On Wednesday, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant(notes) jumped on the phone at Gatorade's High School Athlete of the Year luncheon in Hollywood, CA to answer a few lighthearted questions about his nickname, team expectations, Twitter, traveling and more.
Ball Don't Lie: All right, let's get the hard-hitting questions out of the way. In March, SLAM magazine held a reader contest to try and find you a new nickname. Now, I shut it down early, suggesting — nay! — demanding you be called "Durantula". What do you think? Does this get your vote?
Kevin Durant: Durantula?
BDL: Yeah. You're long, you're lean, everyone's afraid of you ...
Durantula: Yeah, yeah, I like it. I like it a lot.
BDL: Good. Done. Talk to me about your summer so far. Besides working out and playing ball, what have you been up to? Any concerts, trips, cool stuff like that?
Durantula: No, not really. I've just been relaxing. This high school Gatorade event has actually been one of the cooler things I've done so far ... but no, I've just been relaxing, taking it easy. I'm pretty laidback.
BDL: Your jump-shot and three-ball improved significantly from your rookie campaign in Seattle to year second year in Oklahoma. What specific part of your game are you looking to improve on for next season?
Durantula: I'm busy working on every aspect of my game — defense, shooting, rebounding — but I really want to become a better overall team player. Help my teammates become better players out on the court in order to win more ball games.
BDL: Congratulations on being invited once again to Team USA's mini-camp in Vegas.
BDL: Speak a little about what you hope to gain from the camp this July.
Durantula: It's just great to be around that group of talent. You pick up different tips and tricks from the guys ... it's a lot of fun. Those two or three days of drills and scrimmaging — it's just a lot of fun.
BDL: I heard you in an interview — right after the season ended — where you were talking about how the Thunder needed to add some backcourt depth. Of course, OKC drafts shooting guard James Harden(notes). What are your thoughts on his game?
Durantula: The first thing that jumps out at you is how much of a team player he is. He's a great, great teammate. And he can do it all on the offensive end. He can shoot the ball, he's aggressive at getting into the lane — he's a talented offensive player.
BDL: Russell Westbrook(notes), Jeff Green(notes), Harden, yourself ... I'm sure you're well aware that a lot of people are jumping on the OKC bandwagon. What goals or expectations do you have for the Thunder next season?
Durantula: Just to improve and become a better basketball team. We don't want to have unrealistic expectations by any means, but making the playoffs is definitely a team goal.
Durantula: (laughs) That's tough. I Tweet a lot more, but Nick does have some hilarious lines. I'll go with the big guy.
BDL: You are on Twitter a lot. Would you say you're addicted to it?
Durantula: Yeah, I love it. When I first started out on it I didn't really respond to people. I just went on it to see what people were saying about me, you know? But now I'm a lot more active on it — I reply a lot more. I realized a simple "hello" can really make someone's day. It's cool to get a direct response from a basketball player, and it's a great way to connect with fans. I Tweeted Keri Hilson the other day and she actually wrote back! I was so excited. I'm sure that's what other people feel like when they hear back from their favorite athlete or celebrity. It's fun.
BDL: I'm from Canada, so I doubt I could even find Oklahoma on a map, but if I ever get down there, what three "must-see" things does Tour Guide Durantula recommend?
Durantula: A Thunder game — that's a given. Then you got to go to an OU football game. And then I would recommend you take a stroll around Bricktown. That's where a majority of the good restaurants and clubs are.
BDL: Speaking of traveling, what are your three favorite NBA cities to visit on the road?
Durantula: Washington — because it's home and I get to play in front of my friends and family. Los Angeles — because it's fun to play at the Staples Center even though Lakers-Thunder might not be that big of draw. And Miami — because of the weather. It's nice to ditch the large winter jacket you have to wear when it's like 20 degrees in January.
BDL: Please don't whine to me about cold weather. Canada, remember?
Durantula: (laughs) You're right, you're right.
BDL: OK, final question, and I'm going to ask you same question I asked Greg Oden last year. If you could take any two animals — any two at all — and breed them together to create some sort of "super animal," which two animals would you pick?
Durantula: A lion and a ... a ... a pit-bull.
BDL: (laughs) You just made a lion even more ferocious. I didn't think that was possible.
Durantula: (laughs) Yeah, yeah— no, no, I want to change my answer! I would breed a lion with that "crazy dog robot thing" in the new "Transformers" movie. (Ed. note: This? Or this thing on the left?)
BDL: (laughs) Best. Answer. Ever. Kevin, thanks so much for your time today. Best of luck this upcoming season, man.