LAS VEGAS — When Kevin Durant was in the Hamptons over the Fourth of July weekend deciding what to do with the next stage of his basketball career, he knew there would be plenty of fallout no matter which course he chose.
He was so cognizant of that, in fact, that he said for the two days following his decision, he didn’t go outside.
“The two days after, I didn’t leave my bed because if I walk outside somebody might try to hit me with their car or say anything negative to me,” Durant said with a laugh after the first day of Team USA practice on the UNLV campus on Monday afternoon. “I thought people would react to me a little differently. Like I said before, I never had this much attention, and so many people who probably don’t even watch basketball walked up to me and said congratulations, good luck going forward. It’s crazy how big our game has gotten, and the reach it has is amazing.
“I just stayed in and tried to process it all. I wanted to be around family and positive support. It felt different, obviously. I had been somewhere for so long and made a change no one saw coming and didn’t think I would do, of course I didn’t know how it would be received afterward.
“But at some point I said, ‘Life goes on, and I can’t hide forever,’ so I had to face it.”
Monday served as the first opportunity for Durant to do so since his initial press conference as a Golden State Warrior a few days after his decision was made. Not surprisingly, he was surrounded by a horde of reporters who asked him about a whole series of things:
What did he think of Tom Brady being at the Celtics meeting?
Why didn’t he meet with the Lakers?
How did he like the Hamptons?
Is anyone giving him a hard time about his decision within Team USA?
But the most interesting answers circled back to Durant’s decision itself, and his thought process both heading into it and as he came out of it — specifically, how he considered the potential fallout of not just leaving Oklahoma City, but leaving Oklahoma City to go play with a star-studded Warriors team.
“I thought about it, but in life when you make decisions based on everyone else, I think it’s the wrong decision,” he said. “I can’t make a decision on my life because everyone will be upset about it.
“I told myself to put myself first, and this is what I really wanted, so we’ll see what happens.”
Durant was also beset with questions regarding criticisms of his decision from Hall of Famers Reggie Miller and Charles Barkley.
“It’s a bad look for the league once again,” Miller wrote in an article for Bleacher Report. “Between the huge signings of mediocre players and now KD defecting to the Warriors, there are really only five or six teams you are interested in watching — and only three of those have a real shot to win the championship. It’s going to be a boring season unless the Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks or Boston Celtics are on TNT or ESPN every week.
“At the end of the day, what’s more important, rings or legacy? The media only cares about rings, and rightfully so. We are judged on jewelry, so that’s why I can’t argue with it. From a personal standpoint, I’m upset that a small market will never recover from it.”
As for Barkley, he equated Durant’s decision to the one LeBron James made to leave Cleveland in 2010 to join up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat.
“I was disappointed. I was disappointed like I was disappointed when LeBron went to Miami,” Barkley said earlier this month on ESPN Radio. “Kevin is a terrific player. He’s a good kid. But just disappointed with the fact that he weakened another team and he’s gonna kind of gravy train on a terrific Warriors team. Just disappointed from a competitive standpoint. Because just like it meant more to LeBron to win one in Cleveland, it would mean more to Kevin to win one in Oklahoma than it would be in Golden State.”
Durant did his best to take the high road, and said he had no problems with what either former star had to say about him.
“I respect the hell out of them two,” Durant said. “I will never say a bad word about them. They can say whatever they want about me. I chose to do something. I chose my own path. I did something I wanted to do.
“They had their careers, and they did what they wanted to do. I respect the hell out of Reggie Miller and Charles Barkley. Great players, ambassadors, someone I looked up to. I can’t control what they think or how they feel, for that matter. I am excited about the future.”
Here are some other highlights from Durant’s 25-minute sitdown with the press Monday afternoon.
On Brady’s presence at his meeting with the Celtics:
“I was ready to just say, ‘Let’s go.’ Just seeing Tom Brady there, seeing someone so successful at his craft, such a great ambassador for the game of football and the city of Boston. It was great to be in the presence of greatness. But at the same time, I couldn’t let that distract me. It was great to see him.”
On his feelings watching Game 7 of the NBA Finals:
“It was a great game. It was a fun game to watch. Kyrie Irving, the whole game I was thinking how great Kyrie Irving is as a one-on-one basketball player. He was just unstoppable. They came together as a group and won that game. It was huge for them, and for the city of Cleveland. That’s what I was happy for. Having seen “30 for 30s” about the city of Cleveland, I was happy as a basketball fan to see those guys win.”
On new teammate Andre Iguodala saying the Thunder were the best team last season:
“We had a great chance (to win a title). We had a great chance. It’s hard to win in this league, it’s hard to win championships in this league. Every year teams try to regroup and get better. It’s going to be a fun season next year.”