Nets star Kevin Durant knows that most of the world is fighting Team USA, and their staggering exhibition losses encouraged their enemies that they can be defeated.
But Durant said it also reminded Team USA that they can be beaten and strengthened they will have to earn their way to Olympic gold in Tokyo. And that’s a good thing.
“Yes, yes, I feel we understand which coach [Gregg Popovich] wants from us on both sides of the floor,” Durant said after Team USA practice. “I feel like guys are more comfortable with each other in their role in a team, and that will only go well for us when we start playing real matches.
“So it was good to get a slap in the face early on to remind us that there will be no cakewalk. So many people were used to Team USA coming in to blow everyone out, so it was good for us to have that Hopefully those are the last losses now.”
Durant and Popovich are counting on who lose upset to Nigeria and Australia in their first two exhibition games back in Las Vegas, after getting the full attention of Team USA. But they have certainly also gained the attention of their enemies, boosting the hopes of teams like France coming into the qualifying round opener on Sunday.
“Every team wants to beat us. Everyone wants to see us lose. So every game has a little bit more pressure,” said Durant. “And a lot of guys dropped out, a lot of circumstances. And I’m sure other teams [have] have seen us lose and feel confident in the tournament. But we understand what we are getting into and we are looking forward to the challenge.”
Those guys dropping out are Wizards star Bradley Beal (health and safety protocols) and Cavalier’s big man Kevin Love (recovery from injuries) who is forced to pull out. Zach LaVine is heading to Japan after his own quarantine, with Popovich saying the wing can practice Thursday and play Sunday.
With Team USA with only eight players until reinforcements arrive (LaVine and NBA Finals trio Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and Devin Booker), Durant will carry too much of a burden. He’s also just 25 points away from becoming Team USA’s all-time Olympic scorer, but claims this isn’t a point of emphasis.
“No, records are there to be broken and people call you the best, that’s all just an opinion,” Durant said. “I can’t be bothered about that. It’s about how I get to work every day.”