Warriors

Kevin Durant Q&A: Warriors star addresses legacy, why NBA won't fulfill him

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Kevin Durant Q&A: Warriors star addresses legacy, why NBA won't fulfill him

In my time covering the Warriors, Kevin Durant has come across as a philosopher. He self-critiques. He studies the game. In a career that's already Hall of Fame worthy, what motivates him to do more?

I sent him a message when the Warriors went on the road: Would you like to talk about the things you want for your legacy? He said yes.

The following Q&A has been lightly edited for clarity.

Q: Looking at your accomplishments, you have scoring titles, gold medals, championships, MVPs. Even in the fun stuff, you’re an MVP like (the All-Star Game) in Charlotte. As you think about all of your accomplishments, what else would you like to achieve?

KD: It's more so, what else do I want to experience? How do I see myself playing on a possession-by-possession basis, do you know what I’m saying? That’s what I’m looking forward to. How can I be the best version of myself every time I get on the court?

And that’s a journey and a battle in itself. I think if I focus on that, more so than what’s the next accomplishment, it will just happen organically.

I never really planned anything in my career. I never really said I wanted to get a scoring title or an MVP or a gold medal. … Just put me in this arena or this environment, and let’s see what happens. That’s always been the approach. Luckily, I’ve been able to accomplish some things.

Are you battling against yourself every day?

Yeah, most definitely. I think we all are. We’re trying to be better than we were yesterday. Trying to learn every step of the way.

I also want to celebrate the wins that I have. Even the small ones. Whether it’s making a jump shot, or a step-back three. I want to feel good shooting that shot, even in Charlotte, because I haven’t made one of those in a while and make it. That was a win for me.

I try to look at the small stuff like that, and hopefully the championships and MVPs and accolades ... that stuff will follow.

So, now the legacy question. What do you want to leave behind in basketball?

It’s always been about ... once more than just my family members knew me, I felt like my legacy as a basketball player was kind of set. Because I spent so much time grinding and only my close friends knew what I did ... and now to be out on this stage, just to be here, for one. A lot of people don’t make it. But to also go to the next level. ... I feel like my legacy was stamped to the people who are really important to me since Day 1.

What do you want in free agency? How does legacy play into your next step?

It ... it doesn’t. Like I said, I’m just focused on the day to day. How can I be the best player I can be? Can this environment help me be the best player than I can be every day? Am I still learning? Am I still having fun being a student of the game?

Just the small stuff that I try to [think about], to make sure I have everything covered so I can be the best I can be on the court.

I’m going to ask you this question, and I know people will interpret it as a free agent question, but with your skills and what you’ve accomplished, do you feel the need to “build something” somewhere else? Do you need that for yourself?

I don’t need anything in this basketball world to fulfill anything in me. The NBA is never going to fulfill me. It’s going to make me feel good about all of the work that I’ve put in, but I think those days of me wanting to prove something to anybody or walk around with a huge chip on my shoulder is not my thing.

It wasn't before, and I felt like I had to program myself to play with a chip on my shoulder, but I’m never good in that situation. I’m more relaxed and letting these days flow. I’m the best version of me.

I don’t feel like I need anything like that to prove who I am. I’ve been in it for too long.

I like that you said, ‘The NBA will never fulfill me.’ That’s really powerful. What are the things that fulfill you?

Being around family. Being around friends. The people who actually love you deep down to your core, who won’t judge you, who will let you grow mentally, physically, you know? Just let you be who you are. I like those environments.

I love to continue to push the limits on who I am as a person. Just the flow of life and the type of people I want to be around, the environment I want to live in.

All that stuff will fulfill me more so than anything … just building toward something that’s sustained when I’m not even here on this earth. My family could be straight when I die. That’s the type of stuff I tend to think about.

I know the NBA helped me get there, but I’m not going to be forever indebted to the NBA because this is a 50-50 exchange. I’ve worked hard to get here, to be at this level, and they gave me a platform to showcase what I can do. We both helped each other out. That’s how I look at it.

Why Warriors are in power position with Alec Burks at NBA trade deadline

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Why Warriors are in power position with Alec Burks at NBA trade deadline

Alec Burks has made it clear that even in this deeply afflicted season he enjoys being a Warrior and is interested in remaining beyond his one-year contract, to see what it’s like to play with the fully restored roster expected to grace the court next October.

And he’d be good to have around. He’s a versatile wing, a proven scorer, a mature presence and would be fabulous as part of a revamped second unit.

To understand why, consider the work he put in Monday night in Portland: 33 points (team-high) on 11-of-23 shooting, including 2-of-6 from deep and 9-of-9 from the line; eight assists, seven rebounds, two blocks and one steal in 39 minutes.

What contender wouldn’t want someone who can produce that on a $2.32-million salary?

Aside from Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, who scored an astonishing 61 points to lead his team to a 129-124 overtime victory, Burks was the best player on the floor.

That performance also provides the kind of video that will raise his already solid stock on the trade market. It puts the Warriors, 17 days before the NBA trade deadline, in the flexible -- and enviable -- position of choice.

They can hold onto Burks and see if they can strike a deal to bring him back.

Or they can move him for future assets, which still seems most likely.

Several teams in recent weeks have expressed interest in Burks, according to league sources, and some have gone so far to scout him. That’s not likely to change. There is demand for veteran, low-maintenance wings unbothered by circumstances and capable of creating offense for both themselves and teammates.

The Warriors, for obvious reasons, continue to be very much involved in trade buzz around the league. The general belief is they’ll make at least one move and maybe two before the noon deadline on Feb. 6. 

Burks, with his ability to get buckets, remains their most valuable chip. Glenn Robinson III is a veteran wing, but he lacks the offensive dimension of Burks. Willie Cauley-Stein is a decent veteran center at a time when only exceptional centers are above being interchangeable.

With a 10-35 record and playoff teams Utah (Wednesday) and Indiana (Friday) coming to town, the Warriors likely will maintain their grip on the NBA’s worst record, a status they’ve held most of the season.

Moreover, with or without making a move, the Warriors are a virtual lock to post one of the three worst records in the league, thereby gaining advantageous position for the draft lottery.

There will be many more games like Monday, with the Warriors in it late but fall short down the stretch. That’s the roster they have, and the shortcomings are particularly acute when Draymond Green is sidelined.

“A lot of mistakes down the stretch in the second quarter, and again down the stretch of the game, regulation and overtime,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters at Moda Center. “I didn’t help the guys out much, I could have done some things better as well, so it was a group effort.

“But they’re competing, they’re playing together, they’re playing hard.”

That’s code for the desire to “build good habits,” an oft-used phrase this season. The goal, however, which went all caps once it was known Steph Curry would miss most of the season, is to audition the majority of the non-rookies on the roster. The only exemptions were known commodities Kevon Looney, who has missed 35 games, and Green, who has missed 13. They’re still exempt, for different reasons.

Everyone else, including D’Angelo Russell, is on trial and subject to discussion. The general belief is that D-Lo is almost certain to be moved but probably not during the season.

Which brings us back to Burks, who is both uncomplicated to deal and coveted. His contract is relatively simple to absorb.

[RELATED: Dubs' mistakes doom any chance of win in Dame's big night]

The Warriors have 17 days to make decisions that will impact next year and beyond much more than this year.

Though it would be nice to have Burks on the bench when Klay Thompson and Curry are healthy, the Warriors might feel he is even more valuable now than he might be then.

Warriors' mistakes doom any chance of win in Damian Lillard's big night

Warriors' mistakes doom any chance of win in Damian Lillard's big night

PORTLAND -- In the final minute of Monday's matchup against the Trail Blazers, Warriors guard Alec Burks hit two free throws to put the Warriors up three points and in position for their 11th victory.

But 10 seconds later, Blazers guard Damian Lillard made a 3-pointer  to tie the game. D'Angelo Russell then missed a contested 3-pointer, sending the game into an overtime in which the Warriors were outscored 16-11, prompting another loss for the NBA's worst team. 

For a unit with winning ambitions, they've become especially creative in fading in clutch moments. On a night Lillard needed a career-high and an extra session to beat the battered Warriors, Golden State sees the loss as a game botched by untimely mistakes. 

"It was a game that got away from us," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said following the 124-129 loss. 

Three hours before Kerr's declaration, a win seemed feasible. In the second quarter, the Warriors held the Blazers to just 27 percent from the field, taking a 12-point lead, despite playing with only eight players. As the Warriors succeeded, Alec Burks shined, scoring 33 points with seven rebounds and eight assists. Along the way, mistakes crippled chances to blow the game open. 

When the Warriors went up 44-35 with four minutes left in the half, Damion Lee fouled Lillard behind the 3-point line, prompting three free throws. Fifteen seconds later, Eric Paschall fouled Mario Hezonja, leading to two more free throws. By the end of the second quarter, a 10-point lead was cut to four.  

More troubling was Golden State's late-game execution. After taking a six-point lead in overtime, the Blazers ended the evening on a 14-3 run as Lillard swished in his 61st point with four seconds left. At night's end, the Blazers made 27 free throws, 16 of which came from Lillard, much to Kerr's chagrin. 

"The game was there for the taking," Kerr said. "You could feel it in the first half. That game was right there for us. You've got to be better. Our effort was good but our execution was not." 

Kerr's frustrations are legitimate and derive from a troubling trend. Of the team's last 11 losses, three have come despite the team leading in the fourth quarter. Dating back to last season, the Warriors have lost their last nine overtime games. 

Five days ago, the team lost to the Nuggets in overtime despite entering the fourth quarter with a 12-point lead. Over the final two quarters, Golden State was outscored 61-46. Six days before the loss to Denver, the Warriors were outscored 36-17 in the fourth quarter by the Clippers, losing their seventh straight.

Following his team's latest demise, Kerr passed blame around the locker room. 

"A lot of mistakes down the stretch in the second quarter and again down the stretch -- a lot at the end of the game and regulation and overtime," he said. "And I didn't help the guys much, I could've helped the guys out as well. It was a group effort. They're competing, they're playing together, they're playing hard. It's just frustrating."

[RELATED: What names did Charles Barkley just call Steph and Klay?]

A silver lining in Golden State's troubles can be seen along its sidelines Friday evening. With franchise pillar Steph Curry in a suit and former All-Star Draymond Green on the end of the bench, the listless Warriors nearly pushed Portland to the brink. But, as Kerr and his team know well, success is measured by wins over development. 

"I think we played well," Warriors forward Marquese Chriss said. "There are little things that we can fix that might change the way that the game turned out. All we can do at this point is to learn from it and talk about it and try not to let it happen again."