Good Things Come To Kevin Durant
Las Vegas, Nev. ē July 22, 2010
After training with the USA Menís National Team in 2007 and 2008, and missing out on playing in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Kevin Durant said he knew he had to wait his turn.
Turns out he didnít have to wait too long.
Coming off a season in which he became the youngest scoring champion in NBA history, Durant, the 22 year-old Oklahoma City Thunder forward, has had an impressive showing through the first three days of the 2010 USA Menís National Team training camp this week in Las Vegas.
Although Durant averaged an astonishing 30.1 points per game in the 2009-10 season, he was eager to spend some of his offseason training with a cast of NBA stars and potentially representing his country in the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey from Aug. 28 to Sept. 12.
With two days left in Las Vegas, Durant spoke about the training camp, having two of his Thunder teammates with him and the USAís chances in the World Championship.
Have you been trying to take a leadership role this week?
Iíve been coming in just trying to learn as much as I can Ė learn the offensive system, the defensive system Ė and just being a great teammate. Pick and choose spots to be aggressive and also encouraging my teammates. So, Iím still learning. Itís only the third day, so Iím learning every day, and I think Iím moving in the right direction.
How do you feel about the group of players at camp?
We still got a long ways to go, but I think weíre getting better each and every day. Guys are starting to learn each otherís games. Weíre starting to learn more and more of the defensive concepts, and thatís the most important thing, learning defense. I mean, guys can score. Everybody can score. But itís going to be how we play team basketball thatís going to take us over the top. So, weíre all looking forward to going out there and trying to play that way, but weíre also all looking forward to these next couple of days.
Is the international style of play going to take some getting used to?
Yeah, of course it is, because itís a lot more physical than the NBA game. And of course the rules are different, but with us practicing here and going to New York and playing exhibition games, itís going to help us out. Like I said, weíre looking forward to that experience. Guys are just coming out and trying to play hard. Thatís the main thing.
What do you know about the Spanish national team, with Rudy Fernandez, Marc Gasol and Jose Calderon?
Theyíre the favorite, I heard. Of course theyíre good, every year theyíre good. Calderon is a phenomenal point guard. Rudy Fernandez of course is a great shooter, and heís even better in international play. Marc Gasol is very good, so they have a lot of talent over there. Itís going to be a tough test when we go up against those guys, but Iím sure weíre all looking forward to it. A lot of people are writing us off already, saying that because we donít have the key guys in the NBA that we donít have a chance, but we want to prove everybody wrong, and we also want to come out there and play as hard as we can and try to get a win.
Whatís it like having two Oklahoma City Thunder teammates, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook, at training camp?
Weíve known each other for two and a half years now, and all three of us Ė me, Russell, Jeff Ė know the ins and outs of each otherís games, and that helps us out a lot as far as chemistry goes. That makes it easier to play with these (other) guys as well.
What does having this opportunity mean to you?
It means a lot. Words canít explain how excited I am to be here and just represent my country. Itís not just the guys that are out here practicing, itís everybody out there in the country thatís watching us, rooting for us and waiting to bring that gold back. Itís a tough task ahead of us, but weíre all looking forward to it.
Was it an easy opportunity to say Ďyesí to?
The USA across my chest is an automatic yes. And to have the chance to play with some of the greatest players in the NBA is going to make me better, so it was an opportunity I definitely couldnít pass up.
After playing in the training camp for the 2008 Olympic team but not making the squad, did it motivate you this time around?
Well, I wasnít disappointed. I knew I had to wait my turn. Everythingís not going to be just given to me, and I have to fight for it. God made sure I did, and Iíve been working hard ever since. Finally, itís my chance to be one of the main guys, and hopefully Iíll go out there and do my best.
Whatís it like having USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo around during training?
Heís an advocate for hard play and guys like playing for him, because without him really having to speak too much, his aura is just around everybody, and he kind of gives off that good energy. So seeing him out here around everybody just makes us want to push even harder. So, he really doesnít have to say anything to get us to give good energy. So itís great to have him around, and Iím blessed to have this opportunity, so Iíll try to make the best of it.
Have they had you working at one specific position during camp?
Well, every position is interchangeable, two through four, so Iíve been playing the four, three, two. We have some of the same guys Ė me, Lamar Odom, Rudy Gay, Andre Iguodala, Gerald Wallace Ė weíre all like the same players as far as us being long and athletic, so whoever gets the ball, we can go. Itís great to have those kinds of players.