FOX Sports NBA Writer
LOS ANGELES – Kevin Durant has seen the rumors that he’s unhappy in Phoenix. And they’re upsetting to him.
Durant believes other people’s words have been misconstrued as his own, including an ESPN report on Christmas Day that stated that people around the Phoenix Suns organization were feeling Durant’s frustration because of Bradley Beal missing games and “an underwhelming supporting cast.”
After the Suns’ loss to the LA Clippers on Monday night at Crypto.com Arena, Durant spoke exclusively with FOX Sports, hoping to set the record straight on exactly how he feels about his team.
“I don’t want to get traded,” Durant said. “I’m not frustrated because Brad was injured. I wasn’t frustrated because of the role players on the team. That s— really was ignorant to me, you know what I’m saying?
“It’s like, yeah, we lose a game – you think I’m supposed to be happy after we lose a game? You know what I’m saying? I’m not frustrated with the whole situation. I may be frustrated at the moment, at a bad play or a tough stretch. But nah, I enjoy the grind.”
The stretch around Christmas still bothers him. On ESPN’s Christmas morning show, Stephen A. Smith expounded on the Suns’ dysfunction while taking a shot at Durant’s leadership ability.
Then later that evening, the speculation about Durant’s supposed discontent only deepened after the Suns’ 128-114 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in which he had only 16 points on 4-for-11 shooting along with six turnovers. Soon after, pundits and fans were accusing him of being mentally checked out.
The following day, former NBA player Brandon Jennings tweeted that “KD should leave SUNS,” adding, “They cursed man. He doesn’t deserve this.” That tweet was shared across multiple accounts, getting millions of views and sparking a debate over whether Durant does indeed deserve this.
“That whole few days was so trash to me because it was all speculation about what I may be thinking based off of body language; I’m not smiling enough,” Durant said. “…There wasn’t even no smoke there. That was just one game, man. Everyone needed something to write right before Christmas.”
As for Jennings’ comments, Durant believes they took on an unfortunate life of their own.
“The people that respond to that as if I said something, that’s really delusional to me,” Durant said. “Brandon Jennings can have his ideas and opinions, but to act like it came from me is the wildest part. I don’t talk to this guy. He’s got his own opinions on the league, which is fine. But the response to that was like I was saying it. Like, why are [people] even spending this much time worrying about … Does KD deserve better? Or he doesn’t deserve better? Like, why are you even talking about this?”
Durant, who is having an MVP-caliber season, averaging 29.6 points on 52.3 percent shooting from the field, 47.3 percent from beyond the arc, 6.4 rebounds and 6.0 assists a game, underscored that he remains committed to the Suns even as they’ve skidded to a 19-18 start with Durant, Devin Booker and Beal only playing five games together.
“I love that we’re struggling almost because we can learn from it and get better and move forward from it,” Durant said. “Obviously, I don’t love struggling. But I like finding good things out of winning basketball games. The more film we watch, the more pride we take. The tougher it is, the better we’ll become from it. That’s my mentality the whole time.”
The truth is, even if he is frustrated at times, he’s now a bit afraid to acknowledge it because of these situations. He doesn’t want his message to get twisted, especially considering he feels as though words keep being put in his mouth.
“Me talking about any frustration is going to turn into people thinking that I’m checked out or I’m trying to ask for a trade,” Durant said. “So, me saying that I’m frustrated, I don’t even want to talk like that. Like, I’m happy about everything.”
Durant believes this is a perpetual issue.
He feels as though his name is always associated with drama and rumors, even when he hasn’t done or said anything to prompt it. In other words, his accomplishments are overshadowed by his criticism.
“Nobody wants to call me great,” said Durant, who, at age 35, is currently the fifth-leading scorer in the league and second in 3-point percentage. “They want to call me all these other words: Insecure, miserable, bad teammate. That’s what’s going to get [people] paid for the articles they write. They can’t write, ‘KD is such a student of the game’ or ‘He’s a great teammate’ or ‘He loves basketball.’ Nobody wants to hear that s— when it comes to me.”
Durant, a two-time champion, two-time Finals MVP, one-time league MVP and 13-time All-Star, knows he can’t control what people say about him.
What he finds unbearable is when he’s misunderstood.
He doesn’t want false tales being spun about him. Other people’s words assigned to him. Or deep meanings attributed to his every movement.
“There’s a lot of people trying to read my body language instead of talking to me and asking me, ‘Hey, what do you think?'” Durant said. “…At least come and talk to me and ask, ‘What were you thinking right there?’ Maybe I was pissed off at myself.”
Given all that Durant has contributed to the game, he believes he’s owed that.
“Why are you continuously trying to create drama around my name for no reason?” Durant said in response to the media reports. “Why are you trying to make my life miserable? That’s the question. There’s no need. Let’s just talk about what I see on the basketball court because the fan base wants to know how I’m thinking as a basketball player.”
So, Durant is just going to focus on the work. The white noise around him? It’s part of the gig. But he wants to make sure it’s not erroneously construed as coming from his mouth.
After pouring out his thoughts, Durant took a deep breath.
“Thanks for listening to my rant,” he said, hoping in a wider sense that his voice will be heard.
Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.
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