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Podcast: Kevin Durant on the Nets, Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert, Brooklyn

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant was on the “Play for Keeps” podcast with Tea with A & Phee Wednesday and spoke about a lot of things. It was in fact his most extensive interview since he became the first of nine Nets who tested positive for the coronavirus in mid-March.

Here are some excerpts. He talks about everything from his rehab and excitement about next season to Chris Chiozza, with a whole lot of things in-between, from Kyrie Irving’s unique personality to how much of a surprise Caris LeVert has been and how he would like to see Jamal Crawford on next year’s team.

ON HIS REHAB...

KD said he’s been playing some with other NBA players, including Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin and Allonzo Trier.

“I’m playing a lot of one-on-one lately, so what comes with that is your handle is a little better, You’re more quicker with your moves. You’re less indecisive with what you want to bring out. So I’m just crafting that, that playground style of ball even more, just working out by myself or with two or three guys.

“That’s the cool part about it because it’s hard to get that type of play in a regular season because you’re going through the team aspect, you’re training with the team and you want to preserve your body for the season. So if I’m playing 1-on-1 or 2-on-2s, it’s just going to help my creativity. That’s the timing thing that every injured player goes through. Just finding that rhythm again. Hopefully I gain it over time and once I get into real games it translates real fast.”

“I was at a level where I was focused in on every possession, so I want to get back to that point,”

ON HOW HIS LONG REHAB HAS HELPED HIM ...

“Just watching it from a different perspective, I feel like my mind has grown a lot and how I wanna approach my craft and what I wanna do every single day as a teammate. So, I feel like my mind is stronger.”

ON KYRIE IRVING ...

Accept him as he is, said Durant whether it’s on the court, in the locker room or on a union Zoom call.

“The truth can hurt a lot of people. When you tell the raw truth, especially in this society, it’s frowned upon. And Kyrie just tells it how it is. There’s no sugar-coating it. If he walks into the gym one day and says, ‘I don’t like how this is going.’ It’s probably not going well. But he just doesn’t mind voicing it.”

“In this situation with the NBPA, he wasn’t the only one who had problems with what was going with the NBPA. Everybody had concerns. “But obviously he’s Kyrie the biggest one. That’s going to sell papers especially at this time during the pandemic, nobody is getting paid. So if you have an opportunity to get some clicks, it’s easy to use Kyrie.”

“He’s not even the voice for them, he’s one of the bunch. We all are a voice. We all had a concern. Kyrie wasn’t the one, like, ‘Yo, let’s get everybody together. Five or six people called one another, like, ‘Oh shit, I’m feeling that way too.’ Then, another 10 people called...But Kyrie the biggest voice out of ‘em all, and because he relates to everyone in the league.”

“(Irving) said it all the time, he’s not going to let the system or whatever this is, make him conform to something he’s not on a day-to-day. Whether it’s as a basketball player — trying to tell him how to play — or as a person — tell him how to speak or what to think about — anything he’s going to have his own thoughts and opinions. So it’s really on everybody else to let him be who he is. He’s not bothering anybody or getting in trouble.”

ON CARIS LEVERT ...

KD was surprised at how good his new teammate is.

“He is definitely better than I thought. He’s different. He can score that thing. He can pass it. He’s quick. His thing is about being efficient, and I think that’s what you’re seeing. The shots he’s taking now, it’s like all of his lane. Not a lot of threes, a lot in the mid-range, getting to the cup. I think his IQ is what surprised me the most.”

ON CHRIS CHIOZZA ...

Same here, even more so.

“He’s surprised me a lot. We started pl”aying 3-on-3 once I started getting back into shape a little bit, before the pandemic hit. Then he started getting more minutes in the games and then [was] knocking down threes, just playing with pace. He’s just looked good. He looked like he belonged out there. … He really showed me that he can play in this league.”

ON JAMAL CRAWFORD ...

He likes him and would like to see him on the team next season.

“Mal is just a hooper, through and through. He’s one of those guys that just loves to play and appreciates being in the NBA. Even if he’s not playing big minutes, I think it’s somebody you need to have on your roster especially if he can still practice and still be a player. I understand if he can’t move and he can’t guard anybody and he can’t play - but he can still move. Even if you’re not going to play him big minutes, he’s not going to complain. He’s just going to do his job, but also he’s going to be good for the younger players. He’s been great for Caris and Joe Harris, he’s been great for them. Just getting reports back from GM Sean (Marks) and some of the guys down there. They just love having him around.”

“You need people like that on your roster, even if they’re the 15th, 14th man,” he said. “I think Jamal can provide a lot for you in that role, you know what I’m saying? If you can throw somebody like him out there, end of a playoff game or end of a game, he can definitely win you a game, hit some shots. “And you minimize his role? Give him a few minutes with the third unit or the second unit? He’ll get buckets. He can swing a game, be an x-factor still.”

ON WHY HE CAME TO BROOKLYN ...

It was a chance to play with players he enjoyed being around, watching.

“I wanted to be around younger players. I wanted to be around Caris LeVert – guys who I got to know over the last couple of years. Spencer Dinwiddie, somebody I enjoyed playing against,” he said. “So everything felt like it aligned when I was thinking about it. And obviously, Kyrie is somebody I admire, his game. (Somebody) I wanted to hoop with. It was just who I wanted to hoop with at this point. What’s the next experience? I felt that would be a good place for me to experience basketball. Whatever that brings, everything that comes with me. And I felt that it was the perfect time for me to step into that phase… I’m excited about playing in front of that fan base, whenever that is.”

ON THE BROOKLYN FANBASE ...

This is not a franchise without a history ... but one could be created.

“I’m excited. I feel like Brooklyn is a franchise that always had some success. I’m not saying like championship success. But they’ve had years where they’ve been a playoff team. I’ve never looked at them as a franchise with absolutely nothing. It wasn’t New York (with the Knicks) obviously, but it was a core fanbase that enjoyed the Nets. And I appreciate that about every team in the league.

“Because nobody has to come and watch us play. There’s fans everywhere. So I never looked at Brooklyn that way (as being a franchise without history). But I felt that having young players, I wanted to be around younger players. I wanted to be around Caris LeVert, guys who I got to know over the last couple of years. Spencer Dinwiddie, somebody I enjoyed playing against. So everything aligned when I was thinking about it. Obviously, Kyrie is somebody who I admire his game, I wanted to hoop with. It was just who I wanted to hoop with at this point.”

ON THE EVENTUAL NBA CHAMPIONSHIP...

The Larry O’Brien Trophy is headed to Los Angeles.

“If I had to choose — and I hate doing that s--- because you never know what could happen, you seen that with us last year — but if I had to choose, I’ll go with Clippers and Bucks for the championship. And I’ll go with the Clippers.”

“They’re just so deep. They haven’t had their whole team together at once for a long period of time yet, and that talent is just undeniable. When you have [Paul George] and Kawhi [Leonard] at the wings, that’s what you need to win is wings. You got those two at the wings, arguably top three, top four at the wing position on one team.”

H/T to Ian Begley, Stefan Bondy, Nick Friar, Royce Young, Brian Lewis and Jose Martinez for the transcriptions.

Meanwhile, Durant and his agent/manager/partner Rich Kleiman are starting their own podcast network, teaming up with established podcasting company Cadence13 (now owned by radio conglomerate Entercom) . Here’s more from a Cadence13 release:

Cadence13 is partnering with Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman’s Thirty Five Ventures’ to create The Boardroom Podcast Network, which includes new and original podcasts hosted by both Durant and Kleiman, including one focused on the business of sports, and the other on breaking down key moments in sports, culture and entertainment. Durant will serve as a curator and Executive Producer for the network and the future buildout of The Boardroom Podcast Network.

Kleiman’s podcast “The Boardroom: Out of Office” launches August 12, and KD’s podcast “The Etc’s with Kevin Durant” launches in late September.

So, we should expect more.