We’re about a quarter of the way through this NBA season and the league’s number one team is about to embark on an important road trip. KD and the Golden State Warriors will begin a 5 game road with two sets of back to backs beginning tonight in LA versus the Clippers. The early season has gone well for KD, he is shooting a career high 56.5 percent from the field and his showcasing his all around game. Something he has been saying he’s had all along, dating back to his OKC days. KD recently sat down with ESPN.com to share his thoughts on his play thus far this season.
"I look at it like, if I shoot 15-16 shots a night, 13 of ’em gotta be solid, and the rest can be some pull-up 3s or fadeaways that I kind of work on that I wouldn’t mind if I make or miss those. I look at those other shots like heat checks — just trying stuff. "
Durant, long obsessed with being an efficient player has the opportunity in the Warriors offense to not have the responsibility of the entire scoring load on his shoulders and it has allowed the other parts of his game to flourish. To his credit, his teammates and head coach, Steve Kerr have noticed:
"He’s playing more 4 here than he played in OKC, so we’re asking him to anchor the paint at times. It doesn’t come naturally to him. He’s really more of a guard than he is a big. But he’s adapting, and he’s getting better. When he’s locked in, he’s an all-league defender. But it’s an awful lot to ask a guy to score 27, 28 a game and be locked in for 48 minutes."
KD is averaging a career high in rebounds and blocks this season. While in OKC we saw flashes of KD’s all around game, particularly during last year’s Western Conference Finals. His preternatural scoring abilities are what has built an already legendary career but being with the Warriors somehow speaks about a different brand of basketball for KD. A nirvana.
"I know what our offense is. So when I get those shots that I get, I know that I gotta be patient with ’em. And I know I also gotta be … they’re precious. I think, my shots now, I value them a little more than I did before ’cause I might not shoot 30 shots whenever I want. And that’s not a bad thing. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. That’s just how we play here … especially when you got two other guys on the perimeter that can go off and score 30 any night as well.
It’s a different situation. When I won MVP in 2014, I was playing differently. I had the ball in my hands a lot more. I was playing the point forward role, more like how LeBron [James] plays in Cleveland. And it was fun, but it was a lot. I had to do a lot out there on the floor. And I got rewarded for that by winning MVP, but it taught me a lot about the game. That was a huge year for me.
I felt like I made Thabo Sefolosha better. I made Kendrick Perkins better. I made Serge Ibaka better. And it wasn’t because I was just scoring. I think my leadership … we were down. Russell was out most of the year, so I had to step into a different role. I felt like that was one of the better years for me all around. This year, I just feel like I’m trying to fit in but also still be myself. I know that I can’t just run and go grab the ball and clear everybody out. Coach wants me to sometimes, but it’s not going to be like that most of the time."
Durant says a lot in those quotes. This is a 7 foot lethal basketball playing machine. He has a 7’4″ wingspan and has guard skills in a big man’s body. It doesn’t matter what system he plays in, he will put up MVP numbers, because he’s that damn good. The difference in his play this year and the level of basketball nirvana he is enjoying is personal preference.
Durant is a natural pleaser and prefers to be part of a whole. In OKC, it was a two man show and often he was the only good outside shooter. That type of roster and playing style (while good enough for him to win MVP and make a trip to the Finals and be a game away from another) is not what he prefers. The Warriors roster (a 2x MVP and two other all-stars), free flowing, ball sharing, style allows his entire game to be on display. More importantly, it puts him in the right frame of mind, truly loving the game.
Durant is no different than the average person when it comes to the job. If you love what you do, enjoy where you work, and have the opportunity to showcase all your skills, you tend to be happy and produce the best quality work. A happy, productive, all skills on display KD means trouble for the NBA, but might be the reason he and the Warriors are holding the NBA championship come June.