After his pregame shooting routine and about two hours before Kevin Durant and his Oklahoma City Thunder faced off against the Lakers on Friday night in OKC, we spent a few minutes with one of the NBA’s best young players, discussing his focus, his thoughts on Kobe Bryant and the Lakers and more:
MT: You seem to just enjoy coming to work every day and not getting wrapped up in a lot of the chatter about the league’s best players, the scoring title and such. True?
Durant: That’s all I want to do. Those guys – Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade, Dirk – there are a lot of guys having great seasons, I’m just trying to do my part to help us win. I’m not worried about anything else. There are so many great players, and the scoring race could go from Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade, the assists could go from Chris Paul, D-Wade, LeBron, everything just flip flops. It’s a long season and I don’t worry about that, I just worry about getting better individually and getting better as a group.
MT: People like to focus on your 29.7 points per game, but it seems that you’ve put a lot of work into all the other areas of your game?
Durant: Yeah you could say that. I’ve become a better leader I think on the floor and gotten my guys to always be focused at all times. Being a better rebounder, being a better passer, playing better defense, I think I’ve grown in those areas. It’s just a matter of me continuing to watch film and watch guys on the floor such as Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest and guys on the Lakers that are great players. I watch everybody, try and take bits and pieces and incorporate them into mine.
MT: I know you admire how Kobe brings it each and every day, no matter what. Is that something you try to focus on?
Durant: Yes – practice, shootaround, games, always focused and locked down on what we’re trying to do. Just talking to guys around the league, summer time they say Kobe Bryant is a guy that’s always locked in and focused and ready to lead his team, and I’ve been around him in the USA Basketball setting. It was like that for him there, he was one of the leaders, the guys that stood out. So like I said I try to take things from him not only on the court but also his demeanor and things like that, try to bring them back here to Oklahoma City to help my team.
MT: Kobe’s always trying to add something to his game in the offseason. Anything in particular you want to add this coming summer?
Durant: I want to add stuff, but I also want to get better at everything I’ve learned so far. Shooting the basketball, ball handling, because those things can always get better. You don’t want to forget about those while adding another thing – I try to do that as well, but I want to get better at my overall game. I don’t only work on one thing.
MT: The Lakers are younger than one might think … Kobe’s 31, Artest and Odom 30, Gasol 29, Bynum 22 … do you see them as the team to beat for years to come?
Durant: Yeah I think so. Kobe doesn’t play like he’s 31, Artest doesn’t play like he’s 30, Lamar Odom doesn’t, Pau doesn’t play like he’s 29, Andrew Bynum is 22. Man. They have a great nucleus of guys that are going to be around for a while. It’s going to be a joy just to go out and compete with those guys each and every year.