For seven weeks last summer, from June 30 through August 23, the average Nets fan was miserable. Kevin Durant had asked for a trade, then the firing of the head coach and GM. Following two meetings with Joe Tsai in London and Los Angeles, things with KD were patched up, with all sides agreeing to “move forward with our partnership.’
Then, not long after the season started, there were two more crises. Kyrie Irving, who had decided against an extension, became embroiled in an controversy surrounding his publicizing an antisemitic video. Following a slow, even shocking, start, Steve Nash was canned and the Nets flirted with Ime Udoka before ultimately deciding on the self-described “write-in candidate” and season savior, Jacque Vaughn.
The details of what went on throughout those days and weeks still haven’t been fully plumbed but with each interview of a participant, things get a little clearer and on Friday, Nick Friedell posted a Q-and-A with Durant that added more context. KD talked about the summer and fall and said that through it all, he actually remained optimistic things would work out and so far, they have.
“Because we was together regardless. I think coming into the training camp, we understood that it’s going to be a lot on us from a media standpoint, from just the noise in general around our team, so I think that made us tighter once camp started,” Durant told the ESPN reporter who asked why didn’t things “splinter” particularly after the Irving controversy and suspension.
“So we was able to take the Kyrie stuff and move in stride because we were already stuck together before that. We started to win some games, started to get better as a team, and do some things out there that work for us. And now it seems like everything was patched all together, but it felt like it was always cool, to be honest.”
There was more to it as well, KD said. While there’s been so much focus on winning, particularly during the recently concluded 12-game win streak, that people don’t pay enough attention to what Durant says repeatedly: that good habits are the key. With good habits, winning takes care of itself. And as he has in the past, without mentioning Steve Nash’s name, Durant talked about how he believed the Nets needed better habits, better preparation, a better process after last season’s disappointments.
“My whole thing was like — are we, does the process matter to us? And that’s one thing I did know that people here enjoy, grinding. So that was the most important thing for me,” said Durant.
“Titles and stuff come with the process in which you — how you prepare. It was more so, ‘All right, are we going to practice harder? Are we going to pay more attention to detail?’ Not just everybody else, all of us, me included. Is that going to be preached to us every day? I had the faith that that would happen because I voiced that throughout the summer as well. Even behind the scenes, like, ‘Yo, this is what I like to do. This is how I like to practice.’ I’ve been saying that for the last couple years, so I figured at that point with me going through that, they understood what I value. That’s what I was hanging my hat on, the preparation side of it.”
And as he has in the past, Durant defended his decision to make his trade request, noting that he did it in the off-season not like so many other NBA stars during the season. He didn’t miss any games, didn’t miss any practices, as he said before the season began.
“What I did didn’t get in the way of the games that was being played, so I felt like that’s the difference in everything. So we hashed that all up right before camp, and it was cool, it didn’t get in the way of the hoops. So that’s the difference between what happened with those guys and [me],” he said referring to players like his former teammate and still friend James Harden.
Durant talked at length about fans expectations for NBA players and how they need to chill, that the regular season is long and that sometimes focus slips, sometimes exhaustion enters the picture, effectively telling NBA fans take the long view and never ever take the effort, the game for granted.
“Fans have become more entitled than anything,” Durant told Friedell. “So they’re starting to question our motives for the game, or how we approach the game. The ones that do question — like who are you? Just shut up and watch the game tonight. We go as hard as we want to go. We go as hard as our bodies allow us to go at this point.”
Appreciate the grind, don’t be jaded.
“Stop putting too much pressure on each athlete to live up to their standards. But then everybody appreciate what we bring to the table,” he explained with a laugh. “It’s seven, eight games on a night. Every day. You rarely get a day off as a fan from the NBA, so learn to appreciate the grind that we go through and stop just looking at the money and expecting us to just perform for you and perform from the standards — those high expectations that you put on each one of us as individuals. And then the dialogue around the game wouldn’t be, wouldn’t be so — what’s the word I’m looking for?}
“Tense?” Friedell offered. “Yeah, tense,” Durant agreed. “Diluted. It’s narrative-driven. It’s agenda-based. Biased. I just think a lot of stuff — because we consume everything at all times, we’re starting to take a lot of stuff for granted. The NBA is one of them.”
- Kevin Durant opens up about trade request, tanking, fans and free agency - Nick Friedell - ESPN