Love and Durant to play for Team USA
by Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
LAS VEGAS – The Kevins – Love and Durant – delivered the news USA Basketball wanted and needed to hear on Wednesday.
Both will play in next summer’s FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain, giving the U.S. a boost in talent and experience as it goes for its fourth consecutive major international championship.
“For these veterans – although they are not old guys yet – to make that commitment is a huge step,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “You have gold-medal winners in two events. Both of them were 21-year-old guys when we won in Istanbul (at the 2010 FIBA World Championship) and then at 23, they won gold medals (at the 2012 London Olympic Games). They are now part of the leadership of our program and they’ve been committed.”
USA Basketball had expected Love to play in Spain, but chairman Jerry Colangelo and Krzyzewski were not sure about Durant, who played in the 2010 world championship and 2012 London Olympics. It would have been acceptable had Durant decided not to play.
“It’s USA. That’s it,” Durant told USA TODAY Sports. “To play amongst the world and travel throughout this beautiful world and play basketball, you can’t beat that. It’s a great opportunity.”
Getting the commitment from Durant is huge for the U.S., which will have a mix of 2012 Olympians and players with little international experience on the team. Plus, the U.S. must contend with Spain on Spain’s turf.
“It’s going to be hard,” Durant said. “But we beat Turkey in Turkey in 2010. We know what it takes.”
Durant’s ability to score from anywhere on the court – especially at the international three-point line – provides the U.S. with an offensive threat that sorely would have been missing had Durant not committed. Love, whose game translates well in international play, provides an inside-outside threat, and is relentless on the boards.
Love echoed the message Colangelo has delivered to players skeptical of spending a significant portion of their offseason with Team USA: it makes them better players.
“Being a part of USA Basketball has meant a lot for my career,” Love said.
Colangelo had high praise for Durant.