- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 25, 2012

ORLANDO — Kobe Bryant was a no-show for media day at NBA All-Star Weekend, but Miami’s “Big Three” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh made it as did Derrick Rose, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant.

Durant, a D.C. native and two-time scoring champion shared a few thoughts about his hometown, his NBA town, and John Wall and the Wizards.

On how his game has improved:

“I ‘think the game a little bit more this year. The mental part of it for me has grown a lot and being more of a leader on the floor and knowing that I don’t always have to look to be aggressive to score. I try to get my teammates more involved and play harder on the defensive end and just have fun. Just let my mind be free out there on the court and react off of instincts. I’m having fun playing.”

On the Dwight Howard trade rumors:

“I think it would be tough to go play basketball everyday with all that pressure on you — people always talking about him and what he’s doing. But he’s a strong-minded guy, and he does his job every single day. That’s probably his best advantage. You can’t see that it’s affecting him. He’s handling it well, I think, with everyone asking him the same questions all the time.”

On players deciding their future and his future in Oklahoma City:

“Just do what you feel is right in your heart. For me, it’s the perfect thing for me to stay in Oklahoma City. It’s something I believe in. I really love my community, my teammates, my coaches — everybody. The fans that come to the games and support us, the workers in the arena, everybody I’ve built a relationship with these last four years. This is a perfect place for me.”

On the team’s change from the Seattle Supersonics to the OKC Thunder:

“Seattle drafted me. I played there for a year. I can’t just throw them [the fans] to the side because I’m in Oklahoma City now. That’s the first city I lived in, in the NBA. We got up and moved, and it was tough for the fans in Seattle. I wish it didn’t go down the way it did, but I’m enjoying Oklahoma City, and I still love Seattle.”

“I’ll always have a place in my heart for Seattle. They’re talking about getting another team there, so we’ll see. I just fell into the right situation here, and I thank God every single day for it.”

On OKC’s championship chances:

“We’ll see. You never know what can happen these next few weeks, as far as how the season goes. We’ve got to keep being ourselves, keep working and keep improving. Any team can get hot and come through and win a championship, just like Dallas did last year. People didn’t expect that, but they had a phenomenal run. Right now, all I’m focused on is every single game and how I can get better as a player and a leader.”

On league-wide respect for the Thunder:

“I love that teams are respecting us like that, but right now it’s too early to say. The West [Western Conference] still goes through the champions in Dallas, but we’re just trying to make a little noise and establish ourselves as an organization that can go far.”

On former All-Stars vs. current All-Stars:

“I don’t know. I think I’ll have a better answer for you when all us guys retire. Those guys were legends. Guys now are just trying to get there.”

On summer workouts with LeBron James:

“I spent three or four days with him just working out. I wanted to get better. Going up there and working with one of the best players in the world is something that helped me out. If I had a chance to work out with other guys, Dirk [Nowitski] or Kobe [Bryant] or Chris Paul, or anybody to try and improve, I would have done it.”

On the fans in D.C.:

“To be honest, I made it in the NBA because of those fans. Nobody really expected me to be here. I think I already accomplished a goal for the city. I just try to keep representing for the city and the fans as best I can. I’ve got a big tattoo on my back that says ‘Maryland’, so I’m carrying them every time I step on the floor.”

“I think they’re proud of me. I just want to make them even prouder by becoming better and continuing this All-Star level, and we’ll see what happens.”

On his advice for John Wall:

“You’re playing a game that you love. It’s tough times, but it’s about how you get through adversity. It’s easy to get through having a good game or a good stretch or a good season, but it’s tough to try to stay positive when you’re not winning games or you’re not playing well.”

John is a strong-minded young point guard, and he’s a great leader. I’m very upset we lost to them, but they [the Wizards] could turn it around.”

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