Friday, August 22, 2014
NEW YORK — While Kevin Durant takes a step back, the U.S. national team is moving forward.
Durant stunned the Americans when he decided to withdraw after practicing with the team during its first week of training camp. Now that they’ve had time to get over the surprise, they aren’t dwelling on it.
“I’m through talking about Kevin,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said Tuesday after the Americans practiced for the upcoming Basketball World Cup.
“We’re done with that. We’re on to this group. What a coach does, a coach coaches who he has, not who he doesn’t have. You’re married, you’re with that woman, you’re not thinking about who you dated.”
Durant pulled out Aug. 7, shortly after the Americans finished working out in Las Vegas, where a year earlier he announced his plans to play for the team this summer.
But the NBA’s MVP and leading scorer instead decided he needed a break more than he needed to chase another gold medal.
“I think for myself, I just needed to take a step back,” Durant said.
So he wasn’t in East Rutherford, New Jersey, where the Americans practiced at the Nets’ training center. He did catch up with a few teammates though, joining James Harden, Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis on a panel promoting the video game “NBA 2K15,” of which Durant appears on the cover.
Durant said his decision to pull out was “definitely tough,” adding that playing alongside Curry in the 2010 world championship was “one of the best experiences of my life.”
He was the MVP of that tournament, averaging 22.8 points as the Americans won the event for the first time since 1994. He was their leading scorer again two years ago in the London Olympics, scoring 19.5 points per game.
But the Americans insist they will move on without him.
“We’ve got to play,” Davis said after practice. “We can’t sit around and mope because he dropped out.”
Davis is one of the reasons the Americans believe they can win without Durant. He was the dominant player in their victory over Brazil on Saturday in Chicago in their exhibition opener. They play Wednesday against the Dominican Republic at Madison Square Garden.
Derrick Rose is expected to play after sitting out the last two practices to rest as he returns from missing most of the last two seasons following knee surgeries.
Davis and Rose are both former overall No. 1 draft picks, part of a deep U.S. roster pool that remains in Durant’s absence. Both also have previous international experience, Rose starting for the Americans in Turkey four years ago and Davis a member of the last Olympic team.
As good as Durant is, the Americans don’t fear going to Spain without him.
“If you’re competitive and you have a job to do and you have a goal, and that is to win another gold medal,” USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said, “you take the hits, you take the lumps, take somebody else and let’s go.”