Forget 2016, Durant’s Time Is Now!

LONDON – Mike Krzyzewski has recruited and coached enough blue chip athletes in his life to know when to and when not to push their buttons.

So there were no mind games being played four years ago when Kevin Durant was left off of the U.S Men’s Senior National Team that went to Beijing and won gold at the 2008 Olympics.

Krzyzewski knew it was just a matter of time before Durant would be on USA Basketball’s version of the varsity. Everyone knew it after watching a 19-year-old Durant dazzle in his limited opportunity with more established NBA stars.

Durant’s time came two years later in Istanbul, where he led the 2010 World Championship team to a gold medal and showed the world how quickly things can change when you’re arguably the best scorer on the planet, or at least on your way to that title, and you recognize that no one man can stop you.

Fast forward to this summer and these Olympics and it’s clear that Durant won’t have to wait until 2016 to rise to the level of more seasoned teammates like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony, the senior members of the team competing here in the Olympics. Durant’s time is now and whether he realizes or not, Durant, all of 23 and already three-time NBA scoring champ, as ascended to a leadership position in this constellation of superstars.

“I’m on him constantly,” said U.S. point guard Chris Paul, one of five holdovers (Deron Williams is the other along with James, Bryant and Anthony) from the 2008 Team. “He’s still a young guy, so to speak, and he’s such a good dude that he’s not going to try to come in here and take over or anything like that. And I don’t blame him. Everybody wants to fit in when you first get on this team. But because of who he is and what he can do for this team, he doesn’t have that luxury. And that’s just the way it is.”

Durant said he has had to adjust to his teammates demanding more from him, the role he serves normally on a Oklahoma City Thunder team that fell in five games to James and the Miami Heat in the The Finals two months ago.

But he seems to be adjusting just fine, picking and choosing his spots in wins over France and Tunisia here, and always looking to attack. And he’s not only this team’s leading scorer (17.5) through the first two games, he’s the leader in minutes (51), rebounds (9.5) and tied for the top spot in blocks and steals.

“It’s different, there’s no doubt about it,” Durant said of the role he’s playing on this team. “I’m just trying to do what I always do and that’s help my team win games. I’m not worried about anything more than that. I’m here to win a gold medal and whatever my team needs to me to do to get that done, I’ll do it.”

It’s that attitude that has made Durant a USA Basketball favorite and a staple of the program for the future, depending, of course, on what becomes of this chatter about a 23-under age limit rule.

“Kevin really has displayed for all of USA Basketball the proper sequence of being involved,” Krzyzewski said. “First, by being on a select team, then by being involved, helping others, then you learn about the international game that way. He is only 23, he is not only a great player now, he has a great future ahead of him. He is as important as anyone we have.”

That simply was not the case in 2008. There were more experienced veterans in the system who had earned their way onto that team, guys who had specific roles within that unit and who already had a familiarity with each other and the program.

Krzyzewski has no problem acknowledging it now. He’s also quick to point out the fact that Durant has to make some changes to his approach.

“The main adjustment is to play with other alpha dogs,” Krzyzewski said. “He was the guy for the ’10 team, and everybody accepted him for that. Now he is with LeBron, Kobe, Carmelo, these guys push … just so that he doesn’t hold back. The guys have been great with him, they want him to score. To me, it says a lot about our guys when they’re telling him, ‘Shoot it.’ You hear LeBron say, ‘Shoot it,’ every time. Kobe, kicking it out to him, ‘Shoot it.’ Carmelo also does it. It’s a good thing. And Kevin’s capable of a 40-point game, which he has done. And we might need that from him to win a gold medal.”

If that’s what it takes, so be it. Durant insists he’s ready for whatever.

Plus, he’s already come up short in one championship quest this summer.

Leaving here without a gold medal is an idea he can’t fathom.

“I’m focused on whatever comes next for us,” Durant said. “Nigeria [Thursday night] is the only thing on my mind. One step at a time and getting gold. That’s it.”

49 Comments

  1. Tatenda Mvura says:

    True that,honestly that Kid is a God giving talent to USA and i tell u he is on a mission that is taking that gold home.

  2. Law064 says:

    I will agree that Durant is not the leader but he is a leader. Put yourself in KD’s shoes, he know he is a great player but the senior players Kobe Lebron CP3 and Melo were on the 08 team. KD has approached this Olympic run with much respect for those vet’s on the team. That’s a reason he is being pushed to shoot, he didn’t just come in and act like hey I was here in 2010 summer games this is my team. Durant to be such a great player is young and very humble like D. Rose. He is a true leader but on this team he really don’t have to lead with the likes of Kobe Lebron and CP3. Durant is a better shooter than Lebron but all around he’s not yet. I think he will be soon just not at the moment. FYI Durant is leading in scoring and rebounding for the idiot who said he’s overrated.

  3. scott the magician says:

    Nobody usually reads these but i wanna say a few things about Durant.
    THANK YOU Durant for being a mega superstar athlete who’s:
    Humble
    well spoken
    competitive
    respectful
    cool as ice
    even when better than others you dont say so, you acknowledge them as superior(like he did kobe and lebron) based on respect for them and the game.
    I love seeing a guy like this succeed, a pleasure to watch him torch teams and players on the regular and still be one of the boys!!
    After Kobe retires(hopefully not until 38’ish) I have chosen you as my next fav player!!
    Keep up your brilliance and demeanor, it doesnt go un-noticed in the land of nba ego’s and attitudes.

    PS..Lebron you shouldnt have worn a T-shirt of yourself championship night. killed the image you had been trying to portray…..Get over yourself

  4. W/E says:

    lol it doesnt matter matter if Kobe is the oldest guy in Team usa, he is not the leader cause he never had that quality,i dont know about durant,westbrook seems like he got better leadership qualities than his teammate, but i know for sure that LBJ and Chris Paul are always the leaders in their teams no matter who is on their side

  5. flowerpot says:

    You say he is the leader today, tomorrow you will likely anoint someone else leader. It is the nature of the business, throw a story out there maybe it will get some traction, I ain’t madd at ya; but I do sort of wish that you guys (sports journalist etc) could be held accountable.

  6. Kudabeen says:

    How is he the leader? Coach K goes to Kobe for the pulse of the players. LeBron calls the plays and is the most vocal on the floor leader. Chris Paul is the floor general and off the court vocal leader…

    What’s the rush to anoint Durant when he hasn’t earned it. He is knocking down open shots and is a go to scorer for sure. That is his advantage just as it is Carmelo’s in the game, but slow down with the leader tag. He barely talks and he isn’t the hardest worker off the court in this group.

    This is a TEAM of great players where Durant is the go to shooter. LeBron is the dominant athlete, Kobe is the best swiss army player ever, and Coach K is smart enough to get guys in the game to succeed. He needs to play Anthony Davis more, because Tyson is struggling a little to not get in foul trouble and Davis has looked like our most productive Big, but it is a collective.

  7. sham13ert says:

    C’mon. Durant might be the leading scorer on this team, but he’s not the leader. He has to be pushed by James, Bryant, Paul and Coach K to shoot more. That’s not understanding his role on this team. A leader understands his role, takes it by the horns and helps delegate the other tasks to players. Which is what James and Bryant are doing.

    He can score, no doubt about that. He’s Silky Johnson smooth.

  8. mat says:

    Durant is clearly better then lebron, think about it. Durant is 5 years younger and he is as good as lebron, maybe even better. No more King James, more Durantuala.

    • Vipul says:

      He will be better definitely, but right now Lebron is still the King. Please son, give the man his dues!

  9. ESPANA TRUE CHAMPIONS says:

    It’s really funny to see comments about TEAM USA aka FAKE DREAM TEAM of basketball.

    You did not beat Argentina very well. You did not beat Brazil very well. Espana will DESTROY these team EASY because you cannot handle BIG PLAYERS such as Gasols and Ibaka.

    You won’t beat Brazil or Russia in medal round. If you do, you have to play ESPANA and ESPANA will dESTROY YOU EASILY.

    ESPANA GOLD MEDALISTS IN BASKETBALL 2012!!!

    • Zach Gillette says:

      They already kicked Spain’s a$$.

    • Vipul says:

      What team is ESPANA? Never heard of them. Are they part of Europe or Asia …. or Africa?

      BTW, the Spanish team has a strong front court of of P. Gasol, M. Gasol, and Ibaka but Rubio isn’t playing and their other point guard is also injured.
      Here is the comparison:
      Tyson Chandler > Pau (defense only)
      Kevin Durant >> Marc (All-round play)
      Lebron James >>>>>>> Serge Ibaka ( in anything in life)

      Brazil????? Varejao, Nene, Splitter better than the above 3 +CP3, Deron W,, Kobe B., Russell W., Kevin L.?????

      Yes, some big teams like Spain have a chance but please child, stop predicting Gold and learn some humility.

      Stick to soccer bro! you guys are good there!

    • Law064 says:

      @Espana True Champions ahhhhh haaaa you are really funny. Brazil and Argentina have a better chance at beating the US than Spain. US rolled spain over like they were a Highschool team. Didn’t your Spain get crushed by more than 20 points. LMAO you are funny

    • wUT says:

      I guess you’re trying be loud to prove a point here….

  10. squallz says:

    based on these last 2 games, the USA are the clear favorite to win the gold. Even when they dont play well, they will still lead by 15-20 points, which honestly, from the states is seen as a bad thing considering the talent comparison. As for Durant, i feel him and Melo are the two jets that gets the offense going and are able to straight up score at will. Coach K has the luxury of putting in any type of player he wants who also flows the game and gets it uptempo, unlike any other team out there. I absolutely respect and love the fact that Durant said that “NIgeria is the only thing on my mind, one step at a time and getting gold,” as said at the end of this article. Most of us, including me are so quick to think that the US will run away with the gold, believing that americans historically have just always been far more talented than the rest the rest of the world. Durant and the US team respect each and every nation they play, find their rhythm against them, and ensure victory knowing its not always easy. Just like most athletes over at the olympics, it takes hard work and dedication for them to get the gold. But it also takes respect, and the US team winning the gold with such grace is what i want to see. It looks like theyre on their way to do just that with how they respected and congratulated the tunisian squad on how hard they have played against them, as Melo said that they respect them as a team and a country.

  11. UKA says:

    The U23 rule for soccer is in place because they dont want the olympics to take the shine off the world cup, and also there are otehr big events, this year it timing was bad for the club sides to release players after they had already played in EURO2012, meaning they get no summer.. this argument doesn’t apply to basketball, so i dont understand this idea, unless its because most other olympic sports are amateur only? and they want to keep it the same. Or maybe FIBA want the owlrd championship to become more important than it is currently veiwed????

  12. LBJ-D-Wade says:

    KD is overrated , he’s nothing but score
    Plays no D ! rebounds horribly fo a guy with that size ….

    LBJ is far better than him and a better leader , LeBron has won NBA Title in front of KD’s eyes , but KD is not a champion … !
    until he wins that title i won’t call him a good leader

    • Dim says:

      THis is just a stupid comment…Saying KD is overrated and does not rebound is like saying CP3 cant crossover…

      • TTKIN says:

        Let him go, he’s clearly retarded.

      • scott the magician says:

        lol
        He is retarded no doubt, BUT its true. he doesnt play D and doesnt rebound enough. although at 6’10” 109lbs it’d be hard to grab boards..lol
        none the less i love KD and his attitude. great young man and pro

    • wUT says:

      He out rebounded LBJ in the finals and is a better leader by far and he’s only 23. In two years he’ll be the best Basketball Player.

  13. lakers fans says:

    i’m shock with durant crossover owesome

  14. Joseph03 says:

    KD is just an amazing player. He is pure basketball, he cares only about the game and not his brand name. If there are more players like him, the NBA will be more fun. Sure the NBA still needs its stars who’s names are brands in their own right.

    KD is not yet the best player in the world today, it’s LBJ hands down. He is undoubtedly the best scorer now. Kobe on the other hand is still the most skilled. Nonetheless, the NBA is really fun and exciting.

  15. Raumie says:

    Can Melo get any love Sekou? He went 6/6 in 12 minutes against Tunisia when lebron didnt want to step up and Durant jacked up every shot. The first group wasnt getting it done then Melo came in and took over the game like he does always. I know the NBA and you want Lebron and Durant all the time but real fans of the NBA appreciate Melo’s basketball skills he brings night in and out.

  16. go lakers says:

    USA!!!

  17. trap323 says:

    DURANT is leader over BRON KOBE TYSON, CP3 OR MELO…. LMFAO what idiots bra just lost in the finals clearly bron is the leader better listen to the mamba…. watch in these huddles before games and during game bron is clearly the leader.. just like in all star game!!!!!!!!!

  18. Mohammad Amr says:

    The U 23 rule will not give the young stars to show of on the international level

  19. K.D. IS THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK AND HE IS A GROWN MAN IN THE BASKETBALL COURT. I DON’T KNOW IF HE IS THE BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD BUT HE IS VERY CLOSE IF NOTHING ELSE CAUSE OF HIS POSITIVE ATTITUDE AND DEAMEANOR I THINK HE IS THE MAN ON THAT TEAM

  20. Gaston Lopez says:

    Imagine a tournament about the best from US vs best europe´s team season. Can you imagine that?
    Miami heat vs best european team champion;

    Heat 134
    european champion 15

  21. Gaston Lopez says:

    USA has proved during past two games that they are the best team by far miles away undoubt. So…I agree with @Phillips that all-stars players should rest in off season, besides they need fresh healty and in practice. FIBA needs to understand how they going to complement with NBA but FIBA is close-mind about to get close to the NBA rules.

  22. Phillips says:

    Next Olympics Us should send role players rather stars because FIBA hasn´t change the rules of 23 age.

  23. Steven says:

    A really stupid 31 second advertisement for a 24 second interview clip? This is getting out of hand. Anyway, KD is silly good and will only continue to get a better. It will be fun to watch both in the Olympics and the NBA.

  24. Rocabye says:

    He’s going to be the greatest scorer ever in the history of the game. Mark it. And he’s shaping up to be THE guy. He naturally has what some of the best had to learn the hard way: leadership. It took Lebron years to shape up into the kind of leader he is right now. YEARS..practically his whole NBA career up to this point. Durant is one of those natural leader types. The only big flaw he has is that he holds himself back too much sometimes. I imagine it’s hard on a team with those kinda guys on it, but if it’s your time it’s your time. The moment he believes that it’ll be SCARY.

    • manny says:

      the best scorer but not a good leader. Not very vocal, needs others to tell him to shoot and lucks emotion on the diffence end.
      takes the back seat to often even for players like harden and west brock, both are good but not at durant level

      • marlon green says:

        You dont have to be vocal all the time to be a great leader. Wasn’t Magic the vocal leader and MJ led by his actions on the court in 92? But you guys still say MJ is one of the greatest leaders right? So what is the difference when Durant does it? And with teammates as good as Westbrook and Harden a good leader realizes that he might have to defer to those guys when they got it going. Leading is about winning so why should Durant still try to get alot of points when Harden or Westbrook is lighting things up? Stop hating! Durant is very good but I think it is way too early to call him the greatest scorer ever. It’s funny how 3 straight scoring titles make people forget about all of the great scorers that came before him and are currently playing with him now.

    • NBAfan says:

      Durant is Mister Consistent….kinda like Karl Malone..he’ll always deliver…but I just don’t see it in him YET to have REALLY EXPLOSIVE SCORING BURSTS….show me 5 straight games of 40+….show me 60 in 3 quarters…show me just 75 pts (not even 81) ….show me 15 straight points in a crucial game and yeah, I’ll say he’s the best scorer in history…

      If you’re gonna be just consistent, you better avg more than 30 ppg and beat Jordan and Wilt out. If not, then you better show your scoring prowess with A COLLECTION of really huge scoring outbursts….

      HE may be the best scorer in history, but he seems to be such a great guy and really just wants to help his team win that he’ll never hog the ball enough to really show it with his stats….which I respect a lot

      • educate yourself says:

        didn’t he score 16 straight points in the 4th quarter in game 4 of the spurs series this year? DOES that count in this “criteria” of “explosive bursts”?

        Clearly a Kobe fan and don’t know anything else about basketball.

  25. aaron says:

    kevin durant IS not one of the leaders he is THE leader. best player in the world.

    • nba says:

      actually kobe bryant is the leader since hes the veteran of the team and has leadership skills.

    • Markymark says:

      @aaron: Durant is a great player — no doubt. He, along with Mamba and King James would probably unseat some of those listed as 50 greatest of all time. But, let’s get real, he still is not the best player in the world. LBJ is. Best scoring weapon in the world probably, but not the best player. If he can be as good a defender as LBJ is, then I’d give it to him, but up until then, LBJ rules.

    • Benjamin says:

      Leader? Maybe.

      Best player in the world? I don’t think so.

      Lebron holds that title right now and for the last three years. Kevin Durant is right behind him though, and in a few years time he will be Number 1.

      • NBAfan says:

        Yup I agree that LBJ is the best player right now…and it’s unfair to crown another just as soon as he became the undisputed best player….but what goes around comes around…remember when Kobe was the best and everybody was ready to crown LBJ so darn early…

    • forgetting someone says:

      after lebron..

    • baller9 says:

      i think kobe is still the leader.. bron the facilitator.. melo the enforcer.. and KD is the scorer,

      different roles, same goal. ONE GOLD.

      • NBAfan says:

        I think Lebron and Durant are the base/engine of the team…..Kobe is that leader who can just explode on you when need be (IF need be, see vs. Spain last time)…Carmelo hmmm….sorry Melo…you aint taking the SF spot from Lebron…and you’ve lost the PF spot to a taller, more effective and actually, more well rounded Durant…

        If D12 was in the team….I think this team’s starting 5 could have given the Dream Team’s starting 5 a run for their money….

      • s27m says:

        Kobe & LeBron are the leaders for this team and rightfuly so. KD is there best weapon out there because he loves being on the court which allows Kobe and Bron to come in and keep everything in control for small periods of time but Durant is the go to guy in thses olympics.

        As far as Durant being the best player in the world…..not yet but he will be eventually. We all know LeBron is the best in the world and probably will be for the next 4 to 5 years than it will be the Durant era.

    • go lakers says:

      bandwagon

  26. dattebayo says:

    It really doesn’t matter what they do. If they enforce the U23 rule, they will hold the FIBA World Cup and the NBA and FIBA will share the revenues instead of the Olympic committee getting the Olympic revenues. To the players, the WC medal will then be the non plus ultra to achieve and not the Olympic Gold. In soccer it’s been like that for decades with Blatter enforcing his regime for years and years.

    If somehow the commissioner doesn’t get his will (which he always does) NBA players will still be able to go to the Olympics and win Gold, only the NBA doesn’t see a penny for that.

  27. Keon R. says:

    I think Kevin Durant is the biggest reason the under 23 rule is a horrible idea. As a basketball fan it’s fun to see our players develop on our national team to become leaders on and off the floor. The under 23 games would rob us of the growth we would see in players like Durant.