No one saw this coming. Oklahoma City Thunder small forward and NBA MVP Kevin Durant has withdrawn from Team USA ahead of the FIBA World Cup in Spain. Durant has been involved with USA Basketball for the past 8 years and was the MVP of the previous FIBA World Championship in 2012.
Citing a draining NBA campaign where Durant won his first MVP award (and carried the Thunder almost single-handedly while Russell Westbrook recovered from injury) – he could not contribute to the best of his ability.
Durant, who has been the darling of Team USA for a while now, already had a line of his signature Nike sneaker in Team USA colourways and plenty of Team USA #5 jerseys have been sold as well. KD though maintained that he owed it to Team USA to be 100% committed and that was unable to fulfill his role. Rather than let his Team USA teammates down, he has decided to take a step back and will support them from the sideline.
The withdrawal of Kevin Durant just adds to a list of high profile names that will not be taking part in the USA Basketball experience. Paul George was forced to withdraw due to a horrific leg injury suffered in the Team USA Blue vs White scrimmage, Blake Griffin isn’t playing due to back complaints, Kevin Love isn’t in uniform due to contract status and LaMarcus Aldridge won’t play either.
A long bow can be drawn that after the injury to George, Durant has decided that playing in the tournament is more risk than reward – however he insists that is not the case. Since George’s leg fracture, the players have remained steadfast behind the USA Basketball campaign.
Team USA made their first round of cuts last week, with players like Paul Millsap, John Wall and Bradley Beal missing out. With Durant now out of the side, Team USA will have a have a bit of lateral thinking to do. While there is no direct replacement for someone like KD, there are a few options that Team USA have. Durant was likely to start at power forward during the FIBA World Cup due to the nature of the international game. This opens the door for Paul Millsap to make a return to the side as he plays the power forward spot and can also stretch the floor with his shooting.
With a verbal / handshake agreement between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers now becoming apparent, it appears as though the contract status of Kevin Love has resolved itself. While it cannot become “official” until August 23rd, Love might be interested in a Team USA berth.
The loss of Durant certainly hurts Team USA, but from a Thunder standpoint, the fans won’t be devastated. After the injury to George, many OKC fans questioned whether or not it was a wise move to play in the FIBA World Cup and how it would impact on Durant. It seems that will no longer be a worry. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will be using the off-season to rest and relax. Serge Ibaka still remains in Spain’s lineup though.