August 12, 2010
Kevin Durant(notes) is smooth, no duh. That's why they call him "Velvet Hoop," I'm guessing. In a one-on-one interview Thursday morning, Durant didn't fail to live up to that nickname. I got a chance to talk to the Oklahoma City Thunder star at Radio City Musical Hall, and he talked about being the face of Team USA, how he'll fit in on the team and playing on the streets.
Trey Kerby: I know you're going to deny it, but ...
Kevin Durant: Then why are you going to ask? Why you have to ask me this, Trey? (laughing)
TK: (laughing, probably too much) You're the face of USA basketball, at least for now.
KD: Yeah, I think so.
TK: I mean, when they're doing the illustrations, you're the biggest one.
KD: Nah, you see [Rajon] Rondo and Russel Westbrook up there too.
TK: Yeah, yeah. But on the shirts you see Dwyane Wade(notes), Chris Paul(notes), LeBron, Kobe and you. And you're the only one playing. Is that something you're looking forward to? Is that something you embrace?
KD: I guess I have to. You know, I can't tell them to take all the billboards down or the pictures off the shirts. I really don't like it too much. You know, I don't want to stand out too much. I'd rather it be a group, but it is what it is. I've just got to let my teammates know in practice, without even telling them, that I don't think I'm ahead of anybody. We're a group. I think I'm doing a good job of that. They all know that, and that's all who really needs to know that. I'm here for them, and if they need me to take 10 shots or get 10 assists, it don't matter because I'm going to do whatever they need me to do. It's really not even about the pictures or whatever else there is.
TK: So you prefer to lead by example is what you're saying?
KD: Exactly. Exactly. I'm sure I'm getting a lot of respect from my teammates for that. I'm not a guy that's going to brag or feel like I'm better than the group. I feel as though everything is going well.
TK: How do you like playing on this team with a ton of athletic guys? I know Oklahoma City has a bunch of athletic guys too, but with Team USA, every single guy on the roster can run and jump and just get out on the floor and play fast. Is that fun?
KD: Man, it's so fun. I remember yesterday in practice I got a rebound and pushed it up the court. I'm used to having Nenad Krstic(notes) and Thabo Sefolosha(notes) running on the sides — nothing against those guys, of course — but Nenad is not as athletic as Derrick Rose(notes). (laughs) And I had D-Rose on one side and [Andre] Iguodala on the other. So I'm like, "Who do I throw it to?" So I just threw it up. (mimes a lob pass)
And it was a bad pass. I'm like, "Awwww, turnover." (hangs head) But Iguodala came out of nowhere, grabbed it with one hand and dunked it. (smiling excitedly)
TK: Well, that's ridiculous.
KD: It's like a super team. There's no need to complain having everybody around you.
TK: Does it make it easy, playing with guys where you can throw a bad pass and it still ends up a dunk? Does that make the game easy?
KD: I think it's even better that if I throw a bad pass that is a turnover, my teammates say "Don't worry about it, we'll get it back the next play." That makes me feel good. It's pretty cool, man, to be a part of that. To be a part of this group and to just get better with these guys.
TK: The World Basketball Festival is happening all over the city. They're playing up at the Rucker, and online a mixtape of you playing in the Goodman League just leaked.
KD: Mmm hmm.
TK: Obviously you're tearing it up. Do you like playing there? Is that one of your favorite places to play?
KD: That's where I built up a lot of traits of my game — toughness, competitive nature, heart. A lot of those different things I built playing streetball. You know, going to the hole outside, you gotta build that toughness because you don't want to get knocked down. It hurts. I always want to win because I never want to sit out on the sidelines outside.
Playing outside is key for younger kids growing up. It builds that love for the game. Because kids are always playing in air conditioning, get Gatorades on the side of the court — it'll spoil you. Playing outside makes you love the game a little bit more and also makes you kinda tough and mentally tough as well. It's good for me.
TK: Playing in an international tournament and having success there, do you think that'll carry over to next season?
KD: I hope so. I hope so. That's the plan. Hopefully I'm not drained, but I'm young. Hopefully it carries over. I'm going straight from [Turkey] to Oklahoma City to meet with my teammates, take a couple days off, but get things going. Get in training camp and start playing.
Yeah, he's great. Thanks to KD for talking to me and having a couple laughs, and thanks to Nike for getting me a little face time with him. Friday, come back for the highlights from a group interview Durant did on Thursday