Green and Durant Stick Together, Even in the Bright Lights of Vegas
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
LAS VEGAS, Aug. 20 -- Kevin Durant's cellphone rang at a Team USA breakfast Monday and upon hearing the ring tone by rapper Kanye West, Jeff Green scrunched his face in disapproval.
"You got the wrong ring tone, Kevin," Green said, shaking his head. "Kanye says, 'Wait till I get my money, right.' You already got your money right."
Durant chuckled, scooped some more fruit onto his plate and sat down. "Yeah, that's Jeff," Durant later said with a laugh. "He's always got something to say about somebody. I can take it."
Green and Durant have known each other as acquaintances for the past three years, but in the past two months, they have spent nearly as much time together as apart. The Maryland natives became teammates June 28 when the Seattle SuperSonics selected Durant with the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft then made a trade with the Boston Celtics to acquire the former Georgetown star Green, the fifth pick.
Since then, they've played on the SuperSonics' summer league team and spent the past week participating in Team USA's preparations for the FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which begins Wednesday at Thomas & Mack Center. The United States needs to finish first or second to qualify for Beijing.
Green and Durant are in Las Vegas for different reasons -- Green was invited as a member of a 10-man select team of young NBA players to scrimmage with members of the men's senior national team while Durant was on the bubble for the official 12-man roster before being cut with Nick Collison late Monday night -- but they have breakfast together each morning and have eaten dinner together a few times, since both players are too young to partake in all that Las Vegas has to offer.
Both players appear to have remained grounded and humble despite the drastic changes in their basketball lives and bank accounts in recent weeks. They became millionaires when they signed NBA contracts last month, and Durant hit the jackpot when he signed a seven-year, $60 million shoe deal -- which included a $10 million signing bonus -- with Nike. "I'm the same person I was before I got drafted," Durant said. "When I really put that Sonics jersey on and play my first game, I'm going to feel a little different."
Green turns 21 next week, so he has stayed clear of the casinos and the clubs in Sin City -- "I don't go out and party anyway," he said, but he hasn't even tried to watch any of the elaborate shows. "Too expensive," Green said. "I can't live the lavish life yet. I haven't done anything yet, to make a name for myself. I'm not trying to get too far ahead of myself."
Green said his only indulgence was purchasing a car. "It's something I need," he said, declining to name the make and model.
Durant, the collegiate player of the year as a freshman from Texas, made a case that he belonged on the senior team at the Blue-White scrimmage last month, and hasn't damaged his chances with his play at training camp. But based on his limited playing time during the national team's scrimmage with the select team Saturday and recent comments from USA Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Managing Director Jerry Colangelo, Durant -- who turns 19 in late September -- appears expendable this time around.
"I want to make the team, but I'm not trying to overdo it, thinking too much and not playing the way I want to. I'm just having fun," Durant said. "Even if I don't make the team, it's been a great experience for me these last couple of weeks, playing against the best players in the world."
Green and Houston's Aaron Brooks were the only rookies to be chosen for the select team, and Green viewed it as more affirmation of his decision to leave Georgetown after his junior season. Matching up with superstars such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony the past week in practice has been "the highlight of my NBA life so far," Green said.
"You see these guys on TV, you don't have a chance to go against them. But if you play hard, you can play with anybody. That's all I've been doing. Giving them all I've got, to make the USA team better, to help it get back to the way it was."
Green finished his service to the country after the final practice Monday and planned to go to Seattle to find a place to stay. He hasn't decided whether to buy a house or rent an apartment, with the SuperSonics' future in the city still in limbo. Durant is in the process of closing on a home in the Seattle area.
Durant said Seattle already feels like home with Green and another Maryland native, Delonte West, acquired in the deal with Green. "Going through the lottery experience, I thought I was going to be out there all by myself," Durant said. "God works in mysterious ways."
In addition to having each other to joke around with this week, Seattle Coach P.J. Carlesimo coached the select team and Collison, another Seattle forward, was also competing for a roster spot on the national team. Georgetown Coach John Thompson III and former Hoyas coach and TNT analyst John Thompson have paid visits to practice.
"It's a family atmosphere here," Green said.