This past summer, Kevin Durant showed up for the start of Team USA training camp for the World Cup in Brazil, but then bailed out after that first camp session ended.
Some thought it was due to the Paul George injury and him being frightened. Personally I’m in the Under Armour/Nike next shoe deal camp (he didn’t want to risk injury so close to signing a massive payday).
Durant has said from the start he was just tired from a couple long seasons and playoff runs and wanted the break. He emphasized that again to Sam Amick in a great story at the USA Today.
“It was a very hard choice, because I wanted to play,” he said. “If it was just games (with Team USA), like straight games, it would have been perfect. But the travel and the practice and the shoot-a-rounds, it was something where I (said), ‘All right, I’ve got to really scale back a little bit and get ready for our season…’
And to those who don’t agree or understand?
“Seriously, to be honest, I was like ‘(expletive) ’em.’ You can write that, too. Seriously, though. I’m just going to be me, man, and that’s how I felt.”
The key thing to know: Durant will be ready to go for Rio in 2016, something tweeted out by Marc Stein of ESPN.
That’s interesting because that is his free agency summer, and that prospect of not risking a big payday has held guys back from Team USA before.
Even if Durant has no intention of leaving Oklahoma City — it’s far too early, Durant doesn’t even know what he wants to do in two summers, but staying in OKC is the clear frontrunner — he needs to become a free agent and re-sign. Under the terms of the new CBA he gets more money and one more guaranteed year if he opts out then re-signs (ala Carmelo Anthony with the Knicks). Meaning this saga will play out to the start of July and could overlap with Team USA’s training schedule.
Would that payday keep Durant home from Brazil?
Probably not. Unlike the World Cup, which rates barely a blip on the American sports radar, the Olympics draws a lot of eyeballs. If you’re going to market your fancy Nikes and your personal brand, that is a hard stage to walk away from because a lot of casual fan eyeballs rest on you in the Olympics. It’s a big platform.
Plus, we in the USA are taught to value the Olympics in a way the FIBA World Cup can’t match.
Which is to say expect KD to suit up in Rio, along with Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving and a who’s who list of the NBA best players (maybe even LeBron James for one more go around). The Olympics dynamic is just different.