahoo! Sports
- WSJ on new Nets’ star Kevin Durant: choosing Brooklyn was easy (and he may live in DUMBO) - Norman Oder - Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report