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Kevin Durant reiterates that rest was his reason for withdrawing from Team USA

Aug 20, 2014, 9:56 AM EDT

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Kevin Durant participated in USA Basketball’s mini-camp in Las Vegas this summer, and was expected to not only compete in the FIBA World Cup, but also to be the leading scorer on a team loaded with offensive talent.

But Durant withdrew, which certainly came as a surprise.

“This was an extremely difficult decision as I take great pride in representing our country,” Durant said at the time, via press release. “I know that I owe it to my USA Basketball teammates to be totally invested in the experience. After going through training camp with USAB, I realized I could not fulfill my responsibilities to the team from both a time and energy standpoint. I need to take a step back and take some time away, both mentally and physically in order to prepare for the upcoming NBA season. I will be rooting for USAB and look forward to future opportunities with them.”

Durant’s decision came after the injury to Paul George, and he remains in negotiations on a new lucrative sneaker deal — two very good reasons he might have decided not to risk anything, and to instead choose to sit this summer out.

Speaking on a panel in New York on Wednesday, however, Durant stuck to his original story.

From Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

Sitting at a panel Tuesday at Baruch College to promote basketball videogame NBA 2K15 — which features him on the cover — Durant reiterated that his decision to leave Team USA was based on rest and staying fresh for the upcoming NBA season. Durant attended the USA Basketball camp in Las Vegas, only to pull out before the exhibitions leading up to the FIBA World Cup in Spain next month. He announced his decision less than a week after Paul George suffered a gruesome leg injury during a Team USA intrasquad scrimmage, but was not asked by the moderator Tuesday whether that played a role in his withdrawal. …

“It was definitely tough. But I think for myself it was best to step back and rest up,” Durant said. “You play a long 82-game season so I wanted to be smart and realize that I love USA Basketball, I love these guys, but I think it was best for me to step back and get rest and get ready for next season.”

Rest is part of the equation, certainly, but I believe it goes deeper than that. Here’s what I wrote about players of Durant’s status potentially choosing not to participate in the future in the wake of the injury to George:

“If players decide that saving their athletic abilities for achieving NBA success and pursuing the league’s championships are more important than representing their country in international competition, then George’s injury may indeed impact the choices we see the players make regarding USA Basketball, and how they now perceive its relative importance.”

Durant has scoring titles and an MVP on his resumé already, and the only thing missing is a championship to elevate him into the tier of the all-time greats. Saving himself to make a run at a title is indeed the most logical explanation for his choice.

  1. misremembered72 - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    Can’t imagine Lebron leaving midway through camp. I understand his reasonings but KD should have just bucked up and lead by example instead of jumping ship

    • asimonetti88 - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:38 AM

      No he wouldn’t have left, he would have just gone and joined Spain, then come back to the US a couple weeks later.

    • eventhorizon04 - Aug 20, 2014 at 11:03 AM

      True, but in fairness to KD, nobody is criticizing guys like LeBron who refused to play for the team from the start.

      Durant is being punished in part because he was one of the few players over age 25 to actually commit to trying to play for the team. Guys like LeBron and CP3 “dropped out” months ago because they wanted rest, yet they’re not being criticized at all since most fans have long forgotten they were invited to participate.

      • paleihe - Aug 20, 2014 at 12:02 PM

        That’s because they’ve already represented their countries at least three different times in the careers, each.

      • pburghballin - Aug 20, 2014 at 1:48 PM

        Paleihe, Durant has been involved with team USA for 8 years. He owes them nothing to be quite honest. I agree he should have either not showed up in the first place, or let them know much sooner, but oh well. If he wants to win a championship, resting this summer is what’s best for him. Frankly, I don’t care at all what his reasons are. Whether it’s fear or injury, fatigue, etc…It doesn’t matter. Durant will be back to team USA in the future, just not this year. It’s really not as big a deal as people are making out to be.

  2. 76ersdoubletank - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:20 AM

    I have no problem with Durant leaving. Players have to think about the business side of the game. Playing these games that don’t really mean anything won’t help me further his career in any way. If he gets hurt, everyone would have been saying he should have taken the Paul George injury as a reason to back out.

    • 76ersdoubletank - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:21 AM

      Help Him*….or me, for that matter.

      • misremembered72 - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:27 AM

        There are some financial incentives. I know it sounds stupid to say stuff like they’re expanding their brand but just look at Kobe, he’s treated like royalty in China and other parts of the world. I’m sure he makes quite the paycheck from his overseas popularity.

  3. philyeagles5 - Aug 20, 2014 at 7:15 PM

    Start paying them and they might stay. It’s not really worth it.

  4. arrondior - Aug 21, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    At the end of the day, I think there is also the perception that Gold for USA is automatic. I know international play has gotten much better, but could any international team beat the NBA’s championship team? I don’t think so.

    • muhangis - Aug 22, 2014 at 2:54 AM

      Do you remember the 2004 USA Olympic team (“Dream Team V”, supposedly) with a prime Tim Duncan and a prime Allen Iverson?? Not to mention LeBron, Wade, Carmelo, Amar’e, Marbury, Boozer, and Marion were on that team.

      It was the Nightmare in Athens, they couldn’t even win a bronze medal. So in answer to your question, yes.

      • arrondior - Aug 25, 2014 at 5:41 PM

        There were a lot of things wrong with that team. Wade, Carmelo, and Lebron were really young and struggled. Iverson dominated the ball and shot 37% from the field, He wasn’t the only one who shot poorly. Infact, I can’t think of a player who shot above 45% on that team. If you really look at the roster, before anyone shot the ball, it was one of the most poorly constructed and lightest on talent of all the US teams up until that point and after. After that, US teams beat their competitors by a margin of at least 30! USA has won gold every year except 2004 since 1992. And even in 2004, they won bronze.

  5. lacolem1 - Aug 21, 2014 at 7:25 PM

    He shouldn’t have committed in the first place. That’s what’s irking people about this ‘rest’ bull, and why a lot of us don’t believe it. I mean, it’s his right to not participate. Plenty of stars chose not to. But they did so a while back, and certainly not AFTER participating in practices and being touted as team centerpieces. There were no expectations for them.

    Personally, I believe it’s for financial reasons. Once again, it’s his right. He’s played for USA basketball plenty the last 8 years, and owes no more. But if I hear one more writer or fan saying “KD is a saint and so humble….”…

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