It is 1:15 a.m. Eastern Daylight time, which means there is no daylight at the moment in the U.S. mainland, but there is where Kevin Durant now stands because that place is a basketball court more than a dozen time zones away, in Tokyo. At 32 years old, he has earned a quarter of a billion dollars in his career as an NBA player, and that’s not to mention millions in endorsements gained since leaving the Texas Longhorns in 2007, but he is playing for free in a game his team now leads by 28 points. And it’s not even halftime.
What is Durant doing in this game, which eventually will end with the U.S. defeating Iran, 120-66?
More to the point, what is KD doing at these Olympic Games?
It’s not that he never before has been an Olympian and wants the experience before his playing days are finished. He won gold medals with the United States in 2012 and 2016, making such a significant contribution on those two occasions he will become the leading scorer among U.S. men in Olympic competition with just three more baskets, two if they come from long distance.
It’s not for the attention. Anyone who has pulled on a USA Basketball jersey understands there is little commendation available for the endeavor, defeat is not an option, gold is an expectation – and it best not look like anyone broke a sweat along the way.
And still he is here, when he could be home in bed getting rest to prepare him for the preparation for his 15th season in the NBA. Or he could be in a club in Ibiza, where it would be approaching dawn, but hey, the clubs in Ibiza stay open that long, right? He could be anywhere on the planet enjoying the riches he has earned with his enduring basketball brilliance and the vacation he earned by averaging 26.9 points and 5.6 assists in 2020-21, coming off a full season missed with a blown achilles. He has chosen to be in this place, with Iran center Hamed Haddadi using all of the force contained in his 7-2, 262-pound frame in an attempt to establish an advantageous offensive position against him.
Consider all of this the next time you hear some inflammatory talk host or uniformed talk-show caller or audacious Twitter twitterer claim the members of the U.S. senior national team care less about their international basketball endeavors than the teams they oppose.
In a country currently drowning in preposterous, dangerous public discourse, this conceit ranks among the least dangerous but most preposterous.
There were a lot of reasons for Sunday’s opening Olympics loss to France in pool play, which broke a winning streak that stretched to 2004 but did not finish the plans to win a fourth consecutive gold medal. To suggest, however, that athletes aren’t evincing the proper level of commitment even though they have every reason not to compete and still are out there in the midst of a continuing global pandemic – that has no logical basis.
Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton completed an NBA championship with the Bucks that required the completion of 23 brutally competitive games in just 60 days. They celebrated into Wednesday morning, rode triumphantly in the parade through Milwaukee at lunchtime Thursday and then jumped on a private jet Friday bound for Tokyo – a flight lasting more than half a day — to become part of the U.S. Olympic team. Devin Booker made the same trip even though his Suns lost that series. Mere hours after arrival, Holiday hopped on the floor in Sunday’s disappointing opening defeat against France and led the team in scoring and assists.
“I always respected those guys … no matter what teams they’re on, no matter the record of those teams,” Durant told reporters this week. “What they did, was, to me, it just felt like who they are. I always had a high level of respect for all three of those guys no matter the Finals run or not. But to see them come out and play, not really complain about anything, be excited to be here … those guys are amazing. They really, really love the game. It’s great being around them.”
In the victory over Iran, the Americans led 66-30 when Durant stood strong against Haddadi, stuffed his shot attempt, extended his long arm over the baseline to save the ball from going out of bounds and zipped it off Haddadi’s midsection to deflect it over the sideline for a U.S. possession.
With 4:39 remaining in the game and the U.S. ahead 100-57, Durant stood from the seat he’d earned on the bench with 10 points and 5 assists in 20 minutes to “dap up” the members of the U.S. team who were completing the blowout as they arrived for a timeout huddle.
With 9 seconds left and the U.S. ahead 118-66, he watched as his teammates assembled in a fullcourt press following two free throws from Booker, with Booker stealing the ball and dunking for the final basket.
He doesn’t care? They don’t care? You will see less of this on social media today because of the overwhelming victory, but the internet never forgets. It’s still out there. Search Twitter for “USA Basketball” and “desire,” and you will be amazed by the posts this reveals. In the attempt to affront the players on the U.S. senior men’s national team, though, these people actually are insulting their own intelligence.
Original source here
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