Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant knows what the perception is around the NBA amid his team’s struggles: How could they not win with him, one of the best scorers in the league, on the court?
That’s one of the reasons why he decided to request a trade this summer.
“I don’t want players to look at us and say, ‘Oh man, these [expletive] are full of s—. That’s not the type of team I want to be on.’ So when we’re all playing like s—, you know the one person they’re going to look at. That’s why I requested a trade,” Durant told Bleacher Report in a lengthy interview following the Nets’ 153-121 loss to the Sacramento Kings.
“Look at our starting lineup. Edmond Sumner, Royce O’Neale, Joe Harris, [Nic] Claxton and me. It’s not disrespect, but what are you expecting from that group? You expect us to win because I’m out there. So if you’re watching from that lens, you’re expecting us to play well because No. 7 is out there.”
Brooklyn is 6-9 on the season following back-to-back losses, and Steve Nash was already fired, with Jacque Vaughn taking his spot as head coach. Kyrie Irving remains suspended from the team for posting a link to an antisemitic film on Amazon, which – in the Nets’ eyes – he didn’t properly apologize for during a press conference. Ben Simmons, the key piece of the James Harden trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, has also been heavily criticized for his lack of All-Star play, which is what Brooklyn thought they were getting when they sent the disgruntled lefty shooter down I-95.
But the uncertainty surrounding the franchise began in the offseason, when the future of Durant and Irving on the team was in flux. Durant said it had nothing to do with selfish reasons. He just wanted to see more from the coaching staff, and didn’t feel he was getting that.
“It wasn’t difficult at all to request a trade because it was about ball,” Durant told Bleacher Report. “I went to them and was like, ‘Yo, I don’t like how we are preparing. I don’t like shootarounds. I like practices. I need more. I want to work on more s—. Hold me accountable.
“This was the type of s— I was coming at them with. It wasn’t like, ‘Yo, y’all need to make sure everybody around me can make my life easier.’ Hell nah, I want to make everybody else’s life easier. Ask Steve Nash, you can go call him right now.
“I had some complaints in the summer, and my complaints were not about just me; it was about how we are moving as a unit. I want us to be respected out here in the basketball world.”
Durant said Vaughn understands where he’s coming from, which is why he sees better practices and overall mindset from players despite their current losing streak.
The Nets would likely fare better if Irving was back on the court with Durant, which the sports speculating world has debated over since his minimum five-game suspension is in the past. Irving could’ve been activated Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers, but Brooklyn hasn’t budged.
No matter the case, the dynamic scorer is still having fun on the court and won’t be listening to outside noise.
“I’m really having a good time. I wish y’all could hear me talk during the game,” he said. “If I got mic’d up more, people would stop asking me if I’m happy or not. I’m enjoying every moment I get to step on this f—ing court, and part of it is because I tore my Achilles. And the pandemic, I didn’t know if we were going to play again. I didn’t know if I was going to play again.”
Durant is averaging 30.3 points per game, which ranks eighth among NBA players this season. His 36.6 minutes played per game is also eighth in the league during what is the 15th year of his career.