Although the player getting most of the attention in this version of the dream team is undoubtedly LeBron James, there’s someone just as good behind the all conquering undisputed MVP of the NBA, Kevin Durant. Against Argentina, in the USA’s toughest exhibition test yet, it was the deputy to the NBA’s best player who carried the star studded team on his back.
There are two reasons why Durant is a bit further away from the spotlight during this campaign to take Olympic gold in London. His personality is more reserved, and it’s easy to forget he’s one of the younger guys on the team, despite being a five year veteran in the NBA. Being the NBA’s leading scorer, helping a team to the NBA Finals and being the best player in the 2010 FIBA World Championships doesn’t make him any less shy.
And then there’s the LeBron James factor. And Kobe Bryant factor. These guys take over a room, a gym, a team. While Durant is undoubtedly a huge star on his own rights, he’s used to sharing some of the spotlight and all the comes along with Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder. LeBron James, no matter who’s around him, is the focus of everything. So is Kobe Bryant, despite not being as good as he was. That’s just the way it is.
But Durant, it’s easy to forget, was regarded by many as the best player in the NBA this season. Sometimes just for the hate of LeBron James until he proved himself, sometimes because Durant actually looked that good. All through the playoffs up until the final, it might have been the correct decision. It’s not that Durant didn’t play really well in the Finals. James simply took over in a way Durant didn’t, or couldn’t.
But if this Dream Team is to prevail through its tougher tests in Athens which will come in the form of Argentina, Spain and anyone who has size and physicality, the Americans will have to be about diversity and using all of their weapons to overcome their lack of size and depth at Center. After all, no team in the world can even come close to the talent they have at guard and forward, or the ability of their players to perform multiple tasks in multiple positions at the highest levels.
And Durant was the one who came through in another problematic game for the Americans. They coasted through the first 10 minutes, as Coach K tried a new and very successful lineup, playing with Chris Paul, Bryant, LeBron, Durant and Tyson Chandler. It was 16-1 three minutes into the game.
As Luis Scola put it – They’ve got a lot of players in every position. They’re too athletic, they’re too talented. I think they’re going to be OK. Argentina managed to fight back with their aggressive and physical style, and Manu Ginobili cut the lead down to 4 late in the final quarter, but that was it. Kevin Durant and three point shooting by Deron Williams closed out the game. The USA like to be tested it seems, finding new answers as to what will work well in the Olympics. Note (if they didn’t no it already) – Kevin Durant can carry this team’s scoring, despite not being the biggest star on the team.