Thunder superstar Kevin Durant led the way for Team USA's win over France on Sunday and his Thunder teammates also ended up with pretty good games. Russell Westbrook added nine points and James Harden had five. But Durant led all scorers with 22 points and he pulled down nine rebounds.
“We still have a lot of work to do, but that’s the beauty of it all,” Durant said. “We’re all coming together in such a short time. We’re having fun playing. Guys don’t worry about points, rebounds, assists; we just want to play to win.”
Sounds like LeBron James would like Durant to worry about scoring a little bit more though. Durant, the 3-time NBA scoring champ, has not played in an Olympics before. Like any newcomer, he wants to be liked. So time and again during the U.S. team’s brief time together this year, Durant has passed up the sort of open shots that he drills for the Thunder.
“I told KD to just be himself,” James said after Sunday's game. “On a team like this you can kind of shy away because there are so many great players here. But KD’s on this team for a reason. He’s one of the best players the world has and he’s a three-time scoring champ. So we don’t want the KD that defers. We want the KD that he is in Oklahoma City.”
Team USA got off to a slow start, leading only 22-21 after the first quarter but the U.S. dominated the second and third quarters to pull away.
"We started off rough in the first quarter. In the second quarter we picked it up and went on a little bit of a run to close the half," Harden said. "Then in the second half we pulled away. That shows the talent that we have. We’re capable of a lot of things once our chemistry starts pulling together. It was our first game. We started off slow. We didn’t make as many shots as we wanted to. But as our chemistry builds, we’ll be better."
Another problem Team USA seemed to have is getting used to the officiating in the international game, getting whistled for 26 fouls.
"It was tough, " Durant admitted, "but we know now. We just have to not worry about the refs and just play our game. I think we did a great job of responding to that. Guys played hard. Even though some calls we thought should have gone our way, but that’s the name of the game and we just have to keep playing through it."
The USA plays Tunisia next tomorrow afternoon Oklahoma time.
• Serge Ibaka had a good game for Spain, 14 points, five rebounds and three blocks as the Spanish knocked off China 97-81.
• The transaction flurry that has defined the Suns this month has not included a contract extension for head coach Alvin Gentry. And that’s not a surprise. We were escorted to the acceptance porch of this reality during Lon Babby’s preamble-to-summer press conference back in June. “My view is if a person has a three-year contract, you assess it at the end of three years,” the Suns’ president of basketball operations said when asked about Gentry’s status with the final year of his deal approaching.
• Latest NBA buzz says Lindsey Hunter likely on way to Magic as assistant coach and Eddie Jordan to Lakers in same role.
• According to league sources, the Warriors’ reported interest in free agent SF Josh Howard is, at the very least, minimal. Golden State’s focus is still on landing a back-up power forward, with Carl Landry atop the wishlist. After drafting Harrison Barnes, and with the expected re-signing of Brandon Rush, the Warriors aren’t in the market for a small forward unless he can play power forward (someone like Andrei Kirilenko or Dominic McGuire).