Kevin Durant made a surprise announcement on Thursday, pulling out of USA Basketball this summer in favor of resting and recharging for the upcoming NBA season instead.
“This was an extremely difficult decision as I take great pride in representing our country,” Durant said in a statement. “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.”
This is good news for Thunder fans, as Durant won’t be expending energy (or risking injury) putting miles on his body somewhat needlessly for an international competition that means very little to the majority of folks in the states.
There’s additional good news, in that Durant withdrawing has nothing to do with him being physically unable to play.
From what I hear, USAB officials started getting wind of Durant’s situation yesterday.
One source close to the situation says of Durant, “He’s not hurt.”
So if Durant isn’t injured, why the change of heart?
Kevin Love was a late scratch due to the ongoing trade talks involving him being dealt to the Cavaliers, which is understandable, because had he suffered an injury similar to the one that sidelined Paul George, the trade would likely have been called off. Blake Griffin also bailed at the last minute, initially for no reason at all, before word leaked that a back injury forced him to get some rest before the grind of the NBA’s regular season begins in a couple of months.
With Durant, it’s a bit murkier. He participated in the Las Vegas mini-camp, so he was on board, at least initially.
There were rumblings that a potential change in sneaker endorsers might be to blame, but that seems far-fetched (at best). What may be more of an impetus is LeBron James forming a new super-team in Cleveland, which would make Durant’s road to a title that much more difficult, even if his Thunder could somehow find a way to get past the Sours in the highly-competitive Western Conference.
As we discussed at the time of George’s injury, the game’s top players may more seriously consider their NBA legacies after that sobering reminder of how quickly things can change. Durant isn’t injured now, but the possibility of it occurring during a relatively meaningless competition is what likely caused his sudden decision to sit the rest of the summer out.