Author: Kurt Helin

2014 USA Basketball Men's National Team Practice

Kevin Durant withdraws from Team USA, will not play at World Cup in Spain.


Kevin Durant was the real lynchpin of Team USA this summer — he was going to play the four while Tea USA went very small with three guards on the perimeter. He was going to be the perfect international stretch four and likely the team’s leading scorer.

However, he has withdrawn his name from consideration after going through the first round of training camp in Las Vegas last week, USA Basketball announced.

“This was an extremely difficult decision as I take great pride in representing our country,” said Durant. “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 a punch to the gut for Team USA and their chances at gold in this tournament (and with that an automatic berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics). If Team USA doesn’t win gold in Spain it will have to send a team good enough to the FIBA Americas tournament next summer to qualify (not that hard, but we can’t just ignore it like four years ago).

Durant gave no hint of this in Las Vegas last week, speaking at the time about enjoying the challenge of leadership.

A lot of people will say this is because of the horrific injury that happened to Paul George, something Durant denied through reports. However, he is on the cusp of a huge $320 million new shoe deal with Under Armour and that seems a far more likely reason to withdraw. Why risk injury with that much money on the line?

“Kevin reached out to Coach K and myself this afternoon and expressed that he is just physically and mentally drained from the NBA season and his attention to his many responsibilities. He tried to give it a go at our recent Las Vegas training camp but felt coming out of camp that he was not prepared to fulfill the commitment he made to the team,” said USA Basketball Presidet Colangelo. “Coach K and I fully support Kevin. His well being is the most important thing to us and we support him taking the time to get ready for next season. He’s been part of the National Team program for eight years and a big part of the success we have achieved, and we look forward to him being part of our success in the future as well.

“We are excited about the opportunity ahead of us and to getting back to work in Chicago on Aug. 14. All 15 players are committed to the USA Basketball standard, which is to come together to win gold medals.”

It’s going to be a lot harder to win gold — which means beating Spain in Spain — without Durant. Remember Kevin Love is not on this team and will not be joining it according to confirmed reports earlier today, and they also are without guys they could use at the four such as Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge.

This could mean good things for guys like DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond, who can play the five if Mike Krzyzewski wants to shift Anthony Davis over the four spot. What also could well happen is Chandler Parsons and/or Gordon Hayward will get a lot of run at the four spot.

All those options are a considerable drop off from what Durant brings. This is a big blow to Team USA’s chances this summer. The USA will have the best, deepest collection of guards and perimeter players in this tournament and that is going to have to carry them.

Nike creates Paul George comeback ad

Team USA Practice Session

I like it.

Paul George’s story is one of a guy overlooked at every turn but came back every season better, a guy with a crazy worth ethic and determination. Just go read the great Lee Jenkins story about him, then tell me how you doubt he can come back from his horrific injury while playing with Team USA.

A little promotion along the way is not a bad thing.

But just a little. What I’m sure Nike learned from watching Derrick Rose and rival adidas on the comeback trail (or knew before Adidas started a series of videos and more) is that comebacks are unpredictable. They take time and and involve setbacks, sometimes big setbacks. You don’t want to set the expectations bar too high.

What Nike does here works. It’s just the right amount of comeback. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Nets coach Lionel Hollins: ”Deron is healthy, Brook is healthy.”


In an Eastern Conference that is wide open after Chicago and Cleveland at the top, Brooklyn could still make some noise. They may be trimming some payroll but they still have Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, which is a lot of firepower.

That is, if the latter two are healthy.

Williams was in-and-out of the lineup last season, getting shots in his ankles and starting only 58 games on his way to his worst production since his rookie season (both in terms of points and efficiency). Lopez appeared in just 17 games before a broken foot ended his season.

New Nets coach Lionel Hollins likes what he sees from those two on their road to recovery, he told Newsday in a phone interview from Africa where he is taking part in the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program.

“You can’t be where you want to be unless you’re healthy, and you can’t get in shape unless you’re healthy. If you are injured all summer, there’s no way you can work out. Deron is healthy, Brook is healthy and they are both able to work out.”

That’s a good sign.

The challenge for Hollins will be limiting their minutes and keeping them fresh next season despite a depleted bench.

The good news is that behind Lopez is Mason Plumlee, who has shown during Team USA camp he is ready to take on a larger role.

It’s a little more challenging at the guard spot. The Nets can play some Jarrett Jack at the point behind Williams but Jack is going to play some at the two so Marquis Teague will get minutes. They are going to miss Shaun Livingston.

But Hollins has no choice here — Williams ankles are made of paper mache at this point and while he is good during the summer he needs plenty of rest to stay that way during the season. As for Lopez, well, the history of big men and foot injuries is troubling. Controlled minutes will be key, even if it costs a couple wins along the way.

PBT Extra: Does Kevin Love to Cavaliers make them title favorites?

Kevin Love

Cleveland won big this summer. First LeBron James decided to return and now Kevin Love is set to be traded to the Cavaliers on Aug. 23 in exchange for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a future first round pick.

Does this make the Cavaliers the favorites to win the NBA title next year? (Not in my book.) Is this a win-win for Minnesota and Cleveland? (I’m not sure I’d call this a win for Minnesota, just not a bad loss.)

All of these are topics myself and Jenna Corrado cover in the lastest edition of PBT Extra.

NBA suspends Mavericks’ Raymond Felton four games for weapons charges

Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks

The Knicks traded Raymond Felton to Dallas as part of the Tyson Chandler deal this summer, but there was something hanging over Felton’s head during that deal — felony gun charges.

He had been arrested in New York after he allegedly pointed a gun at his estranged wife. He eventually pled guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of a firearm, as well as knowingly having a large-capacity ammunition magazine and a pistol that was unlicensed. Felton was sentenced to 500 hours of community service and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

On top of that, the NBA has now suspended Felton the first four games of next season without pay, the league announced Thursday.

“I demonstrated poor judgment and I take full responsibility for my actions,” Felton said in a statement released by the Mavericks.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban noted in his statement that Felton is allowed to serve is community service hours outside New York and can do them around Dallas.

Snarky Dallas fans took to twitter saying the suspension was a blessing for the Mavericks — Felton struggled mightily last season in New York (which now has Jose Calderon running the point, a much better triangle offense fit).

Felton is going to be fighting for minutes in Dallas with Jameer Nelson and Devin Harris, and if he plays like last season Felton isn’t going to get a lot of them.

Once the suspension ends Felton (rarely the best conditioned athlete in the league, to be kind) will get the chance to turn his career around under one of the best Xs and Os coaches in the game in Rick Carlisle, someone who will put Felton in good positions to succeed. Whether he does anything with that chance remains to be seen. Color me skeptical.