For Kevin Durant, the accolades keep mounting. He is the consensus best player in the world. He was MVP in the Olympics, winning his third gold, trying him for most ever in men’s basketball. And although the Nets couldn’t get beyond the second round, his performances in Games 5 and 7 were post-season classics. And he did it all after a year-long rehab from an Achilles tendon rupture.
Of course, he’d already won two NBA rings with the Warriors and got to two other Finals. He won the Finals MVP along with those two rings, a regular season MVP and two All-Star Game MVPs to go with his 11 selections.
But for him, as the saying goes, the past is prologue. When he steps on the court, he says, it’s still a learning process, as he told reporters at Nets training camp in San Diego.
Kevin Durant says his game and mental approach has evolved. At 33, he understands the game more + is “growing every single day.” Compared to when he was younger and establishing himself, Durant understands “the long game and it definitely made my mental a little bit more at ease” pic.twitter.com/fLq4LNkmOi— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) September 30, 2021
“Everything I’ve done is about evolution and development,” Durant said Thursday after practice at USD. “I may sound like a broken record at this point, but I really feel like I’ve been growing every single day, and I’m starting to understand the game a little bit more, and I kind of simplified it for myself.
“I try not to chase anything outside of just being the best that I can be on the floor. I know that is cliché and simple, but I really try to approach every rep as trying to be the best I can be, and everything else outside of that will take care of itself. So the results, if I prepare the right way, will handle themselves. Yeah, it’s made me at ease a little bit.”
Being “at ease” is both a veteran’s and champion’s luxury. Getting there is the grind and as time has worn on during his 13-year-career, he cares less and less about what others think of him. Instead, it’s doing well that drives him.
“Yeah, outside pressure don’t really matter much,” Durant said when asked whether pressure is even an issue at this stage in his career. “I think we all internally put pressure on ourselves because we hold ourselves to a high standard and you want to play well every time you step out there; that is just who we are as competitors.”
And what about outside “noise?” beyond the pressure? That shouldn’t matter other than to set a standard.
“As far as the outside noise, no disrespect for you guys [in the media], for our families, friends and even our fans expecting us to do so much — if we don’t live up to those, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. But we want to come out and play a great brand of basketball every night and we hold ourselves to that standard,” he said.
Getting beyond all the distractions, he admits, is something that took time, but it’s helped the mental part of his game.
“Sometimes, you may overthink it and may think too much about reactions and opinions of others because you’re on the journey to perfection,” he told reporters. “But start to relax a little bit and understand what this is about and understand the long game, and it definitely made my mental a little bit more at ease coming to the gym every day and not focusing on that stuff.”
With that ease comes confidence, both in a general sense and when faced with some new defensive wrinkle or a subtle change in the game.
“It’s just the evolution of the game,” said Durant. “I’ve played against different schemes and strategies out there. Coaches are working nonstop to try to figure out a new way to play the game, and I feel like I have to be on that same page. I got to sort of catch what’s going on in the game of basketball just like a coach would, and I think that’s what my development is.
“It went from playing a slower pace when I first got to the league to now playing a fast pace, 3-point style,” he added. “So I think I’ve adjusted to that. Whatever happens next, I’ll be ready.”
Not going to argue that.
- Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant says he is ‘more at ease’ entering 15th season, less focused on opinions of others - Ohm Youngmisuk - ESPN
- Kevin Durant is learning to block out all the noise - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Kevin Durant on the Nets: ‘We hold ourselves to a high standard’ - Ajayi Browne - USA Today