LAS VEGAS — “We got one goal and one goal only: to win. Nobody cares about stats or whatever, we’re just trying to come out there and win. You try not to put too much pressure on yourself, it’s a game, but we’re not going to be halfway about the process.”
That is Kevin Durant, talking about Team USA heading into the Rio Olympics, a team where he has been passed the torch and is the clear leader.
It also could be Durant talking about his move to Golden State.
As Team USA opened its training camp in Las Vegas Monday, Durant spoke about the change of scenery in terms of it being his decision, his desire, not something pushed on him by outside forces or internal strife.
“No, no it wasn’t,” Durant said of the reports Russell Westbrook’s style of play helped push him away from Oklahoma City. “Obviously that’s coming out now that I’ve gone, of course it’s going to come out, but I can’t really control that. I just made a decision based on where I wanted to go. Simple as that. You can think about all the reasoning and the factors, but the fact is it’s that simple.”
Long a golden boy in terms of image, Durant was hit with a wave of criticism for the move, not just on social media but from some of the biggest voices in NBA commentary — Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller. They echoed the criticism of many that Durant took the easy way to a title.
Durant shrugged it off.
“I respect the hell out of them two, they can say whatever they want to about me,” Durant said. “I went to do something that I wanted to do. They had their careers, they did what they wanted to do. I respect the hell out of Reggie Miller and Charles Barkley, there were hell of players, they’re two guys I look up to, so I can’t control how they think or how they feel. Or anyone else for that matter. I’m excited about the future….
“Those guys have a big voice in our game, they have a megaphone. If Charles Barkley says it it must be true. If Reggie Miller says it it must be true. They have such a big platform and people respect them, so it seems bigger than it is. I got support, I got my family around me, they love me, they support me no matter what I do — I could be playing tennis right now and retire from the game of basketball and they would love me. I think about that.”
Becoming a villain in the eyes of many is a big change for Durant and he knew what was coming with this choice. But that wasn’t going to sway him.
“I thought about it,” Durant said of the criticism coming his way. “But in life when you make decisions based on everyone else I think it’s mistake. I made a decision in my mind, and I knew people were going to be upset about it. I just told myself to put me first and do what I wanted….
“I haven’t changed who I am, people haven’t changed their mind about me as a person, I just focus on the people that are positive, hold me accountable, and push me past my limits. And life goes on at some point.”
That doesn’t mean he thought it was easy.
“For a few days after I didn’t leave my bed (later he clarified, his rented house in the Hamptons) because I was like ‘if I walk outside somebody might just hit me with their car, or say anything negative to me.’ Like I said I never had this reputation, and so many people who don’t even watch basketball are telling me congratulations, and good luck going forward, it’s crazy how big I got and how big this got…..
“I was hurt for a few days because I knew I hurt so many people.”
Now, Durant says the Warriors will figure out how to make all these stars fit — this is different than the Boston big three or the Miami trio with LeBron. What they have in common with those teams is a willingness to sacrifice.
“We’re going to have our own path, we’re going to have to figure out how to play on our own,” Durant said. “So all these players are going to have to sacrifice to play. Golden State, Oklahoma City, anywhere else — it’s all about the sacrifice to play winning basketball.”
In the short term, he and other stars will sacrifice to try and win a gold medal.