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LAS VEGAS — Kevin Durant sliced through the tape on his ankles after USA Basketball’s minicamp practice Thursday, with a calm demeanor and a smile on his face. Durant has been a presence in Team USA’s summer events over the years, from the offseason of his decision to sign with the Golden State Warriors to now as a two-time NBA champion and two-time Finals MVP. From making clear he never promised anything to Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016, to a public back-and-forth with Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J.McCollum this week, Durant still shows his face in the summer heat.
Durant has listened to the criticism of his move to the Warriors from the moment he made the decision on that Fourth of July. He responded to some last summer, fresh off one championship, and this summer has been a canvas for another barrage. He’s read social-media posters saying he should simply keep his mouth shut, and Durant laughed Thursday inside UNLV’s Mendenhall Center while delving into it all.
“I should shut the [expletive] up, right?” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “Man, get out the way. I done did the work, I done showed you what I do. I know y’all don’t like me, but get out the way and let this [expletive] roll. I ain’t want no smoke with nobody. I ain’t want no problems with nobody. It’s everybody’s sentiments, like, ‘Yo, shut up, K.D.’ I’m not talking, I’m just being me. Everybody’s just acting crazy.
“I see guys voicing their opinions on social media, and I’ve always been part of social media, always interacting with fans of basketball and people that I know. I enjoy that [expletive]. All of this is part of the game for me. Of course, I’m on my Instagram, on Twitter, just like the rest of my peers. So what’s the problem if I got something to say? It’s just because I do it.”
Durant accomplished exactly what was required after leaving Oklahoma City and yet remains the ultimate lightning rod around the league and around social media. He was the lone representative for the Warriors at Team USA minicamp, with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green not attending and DeMarcus Cousins only appearing for the team meeting Wednesday night. Durant was ready and able to take questions about his past 18 hours, which started when McCollum had questioned the Warriors’ signing of Durant to his face, and Durant — who calls McCollum a “tight friend” — told McCollum to relax, jokingly. McCollum then proceeded to take another shot at Durant for his 2016 decision. Everyone swiftly bashed Durant and he had to respond to it all, but the nine-time All-Star and 2014 NBA MVP shouldn’t need to justify himself to McCollum.
He’s walked hotel lobbies in Las Vegas this week, talking smack with fans. For Durant, McCollum is no different. For anyone calling him sensitive, Durant simply states he is now unafraid to speak his mind. Hate it or love it.
“I don’t mind a random person coming up to me in the Encore hotel who wants to talk [expletive] about ball,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “Whoever enjoys the game as much as me, I don’t mind. I’m down for that. When I’m on my phone in the middle and in between practices, of course, I’m going to respond. Now I’m just like, I don’t really care what people think about me, the names people call me. I know every time I say something, people are going to get upset at me. So I feel like I have all the power now. I can make so many people upset by just speaking my mind and speaking my truths, being transparent with everyone.
“It’ll get all these random people coming on national TV to project their feelings onto me. It’s pretty funny actually. I know what’s important. In between those lines, people aren’t going to step in between them. Really, how are the words of those people more valid than mine?
“Me and C.J. are tight. We talk on the phone all the time about little [expletive] like that. It was a friendly jab, and everyone ran with it. But I can’t get into [expletive] like that with other players because people just don’t like me at this point. It won’t stop me. It’ll fuel me to be better and better. I know you think I’m sensitive, but I’m just tired of holding it in.”
Soon, Durant will return to the pressures of defending the Warriors’ back-to-back championships. Durant signed a two-year, $61.5 million maximum deal, with a player option for 2019-20. These Warriors will return as favorites, and Durant understands the judgment his one-plus-one contract will cast. For Durant, the decision to sign for another one-plus-one deal leaves open his financial and team options.
“I just want to take it a day at a time, and I don’t want to look at my future now,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “The [one-plus-one] was the perfect thing for me to do, to keep things open for me — financially and what I want to do. It’s just one of those things.”
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