Durant has paid his Team USA dues

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Durant withdraws from Team USA participation

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – In the words of Pat Riley: Get a grip.

Kevin Durant‘s decision to walk away from Team USA little more than three weeks before the start of the 2014 world championships is hardly the end of the world. It’s not even the end of the Americans’ chances to defend their 2010 gold medal, when Durant cleaned up as tournament MVP.

So Team USA’s leading scorer on the 2012 gold-medal-winning Olympic squad will join LeBron James, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwight HowardKevin Love and NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard as stateside spectators. After participating in last week’s training camp in Las Vegas that opened with Durant inundated by questions about his coming free agency — in 2016! — and ended with the jarring snap of Paul George‘s right leg, Durant on Thursday informed USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski that he needed to take a “step back.”

In a statement, the Oklahoma City superstar explained his decision for reneging on his commitment to the national team. Mentally and physically worn down from last season and a busy summer of commitments, the NBA’s MVP said he needed these final 50 days or so of the offseason to recharge before beginning another long, expectation-laden season.

So get a grip.

Criticism of Durant having bailed on the national team, or worse, on his country, or of putting the squad in a bind weeks before departing for Spain are unjustified. Durant has for years been an enthusiastic supporter, a valiant competitor and a gracious ambassador for USA Basketball.

As I noted on July 30 as Durant was being grilled in Vegas about playing for his hometown Washington Wizards two summers from now, Durant didn’t have to be there. He chose to be there. With all due respect, the rebranded World Cup isn’t the Olympics, the créme de la créme of international competition as far as an American audience is concerned. And if we’re being honest, that goes for American basketball players, too. The world championships have always, and likely always will mean more to Pau Gasol and Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, who, by the way, is foregoing the World Cup one year after leading France to its first-ever European championship.

It was Durant’s sense of commitment to USA Basketball in the first place that led him a year ago to announce his intention to anchor this squad. But the day after the Thunder lost in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, Durant openly spoke of how physically and mentally grueling the season — half of which he carried the Thunder without injured co-star Russell Westbrook — had truly been. Nobody amassed more regular-season minutes and then more postseason minutes than the MVP.

And as Thunder beat writer Darnell Mayberry pointed out, Durant has pushed his body to the limit over the last five seasons — both for the Thunder and Team USA.

Durant came away from the Vegas training camp and looked ahead to the commitment that followed. Team USA continues training in Chicago on Aug. 14-16, moves on to New York on Aug. 18-22 for workouts and exhibition games and a few days later heads to the island of Gran Canaria, Spain, to complete its preparations and exhibition schedule. It begins World Cup play on Aug. 30 in Bilbao, Spain. The gold-medal game is Sept. 14 in Madrid. NBA training camps open two weeks later.

Did Durant’s decision come as a surprise to Team USA? Yes. Was his timing tough? Sure. But the American pool is deep even with many of its top dogs — and particularly at the forward positions — having withdrawn. Team USA’s candidates at the wing include Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan, Chandler Parsons, Kyle Korver, Gordon Hayward and newest addition Rudy Gay. There’s not an MVP among them, in fact, not even an All-Star save for 2014 East reserve DeRozan.

But that’s OK. That’s what opportunity is all about. Gold isn’t a cinch, but why should it be? Team USA remains well-equipped to play on the final day in Madrid, and Durant, who has worn his country’s colors with honor, has earned the right to take a step back, regardless of when he came to that decision.

So everybody get a grip, and enjoy the games.

36 Comments

  1. European says:

    Lol, how come the Europeans never have any problems with playing for the national team, but americans always ” have to rest” . Looks like their mind is screwed up… Without Durant this team would not have won it in 2010, for the first time in my life I saw someone completely carrying his team.. What was it, like 39 points in semi-final against my southern neighbours – Lithuanians. Was crazy.
    No one is capable of carrying this team, so they’d have to rely on playing team basketball.. Which is something they can’t do.. Guys, time to put money on Spain.

  2. good news for my country, Spain. even so I consider the united states title favorite

  3. Rapfan says:

    DD will be tourney MVP! Pacers won’t make the playoffs and the Raptor will actually get through the first round of the playoffs. Potentially the Raptors are one of the deepest teams with probably one of the best benches in the league. Look for them to make some noise this upcoming season :)

  4. jumppong says:

    nothing to worry about D.rose will carry the team. as for durant replace him with Kawhi Leonard, Jabari Parker, Harrison Barnes

  5. Arky says:

    It’s crazy to expect the guys who had long postseason runs to play the long NBA season, the playoffs, this World Cup stuff, then go straight back into the long grind of another NBA season without time to rest and heal their bodies. Crazy. Durant’s mistake was to not follow the lead of LeBron and co earlier. I’m amazed Steph Curry is playing- of all the guys who can’t afford to push their bodies too hard. The only guys who it really makes sense to play in this are Derrick Rose, coming out of two lost seasons and needing to get used to competitive games again before they start counting. and the young guns trying to make a name for themselves.

    For all Durant denies it, probably sincerely, I’m sure that the Paul George injury and the looming Under Armour contract are in his subconscious and affecting the decision. And rightly so.

  6. Cordell says:

    What’s wrong with this society, everyone is so quick to criticize someone for their personal decisions on what they feel like is best for them and their family. Tell me how many of you people that’s downing these athletes can go out and practice, play games as much as they do over years spands won’t get burnt out and fatigue mentally and physically. So if they need a break let them take one they deserve it. Then you’ll complain when you spend your hard working money when you go see them play and they not at their best cause they are tired.

  7. Michael says:

    Team USA will be just fine. Durant has done his share and deserves his rest. This is a perfect opportunity for the other guys to shine.

  8. Jese says:

    He left because he felt that it’s gonna be a losing team and did not want any part of it. USA JV team

  9. ausaja says:

    kobe and bozer ar gonna beast

  10. ausaja says:

    wow durantt wow kobe wow igudala wow Tyson chandler wow all the others that ran away

  11. RP says:

    Nice article but I think the wording was completely misleading to people who look for something to gripe about. Those same people saying he bailed on his country (drama queens) quickly latched onto “dues” as meaning an obligation instead of an honor. Obviously it’s not an obligation or everyone who was invited would play. But they don’t. He has played every year he could until now. So? That doesn’t mean he doesn’t love the USA…smh. People need to get a grip and grow up. This is a business, a career. Those same people putting him down for not having a “ring” are the same people putting him down for getting the rest he needs to start the season off right. Those people don’t matter.

  12. tenby0630 says:

    I don’t think it will be a main cause of worry. Without KD, the offense will be more evenly distributed to a group of role players/shooters like parsons, hayward, gay, korver and thompson. In international basketball, ball rotation is emphasized and had always been a success. Just look at the way Lithuania plays. France won the european championship because tony parker successfully orchestrated a fluid and unselfish game of basketball.

  13. Fernando says:

    you Americans are accustomed to send Latinos and Africans to fight their wars when you have to go, you get scared and go home. Cowards hopefully lose for underestimating the rest of the world.

  14. Kenneth Williams says:

    How many think Love went to Cleveland cause its easier to get in the playoffs in the east. Disappointed in him minnesota is right around the corner from a playoff team I think thats better than cleveland even now. Beasts of the east this year are Wizards and Bulls

    • rfasfa says:

      you high? wizards O_O. Sure they are better.

      Fact: Any team that Lebron goes to… is a contender. He did carry a team to a 66-16 record by himself before when he is the only offensive option Cleveland have.

      Add in Kevin Love and you have a 1-2 punch that never been done… since Kobe- Shaq.

      I dont know how Kyrie would adapt though cause he is used to have the ball in his hands… but he does have a decent jumper… Lebron would draw too much attention leaving him open.

      Beast of the East… Chicago, and Cavs….

      Next in line is… Miami(They still have bosh, wade and they added good additions in Deng and Granger), Wizards…. maybe Pacers(depends on how they do without PG24), 76ers(Joel Embiid, Michael Carter Williams and Nerlens Noel is basically a repeat of the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili era) and Bobcats (I love al jeferson).

      The 8th seed is up for grabs… i cant decide.

      • mee(a)t says:

        What?

        Bulls have depth and the thing they needed the most, scoring.
        Wizards with Beal and Wall, probably a future best backcourt, accompanied by Nené and Gortat (nice front court) are only getting better and better. Otto Porter has potential and Paul Pierce is a nice upgrade.
        Pacers are dead.
        76ers aren’t in the conversation.
        With Al Horford back on the hawks, no team in the east is ready for this team.
        Miami isn’t dead.
        We don’t know how the Cavs will do cause Lebron picked up pieces he’s accustomed to and never consulted the coach about it, new system, etc.

      • tremill says:

        Truth! Gotta have those raptors in there. Some people man haha

      • tremill says:

        Yeah the pacer really dont have anything this year… so far. Vogel is a great coach.

      • Common $en$e says:

        dude don’t ever put Lebron and Kevin Love in the category of Kobe and Shaq, that is just blatant disrespect.

  15. Kenneth Williams says:

    It should be college players of 3 years playing college anyway. Maybe that would give some more people graduating and actually have something to play for have better product on the floor no more one and dones just make the game better in the long run no more drafting potential waisting teams draft picks. Tired of watching blowouts not fun!

  16. aiva says:

    I think everything about contract with under armour(300mil/10years).

  17. no paul george, and no kevin durant…lol…easy money for the spaniards…viva espanya! hahaha…good decision by durant I might add

  18. ayy lmao says:

    by saying paid his dues you are making it seem like playing on the greatest of all stages is a chore, especially when you put the colors of your country on your chest and try to win it all for your countrymen. Kevin Durant is not an honorable person, he can make all the cheery MVP speeches he wants but at the end of the day he let his country down.

    • rfasfa says:

      Yep… its also an HONOR to work hard to feed your family. But you don’t see people log in 72 straight hours of work to do so. People need rest. They ain’t robots. So stop being so selfish and give him a break he deserves.

    • RP says:

      BS! His fans understand. Anyone else wouldn’t like any decision he makes. He’s a very honorable person and is loyal to his team…the Thunder. He owes it to them to conserve his mental and physical energy for next season. I guess you’re saying that all players who rejected the invitation to play are not patriotic? Or just one that gave it a shot and then realized it wasn’t in his or the team that pays his salary best interest?

  19. SOUTHBEACH says:

    WE ARE NOT DUMB! EVEN THE TEENAGERS KNOW WHY… Paul George’s injury is a wake up call. lololol

    MAX downt there is right! It’s not an honor anymore lolololol

  20. dustydreamnz says:

    If anyone else pulls out, you and me will be getting the call up. This is turning into a farce.

  21. Max says:

    I thought playing for one’s country was an honor not an obligation??KD paid his dues??SAD!!~

  22. johnnyhoops1980 says:

    Unfortunately, he won’t be the last star to back out, or decide not to play for USA Basketball. The Paul George injury will have a serious effect on international competition for the US teams: http://straighthoops.com/the_aftermath.html

  23. Bartholomew says:

    I hope Gordon Hayward makes it.