He wasn’t seeking time to recuperate after playing all 66 games of the lockout-shortened regular season and another 20 in the postseason. Having a chance to invest the next six weeks of his life in helping to win his first Olympic gold medal is exactly what Durant needed to avoid countless hours pondering every missed jump shot or questionable foul call (or non-call) that contributed to his shortcomings on the NBA’s biggest stage.
“I definitely didn’t want to think about the Finals all summer,” said Durant, who averaged 30.6 points in the five-game loss to Miami.
Durant does have a constant reminder of his heartache, with former opponent and Finals MVP LeBron James now sharing the same uniform and goal of winning in London. He admitted that playing with someone who just claimed the championship at Durant’s expense bothers him.
“It does. But what can I do? He’s my teammate now. I’m a team player. I can’t let it affect this. It’s bigger than that. I’m going to just get over it,” said Durant, who is also joined by two of his Thunder teammates, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. “LeBron had a great year. He won the title, so I let it go; but for me, I was just upset with us — my whole team and myself. Not because we played bad, but we could’ve had a chance to win and we didn’t.
“I wanted to win so bad. I wanted to win for the city. I wanted to win for, of course, our team, myself,” Durant said. “I wanted to win for so many people and you kind of feel that you let them down a little bit. It’s a learning process. I guess you have to go through that, to get better. Hopefully, it helps us as a team and hopefully, we’ll get back there one day.”
But if Durant needed any reminders that he can overcome career setbacks, he doesn’t have to look beyond his experience with USA Basketball. He played well in scrimmages in 2008, when, fresh off his rookie season, Durant was one of the final cuts from the team that won gold in the Beijing Olympics.
“That seems like 20 years ago, almost. I’ve grown so much as a player in this league,” said Durant, the three-time scoring champion. “I thought I was going to make it. I had plans on making it. I didn’t come just to play, just to say, ‘I was here.’ It hurt, but it’s something I had to go through. I’ve been through it before. It was just a matter of me learning from it and moving on.”
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo clarifies that Durant wasn’t waived: “We just said, ‘We’ll see you soon — and we did.”