Kevin Durant ‘looking forward’ to working with Nets’ draft picks

Kevin Durant led Team USA into the medal round Tuesday, then took time to talk about the Nets’ roster moves back in Brooklyn, from the draft to free agency.

The Nets made five picks in last Thursday’s NBA draft, including two in the first round. Then on the same night Durant poured in 29 points to carry Team USA to a 95-81 win over Spain, halfway around the globe his Nets lost Jeff Green in free agency but managed to hold into starting center Blake Griffin.

“Very excited about getting Blake back,” Durant said. “Very excited about the young fellas that we got. Well, I don’t want to call them young fellas — the men that we drafted. Cam [Thomas] and Day’Ron [Sharpe], and then we got three second-round picks in [Marcus] Zegarowski, Kessler [Edwards] and [FSU’s RaiQuan Gray].

“So I’m looking forward to those guys being a part of the program. And looking forward to learning and helping them grow as much as they can and welcoming them to Brooklyn. I can’t wait to play with them.”

Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant
NBAE via Getty Images

He’ll also play with James Johnson and Patty Mills, who reached free agent deals Tuesday after Durant spoke.

But moments after leading Team USA into the medal round — now just two wins shy of claiming his third Olympic gold medal — Durant talked about how important it was to bring back Griffin. The veteran started every game in the playoffs at center, and keeps the lineup intact going into next season when the Nets are currently favored to win the title.

“To have Blake back, I’m so excited,” Durant said. “I mean, as soon as the season was over, I was telling him that we want him back and telling him that, you know, we should try to do it again. And I was glad to see it get done.”

Nets GM Sean Marks had hoped to keep both Griffin and Green, although that was never likely to happen. And after having to settle for five straight veteran minimum deals — something Green openly said confused him — Durant’s longtime friend landed a two-year, $10 million contract in Denver.

“Blake and Jeff meant so much to us last year, and it was good to be around them. But it’s a business, you know? Guys have got families and lives that they try to live,” Durant said. “So for him to get that deal, it was something that he was looking forward to it and happy for him, and can’t wait to see him again and play against him again.

“But we move forward, you know? Move forward. And guys step up and it’s just been our mentality since I got to Brooklyn. So, looking forward to playing it back and building on what we did last year. And so it’s great to have continuity in your locker room in the NBA, especially in this business. Because guys could get traded away, cut in a matter of seconds; so it’s good to have that continuity.”

The Nets may have continuity in the starting lineup and at the front of the rotation, but the back end of the roster will go through some changes. With five draft picks coming on — as well as some other free agents — there will be a learning curve.

“I think its going to be an adjustment period. It’s a different game than it was in college,” Durant admitted. “Talking to the coaching staff, you just can tell those guys love to play. I think that it’ll be a fun transition for them, and I’m looking forward to helping as much as I can.

“Feed off of that young energy as well. We definitely need that in our locker room. So I’m super excited about having them. I can’t wait to see what they do in their careers, but especially starting with summer league, so I’m definitely going to be watching and rooting for them and giving advice as much as I can and just being there for them.”

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