Kevin Durant is a four-time scoring champion. That part of his game has never been questioned. But, his defensive prowess has always come second in NBA circles.
"I've been a scorer my whole life," Durant said to ESPN's Chris Haynes. "I've been a one-on-one player my whole life. All I've thought about in the past was different ways to score, rather than different ways to impact the game."
Through 11 games this season, Durant has has been a star on defense while averaging 24.8 points per game at the same time. Durant has blocked 27 shots this season, second to only 7-foot-1 center Rudy Gobert (28), and is averaging a career-high 2.5 blocks per game, tied for the NBA lead with Gobert.
Durant's previous high for blocks per game was 1.6, a mark he set last year in his first season with the Warriors.
"I just want to be counted on by my coaches and my teammates in those situations," Durant said. "I don't want my coach to have to pull me out the game in situations in the fourth quarter because I can't play defense and then they need to go to a defense-offense [substitution pattern]. I don't want to be that player. I never wanted to be that player. So that's what I feared more than anything."
Though his defense has been noticed on a much higher scale the last two seasons playing for the Warriors, Durant says that side of the game really started to be a focus for him two seasons before joining Golden State.
"I didn't want to be the guy where all the film clips are about how they back-doored me, or how someone drove around me or how I'm not contesting shots. I was more so just nervous about being called out during film sessions. That's why I wanted to get better."
And now, that focus level has increased with each passing day while learning from players like Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Steph Curry, among others.
"It's contagious," Durant said. "If you're seeing that all the time, and it's creating points for you, that s-- is fun. It's fun when you get your teammates involved on both ends of the floor and you're all as one out there on the basketball court. You don't want to be the liability, and that's what I'm fighting against."