An NBA player should probably think of himself first before anyone or anything else, but it’s impossible to avoid the fact that Kevin Durant really pulled a number on his Team USA coaches and former teammates, and any attempt to sugarcoat it with some generic excuse only makes him come out worse.
Just like in 2010, before winning a gold medal in Turkey, this preparation for the international campaign revolved around Kevin Durant leading this offense. Sure, this is still the most talented bunch in the world, with players like Stephen Curry, Derrick Rose, James Harden and Anthony Davis. And yet the moment Durant stepped away from the team by citing he is mentally and physically burned out, they became a whole lot more ordinary.
Durant isn’t the only superstar staying away from playing on the team. LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, some because of wanting to focus on their off-season transfer dealings and contract negotiations, aren’t on this team either. This is not the strongest team the United States has to offer if the entirety of its NBA pool would have been available.
But Durant had already made a commitment only to back out midway through the process. Sure, maybe he did feel tired and unable to give it his best without hurting his chances of doing well for the Oklahoma City Thunder next season, but the timing of his decision to walk away – the sponsorship contract with Under Armour and the Paul George injury makes it seem like Durant simply avoided stating the real reason he won’t be playing international basketball in Spain not too long from now.
From the USA camp we’re not hearing anything bad about Durant. Not from the coaches, not from the players. He threw them under the bus by stepping away, knowing he’s not going to take the criticism someone like LeBron James would have gotten had he pulled the same kind of stunt. The truth is Durant is simply not as interesting or a lightning rod for opinions like James or Kobe Bryant are.
He’s not a nice guy, not for a very long time. The one thing his mind is set on is personal success. There’s nothing wrong with that. Winning a championship, an MVP award while scoring more than anyone else isn’t a bad goal to set for yourself. It becomes a problem when you don’t tell the truth about why you actually left training camp, hoping that him quitting on the team isn’t taken for what it actually is, instead of what he’s trying to portray it is.