Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets stands on the...

Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets stands on the court before their game against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on November 15, 2022 in Sacramento, California.  Credit: Getty Images/Ezra Shaw

PORTLAND, Ore. — Kevin Durant is tired of hearing that he isn’t a leader.

Durant is one of the best players in the history of the game and might be the best pure shooter, period. Yet, his Nets have never gotten past the second round of the playoffs and have been on one chaotic carnival ride since his teammate Kyrie Irving refused to get vaccinated at the start of last season.

On Tuesday night, after a stunning 153-121 trouncing by the Sacramento Kings, Durant made it clear that he is sick of being blamed for his team’s woes.

“I’m not a leader? What the [expletive] does that mean?” Durant told Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report. “A lot of people say I’m not a leader because I didn’t tell Kyrie to get vaccinated. Come on. Or I didn’t condemn Kyrie for leaving the team, going out and living his life. I’m not about to tell a grown man what he can and can’t do with his own life and dissect his views or how he thinks about [expletive].”

Durant’s leadership is a hot topic whenever he gets within driving distances of Golden State, the team he left for Brooklyn in the summer of 2019. There is no doubting his play on the floor, as he has scored 26 or more points in every one of the Nets’ 15 games this season.

Yet, with Irving suspended for an indefinite period, Ben Simmons coming off the bench after a long layoff and the rest of the surrounding cast in and out of the lineup with injuries, Durant finds himself under the microscope more than ever. And, he finds the expectations placed on the Nets right now unrealistic.

“Look at our starting lineup: Edmond Sumner, Royce O’Neale, Joe Harris, [Nic] Claxton and me. It’s not disrespect, but what are you expecting from that group?” Durant said. “You expect us to win because I’m out there. So if you’re watching from that lens, you’re expecting us to play well because No. 7 is out there.”

The Nets, 6-9 heading into Thursday’s game against Portland, have dealt with more than their fair share of drama since being swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Celtics last season. Durant was part of that in the offseason when he went to owner Joe Tsai and asked that he either be traded or the Nets fire coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks.

Neither happened immediately, though Nash and the team parted ways on Nov. 1 and he was replaced by Jacque Vaughn, a move Durant clearly thought was the right one.

“It wasn’t difficult at all to request a trade because it was about ball,” Durant said. “I went to them and was like, ‘Yo, I don’t like how we are preparing. I don’t like shootarounds. I like practices. I need more.’ . . . I wasn’t feeling that, and nobody was on that same vibe with me. Jacque Vaughn is.”

The Nets are 4-4 since Vaughn took over, and were playing well before consecutive bad games against the Lakers and Kings, a game after which Vaughn said the Nets “definitely gave maximum effort against the Clippers and we’ve been reeling since.”

Talk around the league is Durant may renew his trade request if things really go south in Brooklyn. For now, however, he says he is happy playing with this group, helping them get better.

“I’m really having a good time. I wish y’all could hear me talk during the game . . .  All that extra \[stuff\] like, ‘You got to win before you retire and make sure your legacy is straight,’ that’s [expletive] to me. My legacy is predicated on what Cam Thomas is learning from me and what he’ll take away to help him by the time he’s in his 10th year. That’s my legacy . . . Being able to play with Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry and Kyrie and still be me. Yeah, that’s my legacy.

“I can play with anybody, anywhere, at any time, and you know I’m going to bring it every day. That should be my legacy.”

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