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B/R Exclusive: Kevin Durant Explains Trade Request, Coaching Frustrations and More

Chris HaynesNovember 16, 2022

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 15: Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets stands on the court before their game against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on November 15, 2022 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

SACRAMENTO — A historic 153-121 trouncing unleashed by the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday evening added to what has already been a chaotic start to the season for the Brooklyn Nets. It was the most points the Kings scored in 29 years.

What else can go wrong for the Nets? How much more can Kevin Durant take?

Rival executives are monitoring Durant’s temperature in hopes of another trade request.

In an exclusive Bleacher Report interview with the two-time Finals MVP following the 32-point rout, he disclosed details of his trade request this past summer, what he’s looking for moving forward, his confidence in new Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn, how leaders are defined, his relationship with Kyrie Irving and why he’s enjoying this season despite the lack of wins and the controversies.

To gauge what could happen in the future, it’s important to know why certain things occurred in the past.

"It wasn’t difficult at all to request a trade because it was about ball," Durant told B/R. "I went to them and was like, ‘Yo, I don't like how we are preparing. I don't like shootarounds. I like practices. I need more. I want to work on more s--t. Hold me accountable. Get on my ass in film if that's going to help you get on everybody else’s head. I want to do more closeouts. I want to work on more shell drills at practice.’

"This was the type of s--t I was coming at them with. It wasn't like, ‘Yo, y'all need to make sure everybody around me can make my life easier.’ Hell nah, I want to make everybody else’s life easier. Ask Steve Nash, you can go call him right now. I would say, ‘Yo, I need more closeout drills. We need to practice more.’ That's what I was on.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 31: Head coach Steve Nash and Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets look on during a break in the action during the third quarter of the game against the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center on October 31, 2022 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)
Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

"I wasn’t feeling that, and nobody was on that same vibe with me. Jacque Vaughn is. I had some complaints in the summer, and my complaints were not about just me; it was about how we are moving as a unit. I want us to be respected out here in the basketball world. I don’t want players to look at us and say, ‘Oh man, these [expletive] are full of s--t. That’s not the type of team I want to be on.’ So when we’re all playing like s--t, you know the one person they’re going to look at. That’s why I requested a trade."

The Nets firing Nash as head coach and promoting Vaughn added a spark, but it’s going to take more than a different coach roaming the sidelines to make them among the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

"I just like good practices, I like a good preparation, I like good energy, and we've been showing that, to be honest," Durant told B/R. "Coaches have been doing a great job, regardless of this loss tonight and last game. I think we've been preparing ourselves well. Guys want to win. We’re out there playing as hard as we can. That's really what I need.

"That's what I said last summer. I didn't feel like we had those things last year like good preparation, great energy to start real team chemistry, and I feel like we’re building that right now. We got some guys in and out the lineup, but I think guys have been figuring out their roles within that. And it's been fun, regardless of games like tonight."

Through all the turmoil, Durant says he’s in a happy state with the team and is enjoying navigating the curveballs being thrown at him.

"It's been fun grinding with these dudes. It’s been fun grinding with Jacque. It's been fun trying to leverage myself to help everybody else get better. I'm learning the game more and seeing all types of crazy defenses every night. I never know how a team is going to guard me. This is all helping me mentally as a player to see things a little slower, playing a little slower."

With Irving still serving his suspension, and with Ben Simmons' availability unknown from game to game, Durant is repeatedly left on an island to fend off the opposition. But that’s where he’s having the most fun.

"Individually, I’m like, 'All right, I have to dodge five defenders,' but it's fun going through that s--t because it's only making me better as a basketball player. If I can experience everything in the league, then my career is set. I’ve experienced it all: championships, Rookie of the Year, All-Stars, free agency, requesting a trade, All-Star MVPs, Olympics. I did everything in this league.

TOKYO, JAPAN August 7  Kevin Durant #7 of the United States celebrates with team mate Javale McGee #11 of the United States after the teams gold medal victory during the France V USA basket final for men at the Saitama Super Arena during the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games on August 7, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

"So yeah, I'm experiencing something I wasn't expecting the last two years with guys in and out the lineup, not playing well, a seventh seed getting swept in the first round. All that s--t. That's a part of the league. That's a part of everybody's journey. Just because I gotta go through it doesn’t mean I'm miserable. I’ve seen a lot of guys go through bulls--t in the league. So now I’ve got a perspective on it. It's all about experiencing s--t while I'm here. I only got a certain amount of time as an NBA player. I can't do this s--t forever. So I'm into experiencing everything while I'm here.”

Durant shedding light on what he values in a healthy work environment answers many questions about the discontent he felt this past offseason. He sought to hold the front office and coaching staff accountable, which is a form of leadership.

But when leaders are mentioned in the NBA, his name is never brought up.

“I’m not a leader? What the f--k does that mean?” Durant asked B/R. “A lot of people say I’m not a leader because I didn’t tell Kyrie to get vaccinated. Come on. Or I didn’t condemn Kyrie for leaving the team, going out and living his life. I’m not about to tell a grown-ass man what he can and can't do with his own life and dissect his views or how he thinks about s--t.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 31: Kyrie Irving #11 speaks with Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets during the second quarter of the game against the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center on October 31, 2022 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)
Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

"We can have a conversation and exchange perspectives on how I feel about the topic and you feel about the topic, but everybody else don't need to know or hear about our conversations because we’re grown-ass men. I don't operate like that.

"I don't need to show or tell everybody what I'm doing with my teammates so y'all can pump me up and say, ‘Yeah, KD, you’re the boss, you’re the leader.’ These other [expletives] need that. I don’t. I don't come to you and say, ‘Haynes, write this story about me.’ I don't do that to nobody. But I come here and respect y'all. I talk to y'all like a real one, even after a blowout [loss].

In Year 16, Durant says he takes pride in remaining a top-level player and wants to set an example of how a player can maximize situations that may not be ideal. He said the Nets don't measure up with the best in the league on paper, but he hopes to instill confidence into his teammates that they have a legitimate chance against anyone.

“Look at our starting lineup. Edmond Sumner, Royce O’Neale, Joe Harris, [Nic] Claxton and me. It’s not disrespect, but what are you expecting from that group?" Durant asked of B/R. “You expect us to win because I’m out there. So if you’re watching from that lens, you’re expecting us to play well because No. 7 is out there.

"I’m really having a good time. I wish y'all could hear me talk during the game. If I got mic’d up more, people would stop asking me if I'm happy or not. I'm enjoying every moment I get to step on this f--king court, and part of it is because I tore my Achilles. And the pandemic, I didn’t know if we were going to play again. I didn't know if I was going to play again.

"I was just like, 'This can't be it for me.' I have to really enjoy every single moment I'm out here. That’s part of being a pro. I have to be coachable, I have to knock down shots, I have to be aggressive, and I have to talk to my teammates the right way. That's the journey and the battle.

"All that extra s--t like, ‘You got to win before you retire and make sure your legacy is straight,’ that’s bulls--t to me. My legacy is predicated on what Cam Thomas is learning from me and what he’ll take away to help him by the time he’s in his 10th year. That’s my legacy. What I did with Andre Roberson, the confidence I helped him build when he was in the league. That's my legacy. Being able to play with Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry and Kyrie and still be me. Yeah, that's my legacy. That's who I am. That's what I bring to the game.

"I can play with anybody, anywhere, at any time, and you know I'm going bring it every day. That should be my legacy."

Chris Haynes has covered the NBA for 13 years, with previous stops at Yahoo, ESPN, Comcast Sportsnet Northwest and Cleveland.com. You can also find him roaming the sidelines on NBA on TNT broadcasts every week.

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