MILWAUKEE — Kevin Durant is certain to bounce back from one of the worst shooting nights of his playoff career with a better one Sunday in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Says who? The person who knows him best of all: his mother, Wanda.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Post, Wanda Durant — affectionately known as The Real MVP — opened up about the Nets star’s online profile, the narratives surrounding him, his Achilles injury and his ability to bounce back after the biggest losses, like the one Thursday in Game 3.
“He finds a way to just dig in and pull out even more from himself,” Wanda said. “Knowing him, he’s taking the loss on himself. It’s a team sport, but as competitive as he is, he’s evaluating what he could’ve done, or what he should’ve done a little differently. So he begins to strategize in his mind on what he can do.”
Durant, who has a career average of 27 points per-game, has averaged 37.2 following postseason losses since the start of the 2019 playoffs (discounting the 2019 Finals game in which he ruptured his Achilles). Wanda — who runs her The Real MVP charity in Prince George’s County, Md., but has spent more time in New York since Durant joined the Nets — opened up about the injury.
“It was one of the hardest things for me to watch because I couldn’t help. I wasn’t there physically. I was not in the arena. When I saw it, it just broke my heart. It was tough and it was difficult, and as a mom I wanted to be next to my baby,” Wanda said. “I just wanted to be there to support him, and it was really difficult.
“And after he allowed me to pamper him and do all the stuff that mothers love to do, he’s like, ‘OK mom, I’m OK now. I have this and I’m gonna be OK.’ ”
Since his 2019 surgery, Durant has been far better than OK. He joined the Nets, and after a yearlong recovery has been as efficient as ever.
“It’s mind blowing, but for me, that’s just who my son is,” Wanda said. “So, it’s not something that’s unexpected or shocking to me. It’s just Kevin being Kevin.”
Durant being Durant is a phrase that’s also used by his detractors, though never about his play, but regarding his public persona. Or at least his online persona, and the narratives that have sprung up around it.
“That’s the one thing I get disheartened about is that people don’t take the time to accept what he says about himself,” Wanda said. “There’s a narrative that sometimes people want to place him in. And no matter what it is that he does, how he plays, where he plays, what he doesn’t say or does say, they have to make it fit.”
Many of those narratives began when he left Oklahoma City for Golden State. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith called it the weakest star move he’d ever seen.
Wanda — whose charity helps with everything from COVID-19 recovery, social injustices, food donations, tutoring and mentoring for kids — questioned why Durant was villainized for joining the Warriors, but they weren’t criticized for wanting him. And now the Nets are the NBA’s most hated team for building a championship favorite.
“Some people say ‘OK, they’re building a super team and the players decided who they want to play with and that’s a problem,’ ” Wanda said. “Then the Nets say we want to build a team we think can win a championship, and then it’s a problem.
“So, what’s the happy medium? … You can’t please everybody, and everybody has an opinion about what you do.”
Durant has learned that. Whether it’s Michael Rapaport, Jay Williams or a random unverified egg on Twitter, he doesn’t shy away from engaging on social media. While some might unplug, Durant will engage and feed the trolls, for better or worse.
“You have people who’ll disconnect and you have people that are fully engaged,” Wanda said. “For [the latter], its therapeutic. The various reactions to social media, Kevin is just a part of it. So why is his first version of engagement with social media so blown up?
“And I get the superstar — the best basketball player in the world, hands down, let’s get that clear. Mama said it, and she believes it — and I get that part of it. But you have various responses and engagement levels in social media. So Kevin is just engaging in his life, and social media is just a part of our lives.
“If you simplify this to its lowest terms, this is all of us, then you won’t always have to elevate someone to be heroic or villain.”
To Nets fans, Durant is a hero. To many other NBA fans, the Nets are villains. But to The Real MVP, he’s simply Kevin.