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Gregg Popovich gives insight into what makes Nets superstar Kevin Durant so great

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Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant, left, protects the ball from San Antonio Spurs’ Tre Jones during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, in New York. The Nets won 139-103.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Kevin Durant’s greatness on the court has never been in question, and in the 2022-23 season, he has managed to have one of the best of his career as he’s helped turn the Nets year around. The NBA superstar’s play has continued to mesmerize fans on a nightly basis and has caused many to ask how Durant has remained this good or how he’s even gotten better at age 34.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich didn’t have much of a thought when asked how he thought Durant had managed to have one of his best seasons at an age when traditionally play starts to decline. Popovich didn’t have an answer not because he doesn’t think Durant has played, but rather because the Spurs coach didn’t know if Durant could get much better than he already was. 

“I haven’t really thought about it. If he gets better that would be wonderful for him,” Popovich said before the Nets defeated the Spurs on Monday night. “But I don’t know how you can get a whole lot better. He’s doing a great job. He loves the game as much as anybody has ever loved the game. He just wants to play.”

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Durant’s love of the game is well-documented and well-known throughout basketball. It’s part of the reason why some had thought that he would leave Brooklyn during the offseason after the off-the-court drama had appeared to be too much for him to deal with. 

And it was what Popovich noted when he talked about Durant on Monday and why he is the player that he is. The Spurs coach had coached Durant during the 2020 Olympic games — held in 2021 due to COVID — and saw up close the work that Durant puts in on a daily basis. 

Popovich also noted the impact it had on the other Team USA players as they saw the work Durant had put in. 

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San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich reacts during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, in New York.AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

“I don’t think a lot of people understand. They just think he’s talented and he’s really good at getting his shot off, and so on and so forth,” Popovich explained.  “When practices were over, not just the other players but the coaching staff, we’d all be mesmerized, and watch him go through his individual workout. He’d go over at one of the baskets, usually Will Hardy would take him over there, and he busted Will Hardy’s butt for like 45 minutes. Chasing balls and throwing it back to him as he did his workout starting inside and going outside and making moves, pivoting, doing the whole deal. It was just his way.

“I don’t think other players from other teams did those sorts of things. Love the game in that way to really work on all the basics all the fundamentals. It was special. He was the leader of the group, for sure.” 

Durant has had an MVP-caliber year to date this season averaging 29.6 points per game and shooting 56.4% from the field. He finished with 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting in Monday’s game against San Antonio. 

For more Nets coverage, visit amNY.com and our affiliate site at TheBrooklynGame.com

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