Published On: Mon, Aug 22nd, 2016

Durant on early struggles in Rio: 'I was trying too hard to sacrifice'

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Kevin Durant was instrumental in helping Team USA capture its third – and his second – consecutive Olympic gold medal, scoring 30 points as the Americans cruised to a 96-66 win Sunday over Serbia.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing, though. Despite being the squad’s most lethal offensive weapon among many, Durant was passive in some of the group-phase matches in Rio, averaging just five shot attempts in three of them and going 4-for-16 in another.

While the U.S. won all of those contests, three of the triumphs were by 10 points or less, which surprised many and upset the 6-foot-9 forward. That didn’t go unnoticed by head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who also collaborated with him in the London Olympics.

“I wasn’t being myself,” Durant admitted, according to Mark Purdy of the Mercury News. “Coach sat me down and showed me some film of 2012. He said, ‘I want to see that guy again.’ He just told me to be me.

“I was trying too hard to sacrifice and make that extra pass, and I was taken away from my game. I guess I just woke up. When I’m smiling out there, screaming and beating my chest, showing emotion, that’s when I’m really lost in the game. I got away from that.”

The 27-year-old reverted to his elite form – which saw him set the U.S. scoring record with 156 points in London – just in time for the knockout phase, at which point he averaged 26.7 points while scoring at a 55.6 percent clip.

A mental shift seemed to prepare him for that. All the pressure and criticism over his recent decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and join the Golden State Warriors seemed to weigh on his mind before that point.

“He’s gone through a lot of examination with the fact that he signed with the Warriors,” USA’s managing director Jerry Colangelo said following the gold medal game. “He’s been under a little bit of pressure. And to see him bust out like he did here was wonderful. I think it’s really going to help his psyche moving forward. I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Durant was able to find success by resolving to be happy for himself, and finished the tournament with 155 total points – just one shy of his record.

“I can’t let anybody steal my joy,” Durant told ESPN’s Marc Stein, likely referring to critics of his move to the Bay Area. “(Assistant coach) Monty Williams used to tell me that every day; don’t let anybody steal my joy.”

Golden State hopes the former league MVP’s joy remains with him so he can help put the Warriors over the top. His participation with the national team should make the transition to playing alongside three other All-Stars that much easier.

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