Quite the busy offseason for Durant
The Thunder's Kevin Durant is busy with a variety of projects this offseason
The All-Star is even playing himself in a family-friendly Warner Brothers movie
Disagreements in the locker room are a part of the daily grind in the NBA
Anyone who thinks Kevin Durant is trying to be anyone other than himself need only peek at his Twitter bio for evidence to the contrary. "IM ME, I DO ME, AND I CHILL," it reads. Or, of course, they could wait to see his starring role in a forthcoming major motion picture.
The Oklahoma City small forward, who has spent the summer perfecting his man-of-the-people persona all around the world is, in fact, playing himself in a family-friendly Warner Bros. movie that he spent the last week shooting in Baton Rouge, La.
The plot will remind no one of Ray Allen's famed "He Got Game" and hopefully comes nowhere near the Silver Screen status of Shaquille O'Neal's "Kazaam," but it does have similar elements to Michael Jordan's Warner Bros. flick from 1996, "Space Jam."
Yet while it was the supporting stars being magically usurped of their talent in MJ's foray into film (Charles Barkley and a host of other NBA-ers had their skills stolen by the animated and evil Nerdlucks), it's Durant as the main character losing his skills this time around. A chance meeting between Durant and a young boy with no discernible hoops ability leads to Durant's game going missing as the playoffs approach.
Meanwhile, the youngster goes on to star for his high school team while Durant is left wondering how to get his groove back. Talk about Oscar worthy: Durant is being asked to deliver a believable performance by not playing well for most of the movie.
As Durant admitted in a phone interview with SI.com on Saturday, the experience has been anything but "chill." He spent weeks dreading the idea of spending days on the set, then learned firsthand how an entire day can be spent shooting a scene that lasts less than a minute. Rest assured, he has since discovered how to channel his "inner Will Smith or Denzel (Washington)."
And, while he isn't trying to be like Mike or anyone else, the way in which the soon-to-be 23-year old has grown his brand this summer has been MJ-esque. Whether shooting his first film, organizing Pro-Am Games filled with All-Stars making a now-legendary visit to Rucker Park, making clever Nike commercials with Saturday Night Live stars, or taking part in exhibition games in the Philippines and tours in China, the NBA's back-to-back scoring champion is fast becoming a household name.
A few details on the movie ... Durant has already taken part in five days of shooting in Baton Rouge and has three more next week. In between, of course, he's expected to take part in the Team Melo vs. Team Philly game in Philadelphia on Sunday that will also feature LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony and will be streamed live by SI.com.
The movie -- which has a temporary working title of "Switch" which will be, well, switched to something else by the time it comes out -- has no approximate release date because of the current lockout. While a second phase of shooting is scheduled to take place in Oklahoma City, it can't be shot during the work stoppage because Durant is not allowed to use the team's facilities. For a taste of the scene in Baton Rouge, be sure to read this first-hand account from Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman.
Q: You're probably the only guy I'd ask this question to, but how much fun has this lockout been?
A: It's been a little nerve-racking to be honest, just not knowing when you're going to start up again. But on the other side of it, it has been really fun, just going around to every different place and playing ball, something I love doing. Meeting a lot of different people. It's just funny to me that a lot of people are watching, you know what I mean? I've met guys from Chris Brown to Drake to just anybody walking on the street, and (they say), 'Man, that Rucker Park video was cool. I enjoyed watching you on YouTube.' I'm like, 'Man, I didn't know people were watching this much.' It makes me feel good, gives me a lot of confidence. At the same time, I also know that the things that we're doing in those leagues I won't be able to do in the NBA, so I've got to enjoy it right now and just try to keep getting better. That's what this is all about. That's what you use those games for is to get better. So I've had a good summer.
Q: Of all the places you've been this summer - from China to the Philippines to the Goodman-Drew game, Goodman-Melo game - I feel like the Rucker Park experience is the one that drew the most notice and went the most viral. I saw the Nike ad they put together after the fact, and it obviously resonated with people who love the game. On that day, were you just doing your thing or are you feeling and thinking differently because it's Rucker?
A: I was just playing. I was just playing, man. I was just going out there (and) I was trying to focus in and be locked in like it was an NBA game, but it was a little different. The crowd was on the floor, the guys on the other team were talking trash, so it kind of made me step up a little bit more. It was exciting. It was exciting. It was one of those nights where you wish you could play over and over again and you wish you could have that moment for the rest of your life, really. So it was exciting for me. It's something I'm going to always remember, something I'm always going to tell my grandkids and their kids (about). So it was a milestone for me, man. It's something that not too many people can say they did and something you can't take away from me.
Q: I remember more than a year ago having the small market vs. big market discussion with you down at the Staples Center in terms of stars and where they like to be. You always said how the world is getting smaller, how you don't have to be in L.A. or New York to be globally known. With this movie -- and the fact that you are a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder in this Hollywood movie -- and everything you've done this summer, it seems like that's proving your point. Do you agree and do you feel like now more than ever that's how you look at it?
A: Yeah, I think that especially with this movie more and more people will know about Oklahoma City. It's just me representing them as much as I can. With everything I do, I just try to be myself. I try to continue to show people how normal I am, really. I'm just enjoying myself, to be honest. Everything has been such a whirlwind ever since I stepped foot in the league and everything has been like a dream, so I'm just blessed to be in this position.
Q: About the movie. I heard about you getting asked to miss shots because of the whole losing-your-talent aspect, which I'd imagine took some serious acting chops to pull off. What qualifies as your first acting experience and what was your mindset in terms of this project?
A: I did a commercial coming out of college with Gilbert Arenas for EA Sports, and I guess that was sort of my introduction and my preparation for this right now. And I did a lot of commercials after that -- even though a movie is way bigger and a lot different in a lot of different ways. It made it easier for me by having me play myself, first off, and being a basketball player and doing things that a basketball player does on an everyday basis makes it more natural, more easier for me. I was just excited I got this opportunity, having an actor like Brandon T. Jackson with me because he's there with me every day (and) we have a lot of scenes together. He's making it a lot easier for me. He's a funny guy who has been through it so far and he's making me feel comfortable so I'm blessed to have a guy like him here to help me along the way. My acting coach I've got here, Richard Lawson, he's been doing good, just telling me to calm down sometimes and just be me. Again, I'm trying to be as natural as possible but also add a little acting twist to it too.
Q: How different is the experience though as far as putting the work in? I just read about how you guys spent an entire day shooting a scene that will be about a minute long.
A: Yeah man, it's tough to be here all day (for a scene that's) 30 seconds. I mean yesterday we had a scene where I had to lay down and it's probably 15 seconds of the movie but it took about four or five hours to do. It's just trying to perfect everything. It's kind of tough and kind of nerve wracking and kind of tiring to do it at first, but once you see the end project it's going to be real cool so it's one of those things you've got to try and take and (wait to) see the end project and just know that all those hours were worth it.
Q: Give me a taste of your movie personality. Favorite movie, favorite actor?
A: I enjoy family movies, stuff like this. Big Momma's House. I enjoy watching funny movies, and I also enjoy action with Will Smith and guys like that. I guess I'm trying to control my inner Will Smith or Denzel right now.
Q: So is one of those your favorite actor?
A: It's a tie between those two guys. They make everything so real and make you feel it. I guess that's what great actors do.
Q: Did you hesitate at all to jump into this project?
A: Yeah I did, because I always told myself that this is not the type of stuff I really do. But after I thought about it, it just told me to step outside the box and see where it takes me, and I'm really enjoying it. The weeks leading up to it, I was like, 'Man, this is going to be one of the worst weeks of my summer,' but I'm having one of the funnest times of my whole summer doing it too. I'm glad I decided to do it.
Q: Jump back to hoops for me for a minute. I've enjoyed seeing your progression, and it has always come from such a humble place. But now you're the back-to-back scoring champ and your team goes from the first round (in 2010) to the Western Conference finals (last season). You're on the shortlist of best players in the game, but I've got to think you have an appetite to be known as the best player in the game. How do you see your place in the league right now as far as your growth goes?
A: I'm just trying to grow. That's one thing I told myself is, 'Don't worry about who people say is the best player.' Of course I want to get there, but I know I've got a long ways to go. I just want to keep growing and see where it takes me. Every day I try to improve. Every time I step out on that floor, try to get better. Never settle for less. After it's all said and done, I can tell how hard I worked and if I end up being the best player, then of course I'm happy. I'm just going to work until I can be the best player I can be. That's all I can say.
Q: Does last season go down as a success for you?
A: It was tough. Of course every team wants to win a championship -- no doubt about that -- but you can't really say it was a failure. We won 55 games and just a year-and-a-half, two years, before that, we were projected to be the worst team ever. So after winning 105 games those next two years you can't really be complaining. Of course I want to win a championship, don't get me wrong. But I think that we grew as a team and that was our goal was to come in and always grow, always get better. I think that's what we did. I think we're on the right path right now. You really can't say it was a failure, but at the same time we all wanted to win a championship.
Q: I've always considered you the spokesman for your club, so I was going to throw something at you that has been reported and give you a chance to touch on it. There was a report about Kendrick (Perkins) and Russell (Westbrook) having some friction between them. You've always been the caretaker of the chemistry in that locker room, so weigh in on that for me.
A: Yeah, I've had arguments with Kendrick in the locker room. I've had arguments with BJ Mullens in the locker room. We're not going to agree every time. Russ would've maybe said, 'Perk, you should've ducked inside the lane and I'd have hit you for a better pass,' and Perk was like, 'Maybe I thought about this, maybe I thought about that.' So we're not going to always agree. We're going to always have arguments, but it's nothing to the point of where guys are going to walk out of that locker room and say, 'Nah, I don't like him.' We're all going to get it together and we're all going to figure it out right on the spot. That's what happens in a group. That's what makes a group great. Every team goes through it...I forgot all about it. It's over with. It's done. Everybody enjoys each other's company. We enjoy having those disagreements, because we know we're going to get better from it. To be honest with you, I forgot all about it.
Q: What's your timeline in terms of the overseas possibility? It sounded like maybe October for you in terms of waiting to see if the lockout ends anytime soon.
A: I'm just going to take it a day at a time and see what happens, and hopefully we get something resolved.