Three Thunder Players Getting Started with 2012 Team USA

LAS VEGAS -- In the shadows of massive hotels and casinos along the Las Vegas strip, the U.S. Men’s National Basketball team will be making its first strides together as it begins its journey toward the 2012 London Olympics.

Thunder players Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden will take part in the six days of training at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center, led by National Team Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Joining the Thunder trio are LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Love, Chris Paul, Deron Williams and 2012 NBA Draft number one selection Anthony Davis to make up the 15 finalists for the 12-man Team USA roster that will continue on to Washington, D.C., and ultimately to London for the Olympics.

For Durant, Westbrook and Harden, it’s a wonderful chance to improve their games, challenge themselves against the best in the world and get to know some of the NBA’s biggest stars on and off the court.

“It’s an opportunity to play with a group of guys on the team and an opportunity to represent our country. It should be fun,” Westbrook said. “It’s crazy because you never really know how they are as people when you see them on the court. You don’t talk to them as much, so to get to hang with them outside of it is kind of cool.”

The Thunder is only two weeks removed from playing in the NBA Finals, but that isn’t stopping the trio of young leaders from wanting to represent their country. Durant and his teammates built the foundation of the Thunder’s culture through tireless work and dedication to improving their craft, so they are happy to have a busy summer schedule, especially one with such high stakes.

“It’s going to be basketball all summer,” Durant said. “It’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it. The Olympics are something that I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid, so I just can’t wait until it starts up.”

While Durant and Westbrook played together on Krzyzewski’s 2010 World Championship team that brought home the gold medal, this will be Harden’s first time competing for a chance to play international basketball. Being selected by USA Basketball Managing Director Jerry Colangelo, and getting to work under the tutelage of Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Mike D’Antoni and Nate McMillan, will also be a great environment for the 22-year-old Harden to continue to work on his game, with the assistance of international basketball veterans Durant and Westbrook.

“I’m just going to embrace that and really have fun and enjoy it,” Harden said. “I’ll be with Kevin and Russell, so that will help.”

These three players are a part of a young Thunder core that spends nearly as much time together off the court as it does on the court. Last summer, the team organized group workouts in Lexington, Ky., Austin, Texas, and Oklahoma City. This year Durant, Westbrook and Harden will have the opportunity to continue to grow, learn and play together in a setting that will test all of their limits and challenge them in new and interesting ways. Westbrook hopes that starting with these first few days in Las Vegas, he and his Thunder teammates can join Team USA in its quest to bring home the gold medal come August.

“It’ll be great that we can go through this together,” Westbrook said. “Hopefully we have another opportunity to win another medal together and just embrace it and have fun.”

Thunder Basketball writer Nick Gallo is in Las Vegas to cover the USA Basketball workouts. Check back daily for his reports.