Kevin Durant and Kevin Love committed two years ago to play in the 2014 World Cup, and the news thrilled USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“This is a big day and a big announcement for USA Basketball,” program Chairman Jerry Colangelo said. “Because two of our players who have been so instrumental in our success in winning gold medals, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love, have officially announced that they will be part of our future going forward, including the World Cup next summer.”
“It means a great deal to us because of how committed they are to our program,” Colangelo said. “We’re very appreciative of their early commitment; we think it’ll certainly send a message to some of our other guys who have indicated they’re interested. So we’re very excited.”
Krzyzewski, referring first to Durant:
“The thing he told us last night, he says ‘Coach, I wanted to come here and look you in the eye and tell you that I’m doing it,” Krzyzewski said. “I get chills just thinking that a guy of his stature and his accomplishment, for these two guys to come here — it shows what they think of the program and the people involved to do it face to face, and we appreciate that very much.”
Durant and Love were part of the player pool released in January 2014. Durant even showed up to training camp in July, talking big about Team USA’s ability.
But Love withdrew shortly before the camp, and Durant followed suit a couple weeks later.
Colangelo, in a Q&A with Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:
Q: How do you reflect on Kevin Durant and Kevin Love making a big public commitment to play on the 2014 World Cup team and then reneging on it?
Colangelo: In Kevin Love’s case, he really felt bad in not being there to participate after he said he would. That was more about advice he’s getting from legal counsel and his agent. That, too, is a variable. We have no control over that. If that happens next year with one or two players and they’re out, it’s not the end of the world. We have other players. The point is with the roster we have we can take hits like that and there are other guys to step in.
“Kevin Durant, a little bit of a different story. I think he was affected some by Paul George’s injury. I also think a lot of things were going on with Kevin Durant with his career and his contract. Things were changing. He wasn’t the same Kevin Durant who was wide-eyed and bushy-tailed when he first stepped on to the court for USA Basketball. He had a lot going on in his life. So when he said he was going to pull out, I wasn’t surprised. I could kind of see it coming. I didn’t see the same vigor. He was always so active and positive. He had a different look to him.
Love pulled out, because he was in trade limbo at the time. The Timberwolves and Cavaliers had agreed to a trade, but because Andrew Wiggins couldn’t be dealt so soon after signing a rookie-scale contract, everyone had to wait.
Durant initially cited a desire for rest, but he later admitted Paul George’s devastating injury freaked him out.
Both players functionally withdrew because they feared getting injured and it harming their NBA careers – and that’s fine.
I’m not sure why Colangelo is treating the decisions so differently.
We obviously don’t know everything that happened behind the scenes. Colangelo said Love was near tears when delivering the news to him. Perhaps, Durant didn’t handle the issue as gracefully.
But Colangelo also forgave Love because his agent advised him not to risk injury at that point. Does Colangelo think Durant withdrew without any outside put, though? Every NBA player who participates in USA Basketball has someone telling him it’s not worth the injury risk. It’s up to the player to determine when that advice is actually worth heeding.
Durant and Love reached the same conclusion: Playing in the 2014 World Cup wasn’t worth the injury risk. If there are significant differences in those decisions, I don’t see them. Love shouldn’t get any more of a break from USA Basketball because he didn’t want to jeopardize his exit from Minnesota than Durant should get scrutinized by USA Basketball for wanting to remain healthy to help the Thunder win the 2015 championship.
Reading between the lines – and it doesn’t take much supposing – Colangelo seems to view it differently. Maybe he has reasons we can’t see.
Either way, this probably won’t keep Durant off the 2016 Olympic team if he wants to play. His talent gives him a lot more leeway than Love. Even if Colangelo downgrades his overall opinion of Durant based on his World Cup withdrawal, it’s hard to see Durant not ranking as one of the 12 most-deserving candidates for Rio.