Kevin Durant sees what the Bulls are building. And, by the Brooklyn Nets' superstar's own admission, he digs.
"I’m really a fan of this team," Durant told reporters after scoring 21 points in a 115-107 victory at the United Center Tuesday night.
That sentiment expands from the coaches bench to the players on the court, especially after the Bulls swung a deal to acquire two-time All-Star Nikola Vučević to pair with Zach LaVine at this season's trade deadline.
"Obviously, being coached by (head coach) Billy (Donovan) and his staff, a few of those guys on his staff, I know exactly how those guys are approaching every day as a unit," Durant, who in addition to being coached by Donovan overlapped with current Bulls assistants Mo Cheeks and Josh Longstaff in Oklahoma City, said. "And you can just see it out on the floor."
The Bulls' loss to the Nets dropped their post-deadline record to 10-16, and pushed their path to a play-in tournament berth from unlikely to nearly impossible. But Durant added that such growing pains are reasonable in a breakneck season, and that he expects them to come back stronger for 2021-22.
"Having Vučević come midseason, those guys trying to figure out who they are in such a fast pace, you know, the last 20 games of the season," Durant said. "So I feel like they’re going to figure it out even more going into next season. But they have a lot of talent, a lot of different guys that can do a variety of things. But Zach and Vooch and Coby (White) I feel like are the key pieces to this team -- and Patrick Williams."
Durant has previously been complimentary of the LaVine-Vučević-White trio. In a Twitter Spaces stream back in April, he called the Bulls' core a "great start" because of the bucket-getting ability of those three.
"When you got guys like them three, them two (LaVine and Vučević), sorry; I mean, s---, I want to throw Coby White in there too, cause I feel like he a part of their future, like he gonna be the guy as the point," Durant said then. "You got three guys that can get it from three levels on the court. I don't give a f--- what else you got. You got something with that. Two All-Stars at that, and another guy (White), who a wild card right now, but can go all crazy and get you 30 (points) any given night. When you got that on your team, that's a great start."
LaVine has always said he values the respect of his peers above all. But on the night a loss to Durant's squad just about terminated the Bulls' long-shot playoff hopes, he was more concerned with the work still to be done.
"We still have to get the job done," LaVine said. "I think we’re a better team and we’re going to continue to get better. But always having your peers’ respect is big. But you have to earn your respect as well."