USA Basketball: Thunder Trio Eager For Another Shot To Win It All … In London

LAS VEGAS – You’d think Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden would be sick of seeing each other by now.

The Oklahoma City Thunder trio have been going basically non-stop since the NBA season opened, grinding away through every milestone together just as they have throughout their NBA careers.

Nearly every prominent professional first, both good and bad, has come together. Their first taste of playoff success, their first trip to the Western Conference finals, their first appearance in The Finals and the fallout that comes with falling short on that grand stage.

That’s why their time on the U.S. Olympic team, and even their time here at USA Basketball training camp, isn’t something they’ll take for granted. While it can’t completely wipe away the sting of losing to the Heat in The Finals the way they did, Westbrook said, it’s at least a start on the road to redemption for the Thunder’s young core.

“Being here and having the opportunity to win a gold medal is one way to make my summer feel halfway decent,” he said. “But you always want to win a championship when you have the opportunity staring you in the face. And it’s great we get to be together all summer. We had a break from each other, for about two days. That was it. I’m used to seeing Kevin every summer and now James. So that’s great.”

The Thunder’s stars headline a group of newcomers to the Olympic experience who will fill in for Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, all of whom key parts to a gold medal-winning outfit in Beijing four years ago.

But they are walking into this experience with the full respect of their new teammates. You don’t win as much as they have the past two NBA season and amass as many honors as they have and still have teammates doubting your readiness for this competition.

Durant and Westbrook served notice two years ago in Turkey, helping the U.S. team to gold in the 2010 World Championship. They were basically locks for this team.

“Well first of all, this young man was born to play the game. He’s a coach’s dream,” USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said of Durant. “He has great character, he has great passion for the game. And then his skills are off the charts. He plays with such enthusiasm that it’s difficult to keep him off the floor and in the World Championships he just rose to another level.”

Westbrook is the perfect tonic for a team that won’t have Wade’s relentless approach on both ends of the floor to lean on this time around. The Heat star led the Beijing team in scoring and spearheaded their defense with his wicked ball pressure without starting a single game.

“I think (Russell) Westbrook gets D-Wade’s role for us,” Kobe Bryant said. “He pushes the ball and gets to the rim and can defend all over the floor. One thing D-Wade did for us was extend possessions for us and create steals that resulted in a lot of easy run-out baskets for us. Russell’s just as good at doing that.”

U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski watched Westbrook work in The Finals and knew he was getting a different player this time around than the one he saw in Turkey.

“There isn’t a more explosive player. I love Russell and I think he’s a great player,” Krzyzewski said. “It baffles me how people can be so critical of him. He’s sensational. His ball pressure. His offensive rebounding. His athleticism is off the charts … it’s an honor to coach him. He is such a versatile player and as good an athlete as there is on this planet playing basketball. He plays with an abundance of energy and courage.”

Harden, however, had to edge out Eric Gordon for his spot on the team.

“I think he surprised people,” Colangelo said. “Two months ago he was on the radar screen, but not shining brightly necessarily. Given the opportunity, he finished so strongly this season, he gave us something to really sit back and think about. He has size, he has length at his position. Defensively, he’s more than adequate. He comes up with a lot of loose balls, a lot of steals and he is a scorer. And by the way, he can also shoot it. I think there’s a little bit of a difference between the two. Tough choice we had to make: Eric Gordon, James Harden. Harden deserved it for the reasons I mentioned and we expect him coming off the bench as he did and he’s accustomed to and to play whenever he’s called upon.”

Any concerns about Harden’s struggles in The Finals carrying over into this process were washed away with the work he put in when this team assembled for the start of camp last week, Krzyzewski said.

“He’s just performed on Broadway, in a hit show,” Krzyzewski said. “He had the pressure of performance under the most intense light, against the Mavericks and the Lakers and against San Antonio. And then to be in the [The Finals] … in a lot of those situations, he was the best player on the floor for certain periods of time. And he understand the role of coming off the bench. I think it’s a good choice for us. He earned it, while he’s here. But also with what he’s done.”

Now it’s about what has to be done for the Thunder’s tremendous trio. They still have a chance to walk away from their summer with the ultimate hardware, with an Olympic gold medal replacing that Larry O’Brien trophy they’ve already missed out on.

“It’s just an honor and a blessing to be on this team, to represent your country in the Olympics,” Durant said. “And to be able to do it with Russ and James makes it even better.”

46 Comments

  1. Brenda says:

    I love OKC Thunder! And getting to watch my boys this summer play for the USA team is going to be like a peanutbutter and jelly sandwich…SWEET!

  2. MiQi says:

    C’mon guys the OKC key is Ibaka’s intimidation…and he is playing for another country!
    Go Spain go, beat them all!

  3. Swish says:

    Hey guys I’m from Germany and I personally think that this team will blow out every other team in the Olympics. Sure it’s different from playing in the NBA and Europe teams aren’t bad. The only team that has a chance to frighten the US-Team is Spain though cause they got some real good players… anyway since Germany is not part of the Olympics considering basketball I’m rooting for USA!! So excited to see the show of some of the best basketball players in the world right now!! :)

  4. jamie says:

    All the people saying Westbrook wouldnt have made it if Rose was here are way off. Look what happened in Beijing and the World Championships – who got benched by Coach K cuz he couldn’t shoot,Rose. Who took over and helped Durant win it all for USA, Westbrook. Look at Roses MVP season… compare his stats to Westbrooks – they are very similar.

    Dont get me wrong, I’m a fan of Rose and think hes an awesome player… But Wesdtbrook is a lil better.

  5. Mark says:

    Rondo didnt get a spot because over half of the team dont like him and would not play on the team with him running it. Just like why Isiah was not picked in the Dream Team. Thats the thing with boston players, Rondo.Paul pierce etc there only friends in the offseason is Rondo and Paul pierce hahaha. The have got it right with the guards

  6. KJAMES says:

    this 2012 mens basketball usa team will be enough to blow up foreign teams….talk about athleticism, shooting, defence and versatility and a dose of basketball IQ…it will be awesome of the charts…and a bit of the 1992 dream team..a bit…but a lot if dhoward and drose and aldridge is there…a gold is coming for this team mark my words…no doubt…

  7. ray says:

    james harden should not be there but whatever, he’ll play nothing more than the michael redd benchrole anyway…

  8. gadon says:

    hello for u’im from europe and u dont understand why theres no shooters un this team like gordon,korver or other players cause the team will defense the us team just zoon defence and niether kobi or lebron or westbrook r not a pure shooters

  9. Kahin says:

    I saw a few comments in there about Bosh being a big man. Don t agree. He is a weak power foward. he can shot, but never with someone on his face, only in pick and roll. Also, wesbrook should not be there, he is selfish, he will break this team like he did OCK. Great player, but to individuel for team USA. Once he gets hot, he gets hot. But himbeing hot and going more often to the net will cool off the better player (again like he did to Harden and KD during the finals). This guy will break this team.

    • OkieThunder says:

      I take it you haven’t seen many Thunder games. They would have never been in the Finals if not for RDub and Beard. I can say they are intregal to the Thunder’s success. Don’t speak of things you know nothing about.

  10. Choker says:

    It would have been great if the Heat Big Three and the Thunder trio was in the Olympic team. I’m pretty sure it would be that awkward

  11. KnickerBocker says:

    harden is only there because hes pretty good but not as good as gordon but he is used to coming off the bench and used to kd and russ. rondo is better but the reasons are there

  12. Sir P says:

    What about choking in the finals (NOT KD) is that another accomplishment for Hardin, and Westbrook?!?!?!

  13. toronto416 says:

    im from toronto canada so now u know why i feel giving his all to the celtics more important instead of team usa, and i dont care where your from i hope u feel the same cuz playin for the celts is his job and we need him to bring us another championship banner boiii watch it happend next year (david stern voice) lets congratulate okc for another great run (BOOOOOO!) , and now the 2013 nba champions the great BOSTON CELTICS!!!!!!!!

    • wadefan says:

      ok.. im actually originally from just outside of toronto.. still have family in markham, richmondhill, and scrabarough.. but country pride is a big deal.. being able to say that you have an olympic gold medal while representing your country should mean a lot to anybody.. no matter where you are from.. and he wouldnt have made it ahead of anybody other than possibly westbrook.. but westbrook wouldnt have even made it if d rose was alright

      • toronto416 says:

        ayy, there not playing to bring the gold to canada so it dont concern me, the celtics do though. and no you are wrong westbrook can play the 2 gaurd especially internatioonal ball ,thats where i think he fits best on this squad and thats where he will be playing mostly watch and seee, anyway him and rondo bak court would have been amazing to see on def aand O. rondo would have most def. made the team if he wants and harden would of been out and if you want to mention rose that is a whole different topic jus like ssayin if dwight, wade, bosh were healthy it woulda been way different team

    • OkieThunder says:

      What does Toronto have to do with the Celtics? You have a team called the Raptors. I can’t stand sports fans that don’t support their roots and just cheer for the winning teams. Pathetic

  14. toronto416 says:

    rondo withdrew from the 2010 world championship his shooting did play a part but i think he would of styll made it if he wanted, plus he went deep into the playoffs last 5 years he need to rest up a lil so he can give it his all when hes in that green which is way more important, hes right tho why play 4 free anyway, save it all 4 the celtics

  15. Twenty Seven says:

    Well, if you guys still wondering why Rondo didn’t make it, the answer is:
    He declined the invitation, said that he wanted a rest for this summer. And yes, as all these people have said, Shooting is the key in International Games.
    your best bet is to have at least 2 all-rounded shooters on the floor together. That’s it.

  16. I feel good about the USA’s chances for getting the gold. They still have a pretty deep team despite the injuries, and people having to withdraw. Hope everyone on this team stays healthy and bring home the gold.

    • wadefan says:

      the injuries definitely hurt them though.. imagine a 12 man roster of
      PG : Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose
      SG : Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade
      SF : LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony
      PF : Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge
      C : Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh

      arguments can be made for chandler, westbrook, and maybe griffin just on the entertainment value side of things.. but iggy and harden definitely wouldnt have made the team if those players werent injured

  17. Squeeboy says:

    Rondo withdrew from the 2012 USA team, and reportedly has had no interest in International basketball since.

  18. DNice says:

    Rajon has issues with authority

    Ejected from Atlanta playoff game (bumping referee)
    Ejected from Piston’s game (throwing a ball at referee)

    Not the player I would want representing USA backetball!

  19. GreenMachine9 says:

    wheres rondo? Top 5 player in nba…

    • FettaFetta says:

      Wheres his shot? Not falling in the basket and thats what they need – scoring and shooting, which Rondo isnt known for.

  20. JT says:

    Harden, Should never have made this team (Westbrook and Durant for sure) but Harden, not yet an elite player.

    • UFC iTard says:

      It’s not about being an elite player it’s about chemistry and willingness to be coached.

    • K_S85 says:

      Have you not seen how Harden came off the bench, he may not be an elite player but he has enough skills to help the team. Isn’t Blake Griffin on the team aka only good for dunks, I rather Harden over Blake

      • wadefan says:

        harden is on the team because wade is hurt.. also.. if d.rose wasnt hurt it wouldnt have been much harder for westbrook to have made the team as well.. bosh might have kept griffin off.. howard would’ve been on for sure if he wasnt hurt.. aldridge might also have knocked somebody off.. but thats a tough one

  21. Next year, we will do it again! says:

    The trio will have a better chance with LeBron and Kobe helping them.

    • UFC iTard says:

      Thank you Captain Obvious. News Flash: Water is wet, fire is hot!!! Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the known universe!!!

  22. two says:

    I just don’t get how Rondo didn’t get a spot.

    • JDish says:

      I know what your saying, but it’s so hard to get a spot on Team USA when Rondo is competing against Chris Paul, DWill, and now Russell Westbrook – 3 of the top 5 point gaurds in the NBA, with Rondo being one of those five. It’s just that hard and Rondo would have to show out versus those three guys, or atleast beat out Westbrook to have secured that last spot.

    • StandingUp says:

      Well I think we got enough PG. But I still don’t think Harden should be on this team while rondo can’t. Harden is no where as good as rondo.

      • QuestionMark says:

        Doesn’t matter if Harden got in and Rondo didn’t, Rondo was competing with Westbrook, D-Will and CP3, not Harden. Westbrook is an athletic dynamic scorer, he obviously stays, CP3 and D-Will are both playmakers/scorers, Rondo is more of a playmaker than scorer.

      • Nonbiasedfan says:

        Rondo could’ve made it if they weren’t lacking size. the team right now is looking for more versatility hence James Harden. Rondo is a great PG but he only has 1 specialty and that’s playmaking. team USA already has loads of playmakers LBJ, CP3, DWill, Harden, Kobe, Westbrook. basically their guards are all playmakers/scorers/ can defend at least 2 positions size wise. this i think is why Rondo didn’t get selected. it’s not about who’s better but it’s about what the team needs to win the gold

    • UFC iTard says:

      Because Rondo can’t shoot and they’re going to see a lot of zone defense.

      • Thats spot on. International game there is no 3 second rule so you can just set a zone and camp under the basket. Rondo not being a reliable shooter will be a big weakness

    • @ErikSverkholt says:

      Rondo declined an invitation to Team USA, that’s why he’s not joining.
      And of course I agree he’s an amazing player, but international competition is a bit different than the NBA.
      As mentioned above, you need guys who can flat out shoot the ball, and that’s not Rondo’s strongest suit.

      In my opinion, you cant really compare him to James Harden either, but at least James can shoot.
      I think the team choice was fine, considering the options they had.
      The reason Harden got a spot over Eric Gordon was obviously because of the great season he had, whilst Gordon didnt play much at all. And I guess Harden impressed the coaches enough before they slimmed the squad down.
      I trust this team to take down the gold. Any other outcome doesnt seem likely :)

      • wadefan says:

        they are fairly lucky about the injuries though.. harden wouldnt be on the team if wade didnt get hurt.. and that argument could be made for westbrook as well if d rose didnt get hurt.. this team would be soo much better if they were able to put wade, bosh, rose, and howard on the team..

        not even a big bosh fan, never have been.. but he is well built for the international game compared to the nba style

      • B says:

        Rondo was banned from playing with team USA because of last timehe left team usa to go see former player of his Kendrick Perkins get married.

    • jyl says:

      Rondo didn’t want to be on the team i think

    • three says:

      he didnt try out

      • Nathan says:

        I think Rondo turned down an invitation and he cant shoot but this USA team dont really need a pg like Rondo, Rondo is so good at getting his celts team mates good shots but this usa team has some many players that can get their own shot so Rondo not really necessary

  23. Willy says:

    I am as many other fans are very happy for your opportunity and also for your professionalism and love for this game! This will be fun to watch as well!!!

    • Sane Fan says:

      I disagree. While I thank them for their service at the same time it’s moronic. I’m just waiting for a career ending injury to happen to one of these AMAZING players in a game that they aren’t even getting paid for! Last olympics we put together a modern version of the dream team and kicked everyone’s butts proving that U.S.A. still has it so I don’t see the point in players risking their careers to do it again.

      Honestly, I don’t know about you but I’d rather they get some rest and gear up for a season they’re being paid for and for their respective teams that we are paying to watch and leave the Olympics to the rookies. That’s the way it used to be BEFORE the Dream Team started it all. But I wouldn’t go back to amateurs but I would keep it NBA Rookies and d-league players.

      But let’s say LeBron blows his knee out in the Olympics, EVERYONE is going to be saying the same thing I am. This is stupid.