When Kevin Durant took the floor in Wednesday night's 141-102 win, and immediately began blistering the San Antonio Spurs with his deadeye shooting, it was only a prelude for the fireworks to come.
The postgame interview session, Durant’s first public comments since Jan. 28, devolved into the purest sort of theater: That of a man unleashing his frustrations, honestly and furiously, without regard for decorum.
At the root of it all was the Knicks trading All-Star forward Kristaps Porzingis last week to clear salary-cap space for at least one, and perhaps two free agents in July.
Durant becomes a free agent on July 1. New York for much of this season has been considered his possible destination.
And he clearly has had enough of the chatter.
“It’s unnecessary,” Durant said with considerable exasperation. “You’ve got a dude, Ethan Strauss (of The Athletic), who comes in here and just gives his whole opinion on stuff and makes it feels like it’s coming from me. He just walks around here, don’t talk to nobody. Just walks in here and surveys and then writes something like that. And now y’all piling on me because I don’t want to talk to y’all about that.
“I have nothing to do with the Knicks,” he continued. “I don’t know who traded Porzingis. That’s got nothing to do with me. I’m trying to play basketball.
“Y’all come in here every day, ask me about free agency, ask my teammates and my coaches, you rile up the fans about it. Let us play basketball. That’s all I’m saying. And now when I don’t want to talk to y’all it’s a problem with me. Come on, man. Grow up. Grow up. Yeah, you (Strauss). Grow up. Come on, bruh.”
This was Durant, straight up, emptying his emotional clip on local media – Strauss in particular – for generating and participating and perpetuating the speculation that upon becoming a free agent New York is at least a possibililty.
The Durant-Strauss exchange lasted for the better part of a minute, with Durant firing most of the shots. He didn’t shout. He didn’t cuss. He didn’t threaten. He was stern and controlled, yes, but it was as if nine days of silence came tumbling out, straight, uncut and volcanically.
“I come in here and go to work every day,” Durant said. “I don’t cause no problems. I play the right way – or I try to play the right way. I try to be the best player I can be, every possession. What’s the problem? What am I doing to y’all.
“Who are you?” he directed to Strauss, who pointed out that Durant had been available and accessible all season, until last week. “Why do I gotta talk to you? Tell me? Is that going to help me do my job better? Nah, bruh. I didn’t feel like talking.”
Durant is right about his routine. He works as hard as he always has. He’s productive. He’s a good teammate most of the time, which can be said of any superstar in the NBA.
He’s wrong, however, about the free agency dialogue. It’s not daily, at least not among local reporters. I haven’t asked about it once, and no one has made it a regular issue -- with good reason.
Durant said before the season, after signing a deal with the Warriors with an opt-out clause, that he wanted to keep his options open.
That topic has, by and large, been respected. It resurfaces from time to time, such as last week. Boston’s Kyrie Irving, who last summer told Celtics fans he planned to re-sign, backed off that and said he owes nobody anything. Because Durant and Irving are mutual admirers, that, along with the Porzingis deal, was enough to open the door once more.
But this was his moment to speak his mind.
“I just don’t trust none of y’all,” he said. “Every time I say something, it gets twisted up and thrown out into so many different publications. Trying to tear me down with my words. So when I don’t say nothing, it’s a problem. I just want to play ball. I just want to go to the gym and go home. That’s all. Is that a problem? All right then.”
Then Durant was asked about the game in which he made his first six shots, and scored 15 first-quarter points. He finished with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-4 from deep. He added nine assists, eight rebounds and three steals, was plus-28 over 29 minutes.
He was fantastic.
He also was too upset to discuss it.
“I’m done,” he said. “You know you don’t care about that.”