Kevin Durant needed Team USA.
He needed the time in Rio, at the Olympics, away from the NBA offseason chaos he left behind. He needed to get away from his decision to join the Golden State Warriors, the one he still stands by and is excited about but can’t quite escape. He needed that gold medal and the feeling of success and adulation that follows a feat most of the public can support.
Everything about Team USA—Durant needed it. He said as much to The Vertical’s Michael Lee:
“It was therapy for me after making a big change in my life,” Durant told The Vertical in the bowels of Carioca Arena 1 about an hour after scoring 30 points in Sunday’s 96-66 victory. “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.”
Durant, of course, never really escaped his decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder, to cut ties with longtime teammate Russell Westbrook, and form a superteam with one of their rivals. He was peppered with questions throughout the Olympics, as were Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. That comes with the territory.
But it makes sense that he was comfortable and more at peace in Rio. He was surrounded by fellow superstar peers, none of whom have reason to be unsupportive of his relocation. Harrison Barnes, who was collateral damage of Durant’s arrival, might have felt some unease, but the $94 million he’s getting from the Dallas Mavericks over the next four years probably helps offset any existing ill will.
Following the Olympics, Durant can now try settling in while flying under the radar—insofar as someone of his fame and stature can exist under the radar. There are a few weeks of dead time before training camp begins, during which Durant can find respite from the public eye.
After that, though, the whirlwind starts all over again, as he and his Warriors brethren set out to make good on the promise of greatness they inherently made by joining forces.