Q&A with the Rookie of the Year
Posted May 1 2008 5:53PM
SECAUCUS, NJ, May 1, 2008 -- Kevin Durant was named the T-Mobile Rookie of the Year on Thursday, receiving 90 out of 125 possible first-place votes to eclipse the Hawks' Al Horford, who came in second.
Durant came into the season with the high expectations associated with being the No. 2 pick, and delivered. His 20.3 points per game average was the third highest scoring clip of any rookie in the last 10 seasons. He augmented his stat line with 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.9 blocks per game averages.
The 19-year old rising sophomore took some time to speak with me on the phone just minutes after being presented with the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy.
First of all, congratulations. Coming off becoming the first freshman ever to win the Naismith Award, this one has to feel pretty good. What was your reaction when you heard you won?
Kevin: I was happy, man. I didnít know what to think. First of all, I didnít think I was going to win it. With guys like Al and Luis Scola playing well for their teams in the playoffs and helping lead their teams to the playoffs, I didnít think I would win it. But, itís a great honor for me and the team, so, Iím happy with it. Itís a stepping stone to help me become a better player for next year.
How did you change your game during the last couple of months of the season? You showed pretty dramatic improvement after the All-Star break. Is there any story behind that?
Kevin: I did the same things. I just worked even harder and harder each day after practice and after shootarounds and I think that helped me out towards the end of the year. I know I got to do it from the beginning of the year now to keep this up. Hopefully next year, I become a better player.
You had probably your best game of the year in your last game of the year (42 points, 13 rebounds, six assists) in a win against Golden State. Tell me about that performance and what it meant to your confidence in the offseason Ö
Kevin: I just wanted to end on a good note. First of all, I wanted to help my team try to win the game, but for myself, I just wanted to end on a good note. I think that with that game, hopefully that will give us some momentum going into next year. Like I said, I just tried to end on a good note.
I saw you down at a Wizards-Cavs playoff game in D.C. Do you have any predictions of how the rest of the postseason will play out?
Kevin: Really, I donít know. You look and there are teams like Atlanta coming on and the Sixers, so, you never know. I think anybody can win. I think this is the first year in a while where you donít know who is going to win it. Iím looking forward to see who wins it though.
When did you decide to go back to Texas to take classes? What will you be studying?
Kevin: I think that if I go down there, I can get the best of both worlds working out with the best strength coach in the country and also going to school, so thatís what Iím trying to do. I already studied Education when Iím down there, so Iím going to continue what I did my freshman year. I know itís going to take a while for me to get my degree, but I think that if I keep chipping away at it, I can do it.
Jeff Green is taking classes too. Can you talk about your relationship with him and how you helped each other out this season?
Kevin: We helped each other out a lot. We both got better throughout the year and I think that we complement each other very well. We both work hard. I think itís something good for Seattle in the coming years.
Are you going to be involved with Team USA this summer? Any chance youíll play in Beijing?
Kevin: I hope so. They havenít told me yet. I just want to at least practice with the team and get that experience in as much as I can. If I donít play this year, hopefully before Iím done playing the game I can play in the Olympics.
You hear from the time you start playing that basketball players are made in the summer. What part of your game are you looking to improve Ö and donít say ďeverything.Ē
Kevin: Just my overall strength Ö and every part of my game, just getting better. Whatever my coaches need me to work on, Iím going to do my best to work on that. There are things I want to work on for myself so I can come back a better player.
You went 25-10 at Texas and 20-62 in Seattle. Did you learn anything from all the losing?
Kevin: I did. I just learned that every game is a tough one. We got to bring it every night, from the first game to the last game. I think this summer is going to be key for us, for everybody to get better and build on what we did last year with a new team, new players. Weíve been with each other for a full year, so next year that chemistry is going to be there even more. Weíre going to come in early this summer. Hopefully, Iím going to try to get all the guys in early this summer and start working hard.
I wrote all season long that you had more weight on your shoulders than the other Rookie of the Year contenders Ö you were the ďface of the franchise,Ē youíre only 19-years old, you were on a team that had a lot of new names and a new coach and plus the whole Oklahoma City situation. How did you deal with all of that?
Kevin: This whole year was challenging. Playing against the best players, best defenders every night only can make my game better. I was happy with how my game turned out as far as how we got better as a team. But, Iím looking forward to next year a lot. I think that over time we can be a playoff-caliber team.
Youíre not the GM, but youíre also good friends with fellow D.C. native, AAU teammate and Oak Hill guy, Mike Beasley. Now, the Sonics are guaranteed a top-five pick and have the second best chances of any other team to pick No. 1. Have you and Beasley had any conversations about potentially being teammates again?
Kevin: I mean, we talked about it, but with the lottery deal, you never know who is going to come out. We just got to wait and see, and when that time comes around, when that draft comes around and if weíre No. 1 or No. 2, weíre going to pick the right choice for us. Weíll see what happens. It would be fun to play with Mike again, but you never know how that turns out.
Last question: What can we expect as an encore from you next year?
Kevin: Hopefully Iíll build on what I did this year and become a better player and up everything I did this year Ė points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks Ė just try to be better than I did this year and try to get better as the season goes on.