Note: If you are a regular Project Spurs reader, you’ll know I had a chance to talk with Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant recently. While not everything he talked about was San Antonio Spurs-related, I thought his answers were interesting enough to include in their entirety here.
Inside the Oklahoma City Thunder locker room, players are scattered about getting taped up for the game, watching San Antonio Spurs game video or just listening to music. There are a handful of media that have been standing in the same spot for about 20 minutes, waiting for one player.
As soon as they see his lanky 6-9 frame walk in and sit in front of his locker, the media scurries over to get in good position. White balance set, lights on and ready to roll tape for that night’s newscast.
I decided to wait even longer, to let everyone get in their questions so I could speak to him one-on-one.
Durant recently played with a West All-Star squad that featured Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams, two players who have since moved East in trades to the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets. The Spurs will see Williams and the Nets tonight.
“It changes a lot. Those two are all-stars, you know, but in this league players step up,” Durant said. “Guys step up. Players that haven’t played that much are waiting for the opportunity and it opened up a little bit for those teams. I can’t count Denver or Utah out. They’re still going to be good teams and they’re going to be tough to win against.”
But with the Western conference losing two of it’s best players, does this pave the way for his young Thunder team to experience even more postseason success.
“I hope so. We can’t worry about too far down the line, we’ve got to continue to take it a game at a time,” Durant said. “That’s the easiest way for us because you never know what will happen these next couple of hours, next couple of days.”
The next couple of days, the Thunder added Kendrick Perkins, Nate Robinson and Nazr Mohammed, a move that makes the Thunder a threat to every team in the West.
But don’t expect Durant to get overconfident or expect an automatic bid to the second round.
“It’s a short season from here on out so we just have to win as much as we can,” the Texas alumnus said. “I think we’re in the fourth spot so we control our destiny and we’ll see what happens at the end of the season.”
Durant was also very complimentary of the Spurs, a team he was trying to get his first win of the season against.
“They’re a tough team to match up with. Our defenses are pretty similar but their chemistry is better,” Durant said. “We’re just going to try and stop them I guess. They’re a tough team, but these are the kinds of challenges we like.”
While interviewing him, I noticed Durant is so soft spoken, very uncharacteristic of superstars in this league, that other players talking overpower his voice, which made me move my recorder closer. But what he says and how he says it is powerful enough that your ears adjust and are able to filter out the noise.
Asked if anyone could catch the Spurs and their league-leading record for the number one spot in the West, Durant had his doubts.
“I don’t think anyone can catch them,” he said. “You’ve got to give these guys a lot of credit. They’re playing phenomenally.”
Kevin Durant is an all-star, a superstar and one of the most lethal shooters in the game, yet I noticed even he still seems a bit surprised that he’s getting so much attention.
I now realize why I hear about coaches and players around the league praising him for for his demeanor and character, rather than his league-leading 28.8 points per game.
A lot of young players can get swallowed whole by this game. Durant is just happy to be playing it.
“Anything can happen. You can’t take this game for granted,” Durant said, looking almost embarrassed that he was talking about himself. “You can play one day and not play for the rest of your career. I’m happy I’m here, I’m very blessed to be in this situation and I try not to take it for granted.”
Those few sentences alone made my wait to get Durant’s words to paper more than worth it. Something I can honestly say I would have waited hours for. Something a rare superstar like Durant would never understand.