Published On: Mon, Aug 22nd, 2016

Durant: Olympic basketball 'was therapy for me' after free-agency backlash

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Kevin Durant has had a roller-coaster of a summer.

On the Fourth of July, three days into NBA free agency, he made the biggest decision of his career (and one of the most controversial decisions by an NBAer ever) when he opted to sign with the Golden State Warriors. He dealt with the inevitable backlash from large swaths of the basketball community, for eschewing the small-market team with which he’d spent his entire career, in order to join their big-market rivals.

Then he traveled to troubled Rio to compete in the Olympics for a depleted (relative to recent Games) U.S. squad, and faced scrutiny along with his teammates for an uninspiring preliminary round, before finally leading the team to a third straight gold medal in dominant fashion. Durant finished as Team USA’s leading scorer and 3-point shooter, and was unquestionably their best player throughout the tournament. On top of helping bring his country the gold, Durant’s participation in Rio 2016 gave him some much-needed peace of mind after a few bumpy weeks.

“It was therapy for me after making a big change in my life,” Durant told The Vertical’s Michael Lee, after scoring a game-high 30 points against Serbia in the lopsided gold-medal game. “It made my life easier … I knew (a backlash) was coming. It was definitely different for me, but to come here in an environment where people accepted me and didn’t care about anything except being my buddy, that’s what I needed.”

Along the way, Durant got a taste of playing alongside a couple new Warriors teammates in Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. He also moved into second all-time in U.S. Olympic scoring, and posted the second-highest total-point tally (155) for an American in an Olympic tournament. (The highest? Durant’s 156 from London in 2012.)

Durant is now just 25 points behind four-time Olympian Carmelo Anthony for the top spot on Team USA’s Olympic scoring list, but isn’t sure he’ll be in Tokyo to supplant Anthony four years hence.

“I want to pass him, for sure,” Durant said. “Just because it’s ‘Melo, I would love to pass him. But I don’t know if I’ll play or not. Who knows? We’ll see. You never know what’s going to happen in four years. I’m just going to enjoy this one right now.”



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