K.D. Leaves No Doubt He Is "For Real"
Thunder forward Kevin Durant has pushed himself hard this summer, on the court and in the weight room. “I don’t play around, whether it’s outside or in a real game," he said. "I want somebody who’s never seen me before up close to leave and say, ‘K.D. can play a little bit.’”
IN A WAY, a two-minute, 20-second video clip floating around the internet of Kevin Durant embodied the approach he took to everything he did this summer.
In the clip, Durant is seen running circles around street ballers, wanna-bees and pro-hopefuls at the Goodman League in Washington, D.C. There’s even highlights from his 56-point performance one evening there.
Durant is hustling on every play, his body glistening in sweat, as he bolts the length of the court for a fast-break layup, or crouches down into a defensive stance before coming up with a steal.
At the Goodman League, situated in hard-knock southeast Washington, D.C, defense often takes a backseat to showboating.
But that approach didn’t apply to Durant.
“One of my main goals is to let everybody know that I’m for real,” Durant said in a recent interview (click here to watch) with THUNDER.NBA.COM. “I don’t play around, whether it’s outside or in a real game. I want somebody who’s never seen me before up close to leave and say, ‘K.D. can play a little bit.’”
K.D. played plenty this summer, just about everywhere he went, and the list was rather extensive. And wherever he went, he said he took with him a dead-serious approach.
In Austin, Texas, he organized pickup games at 6:30 a.m., just before heading to summer classes at the University of Texas. Even though he didn’t play, Durant made the trip to the Las Vegas Summer League to practice with his Thunder teammates and sit on the bench for support. And Durant’s three days at the USA Basketball minicamp turned out to be his own personal playground.
And if he had time on his hands during a commercial shoot/music video with fellow NBA players for Nike and Foot Locker, or during a much-needed family vacation to the Bahamas, or even on his end-of-the-summer trip to Hong Kong for an NBA Madness event, you can bet that Durant found time to hoop.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Durant was back at the Thunder practice facility only a day removed from a 24-hour flight from Hong Kong.
After months of playing pickup games, running camps and clinics, strutting down a red carpet at the ESPY Awards and auditioning for a spot on Team USA, Durant is with his Thunder teammates again.
There is no letdown for Durant, who turns 21 on Sept. 29.
“It’s been a good summer,” he said, “so hopefully we’ll bring everything onto the court as one team and get better.”
Keeping to His Promise
DURANT SAID THERE was a purpose in everything he did this summer. So let’s recap.
After leaving the University of Texas for the NBA after just one season, Durant made a promise to himself and his family that he would continue to pursue his college degree. He kept up on that promise this summer, enrolling in a child adolescent class. The league’s fifth-leading scorer was back in class, interacting with classmates, raising his hand to be called on, doing homework and even turning in a 20-plus page book report.
Durant already said he was looking forward to doing it again next summer. But while he was in Austin, he found enough time to reconnect with the Longhorns basketball program. Organizing pick-up games just after sunrise wasn’t something that came about this offseason, but rather last summer along with the help of Thunder Assistant Coach Brian Keefe after Durant had finished his rookie season.
Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said he left his visit to Austin impressed with Durant’s leadership -- getting dozens of players together for some early morning hoops before it was off to classes.
|Kevin Durant scored 20 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished four assists in leading his Blue team to a 100-81 victory over the White team in Team USA's summer game.|
On a different level, what Durant did in Las Vegas during a three-day minicamp with USA Basketball headlined national basketball news.
ESPN.com wrote that Durant had all but assured himself of a spot on the 2010 Team USA that will compete in the FIBA World Championships.
Team USA Coach Mike Krzyzewski said that Durant was “at the head of the list for me” to earn the 12th and final roster spot on the senior national team.
This was Durant’s third summer with Team USA, making him a veteran at a camp that he dominated offensively during scrimmages.
Durant said that his prior knowledge of the USA Basketball system helped during the minicamp. He knew what type of player they were looking for: one versatile enough to play backup minutes at both forward positions as well as shooting guard, according to ESPN.com.
“So I was excited, man, and hopefully for years to come I’ll be a part of it,” Durant said. “I was just trying to do my best to play both ends of the floor, get my teammates involved and be more of a vocal leader on the court, calm people down. I think I did OK, but I could have done a better job. But I was pleased with it.”
Street Ball Support
FOR MOST, GOING from USA Basketball to street ball would mean taking the foot off the gas pedal.
But that thinking does not apply to Durant.
The Goodman League has always served as a valuable experience for Durant.
Planted smack in the middle of the projects, the league has showcased some of the area’s most legendary playground players.
“I’ve grown my way up into one of the best players to come through there and I want to continue to go out there and support them because they support me as well,” Durant said. “And I also just try to go out there and get better at my game.”
Durant cited several areas he wanted to improve on during his play in the league: conditioning, being a better passer, getting his teammates involved and playing good defense.
Family Ties, Off and On the Court
THERE ACTUALLY WAS a time this summer when basketball wasn’t the only thing in Durant’s universe, even if it was for just a few days.
The Thunder basketball office and Durant’s family had been encouraging him to go take a vacation. Really, how many people need to be talked into taking a vacation? Durant, apparently, is one of them. But at least it worked. Durant and the family traveled to the Bahamas, where he said he swam with dolphins, snorkeled and even fit his 6-10 frame down a few water slides.
“It was fun; It was just good to spend time with my family,” he said.
From now until next spring, Durant will be spending most of the time with his second family.
Ten Thunder players were at the practice facility for voluntary workouts on Monday. Yes, 10. With training camp still two weeks away, none of them have to be here. It appeared to be an easy choice for all, and it has Durant excited about the team’s approach to the upcoming season.
“It says a lot that we’re dedicated to each other, we’re family and we want to see each other do well,” Durant said. “We’ve been building something good here, so each and every year they’ve been helping each player individually on their games because once we all come together we’re going to make a good team. It’s exciting just to know I’m a part of a good franchise like this that really cares about the players.”
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