It didn’t take long for Kevin Durant to make an impact on Team USA.
The team, absent Devin Booker and Jrue Holiday conducted their second day of camp out in Las Vegas with an initial goal of developing familiarity among the players, essence, coming together as a team. While the roster is different from past Olympics in terms of experience, Durant is the most decorated player on the roster with three international gold medals — from the 2012 and the 2016 Olympic Games along with a 2010 FIBA World Championship gold. KD has his long list of prestigious NBA accolades, including MVP, two-time Finals MVP and four-time scoring champ
As his USA Baskeball coach and teammates acknowledge, that all matters.
Gregg Popovich — who is in the head chair for the first time in the Olympics — said the team hadn’t yet chosen captains for Team USA, but Durant’s leadership has already resonated out in Vegas with his teammates.
“His leadership is terrific. He’s 39-0 in USA basketball and that’s crazy,” Bradley Beal said Wednesday during the second day of Team USA camp. “We definitely want to keep that going. It speaks volumes for him to be 10+ years in the league and still wanting to come back and be a part of this prestigious fraternity. We definitely look up to him to push us and lead us, but at the same time, he’s very unselfish. He’s very encouraging. He wants everyone to do well.”
The Washington Wizards star said that KD spoke in practice Wednesday and told his teammates to “be special” — words that stuck with Beal.
“He said something very unique today. He said ‘be special. That’s why we’re here.’ And that stuck on to me. So hopefully, we can keep that mentality and understand that we’re here for a reason,” Beal added.
Beyond the leadership brewing in camp, Durant — who is coming off of a heartbreaking end to a tough season with Brooklyn — isn’t showing any signs of rust on the UNLV hardwood out in Vegas.
“You know his famous quote, “I am Kevin Durant”? There’s nothing changing,” Beal said. “We know who he is and what he’s capable of doing and he’s doing the same thing in practice. He’s aggressive. He’s a seven-foot scorer. An elite scorer at all three levels.”
Popovich — who said “I would have begged, cried, anything I could to change his mind” if the 32-year-old declined to play for Team USA — spoke highly of Durant after the first day of camp.
“He wants to be part of this all the time, as we all know. And that’s his motivation at the core. That’s what he loves to do. And luckily for all of us, that’s who he is,” Popovich said Tuesday. “So it’s a testament to his character and just desire to be part of a team and have a challenge and seek the success.”
Fans will get to see Durant and the others play for the first time at 8 p.m. ET Saturday night vs. the Nigerian national team. The game, which begins a five-game exhibition schedule will be televised by NBC Sports.
Meanwhile, half a world away in Paris, James Harden and Lil Baby were getting noticed at the annual Paris Fashion Show...
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- Beal hopes to learn from Durant playing for Team USA - Chase Hughes - NBC Sports Washington