Kevin Durant discusses the trade rumors about him and his desire to play 'till the wheels fall off'

LAS VEGAS — Kevin Durant’s state of mind, happiness and wanderlust always seem to be up for discussion, and even though athletes like him are trained to ignore the noise, it gets to him.

Because in large part, he knows it gets to fans and how they view him. Durant is on the verge of his fourth Olympics and to let people tell it, his fifth NBA franchise isn’t far behind.

“You could just press the 'KD want to leave' button anytime you want some attention,” Durant told Yahoo Sports in an exclusive interview Saturday afternoon following Team USA’s first practice.

“Yes, it’s a button. What else is gonna get people going around this time? Besides, 'Oh, the journeyman is leaving again.' That story is always gonna hit.”

The genesis of this conversation stemmed from draft night, when rumors began to bubble about Durant — who’s barely spent over a full season with the Phoenix Suns — and teams calling for him. The Suns have three maximum salary players, and with the new luxury tax aprons that penalize the big spenders, some began to posit the Suns could be ready to move off Durant for future draft capital.

The Houston Rockets were mentioned as a team who would be a suitor. And Durant, who’s frequently online, saw the rumblings.

“It's hard not to hear what they got to say about you,” Durant said. “Because especially when you could just make up lies and everybody gonna believe you.”

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 6: Kevin Durant #7 of the USA Basketball Men's Team looks on during USAB Men's Training Camp in Las Vegas on July 06, 2024 in Las Vegas Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2024 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
Kevin Durant will be lacing it up for Team USA in the Summer Olympics for the fourth time. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

Durant repeatedly called the claims “lies” and said he’s been in regular contact with the Suns' front office, coaching staff and players.

“So for somebody to say, ‘Phoenix wants to get out of the KD (business),’ I’m sitting here like, where is this coming from?” Durant said. “It bothers me that people lie like that and that the audience eats up the headline. I get sad when people buy into lies and just make up s***.

“It’s bigger than ball at that point for me. I can’t control that. I feel for people. It’s a bad practice to have when you just believe anything, for one. Just believe what you see on TV. And then it’s another bad habit when you’re just lying.”

Durant finished another uber-efficient season, playing 75 games — his most since 2018-19, when he tore his Achilles during Game 5 of the NBA Finals. He was a hair away from a 50-40-90 season, because he shot just 86 percent from the line, and put up 27 points, nearly seven rebounds and five assists.

He’s the all-time leading United States Olympic basketball scorer, surpassing Carmelo Anthony in 2021, and he holds the domestic record for points per game in a career, at 19.8.

Durant will reunite with Steve Kerr and Stephen Curry, and he thinks it’ll be an easy transition as this could be the most talented Olympic team since the 1992 Dream Team, or at the very least the 2008 Redeem Team — the latter of which played following Durant’s rookie year in Seattle.

But the conversation rarely centers around his longevity, or consistency. Part of it, he has courted. He left Oklahoma City as a free agent to join the Golden State Warriors in one of the most covered and dissected moves in the history of the game, then left the Bay Area to play in Brooklyn, in a move that underwhelmed to say the least.

When that fizzled out, as the Nets' relationships with Kyrie Irving and James Harden dissolved, he asked for a trade to Phoenix and found himself there on the first day of new owner Mat Ishbia’s stewardship.

It was Ishbia who sent out a powerful tweet on draft night in support of Durant, saying in part, “Phoenix loves Kevin Durant and Durant loves Phoenix, and we are competing for a championship because we have the team to do it.”

The noise, however, probably won’t stop and Durant knows it. Hence, he turns the lens to the fans who pack arenas across the states to see him play.

“Don’t let that blind you from what I’m doing on the basketball court, because that could irritate you as a fan, ‘Damn, this (guy) leaving again?’” he said.

“Even if I do leave, am I playing good basketball, though? Like, what matters? Does it matter that I got a jersey on, or the basketball I’m playing? I want better for the fans. I want them to enjoy the experience. But when you thinking about narratives and lies like that … "

The jersey he wore when he was on top of the world was blue and gold, where his basketball brilliance was fully actualized in Golden State, winning two NBA Finals MVPs in 2017 and 2018.

He hasn’t come close to that in Phoenix, losing in the second round to eventual champion Denver a year ago, and a few months ago, being swept by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round. With Mike Budenholzer stepping in as head coach, it’ll make three coaches in three seasons in Phoenix, and a long road through a lot of worthy teams before the Suns can be real contenders in the West.

Even his singular excellence hasn’t proven to be enough.

He was asked how important winning still is to him, or if being in a comfortable situation is more pertinent.

“There's a lot of things to factor in why I want to (continue to) play the game of basketball, or why I keep playing,” Durant said. “And obviously winning every game I play is important, playing with good people, playing the right way.”

“Of course, I want to win the championship. Of course,” Durant said. “I want to play well every game, like I don't even have to talk about that type of stuff. But yeah, so it's fulfilling getting up to play every day and whatever happens on top of that, it's cool.”

He chuckled at the notion of his 36th birthday being a milestone — technically, he’ll be in his late 30s. Durant has to at least start considering what the end of his career looks like.

“I’ve been a role player,” Durant said.

Well, kinda.

“I’ve always played a role. My whole career. That’s why I’m so good at basketball.”

He starts rattling off the micro roles he’s played on various teams: wing defender, ball-handler, facilitator, and one he didn’t have to mention: scorer.

“I can tap in and roll at any time,” Durant said. “It’s about how many minutes, how many shots I’m gonna get. I just love to play the game. If it's a good situation, if I'm still enjoying the game of basketball, my goal is to play this (game) till the wheels fall off, for whatever role that is, so we’ll see.”