First Paul George (for reasons beyond his control), and now Kevin Durant: Team USA has lost two of its starters in the past week. USA Basketball just announced that Durant withdrew his name from FIBA World Cup consideration.
“Kevin reached out to Coach K and myself this afternoon and expressed that he is just physically and mentally drained from the NBA season and his attention to his many responsibilities. He tried to give it a go at our recent Las Vegas training camp but felt coming out of camp that he was not prepared to fulfill the commitment he made to the team,” said Colangelo. “Coach K and I fully support Kevin. His well being is the most important thing to us and we support him taking the time to get ready for next season. He’s been part of the National Team program for eight years and a big part of the success we have achieved, and we look forward to him being part of our success in the future as well.”
Here’s a statement from Durant himself:
Durant explained his decision saying, “This was an extremely difficult decision as I take great pride in representing our country. I know that I owe it to my USA Basketball teammates to be totally invested in the experience. After going through training camp with USAB, I realized I could not fulfill my responsibilities to the team from both a time and energy standpoint. I need to take a step back and take some time away, both mentally and physically in order to prepare for the upcoming NBA season. I will be rooting for USAB and look forward to future opportunities with them.”
This is, of course, devastating news for Team USA. The team’s front court took a massive hit when George went down, and Durant was expected to anchor the team on both ends. We expected him to use this experience to vault himself ahead of LeBron James in talks for “the world’s best player.” Team USA should still be favored to win the Cup, but the leadership role falls to guys like James Harden and Stephen Curry. That makes us nervous.
And unfortunately, we have to ask: It really took a week of USAB camp for Durant to realize he wasn’t up for the grind? Did George’s injury scare him into dropping out? Did he receive any pressure from the Thunder — or perhaps Under Armour, who reportedly offered him a $325 million endorsement deal? The timing is, in a word, curious.
Photo via Getty