Durant, Westbrook, Harden Honored to Make Team USA
Starting in a few weeks, the Oklahoma City Thunder will be the first NBA team in Olympic history to have three players represented on the U.S. National Basketball Team. On Saturday Durant, Westbrook and Harden made the final 12-man roster that will play in the London Games, and couldn't be more excited to do so.
As teammates who have shed blood, sweat and tears with one another over the past few seasons to continually improve, the fact that the trio will get to enjoy this moment together is enormous to all three of them. This massive privilege and honor to represent the United States on the national stage is shared by all in the organization, with the young but mature Thunder trio as the faces of the franchise on now an international level.
Joined by Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler, Blake Griffin, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Chris Paul and Deron Williams, the Thunder trio will have the opportunity to learn from Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of the coaching staff that will try to guide the team to the Gold Medal. For the Thunder organization, which just finished its fourth season in Oklahoma City, it is an extremely proud moment that Harden verbalized after the announcement on Saturday night.
“It means a lot,” Harden said of the Thunder being the first team to have three players on an Olympic team. “It shows all the hard work that we put in. I know these guys (Durant and Westbrook) were already on the team, but just me as a late addition, it’s definitely a dream come true. Just being a great, humble workaholic, a great character guy, that’s what has gotten me to this point.”
Coming off an NBA Finals berth, the Thunder and its young core are hungry to continue to grow and get better over the summer. Durant, who was the MVP of the World Championships in 2010 under Krzyzewski’s tutelage, believes that his first Olympic experience and playing with veterans like Bryant and James will help him hone his ability to lead a squad. He feels that because of the mutual respect between players of this caliber, he will have a chance to expand his talents on and off the court, while also having the amazing opportunity to represent his country.
“I think this is a great opportunity for me to up my leadership skills,” Durant said. “I’m one of the younger guys on the team, but I think they all respect me and really listen. … So I’m just going to try to work on my leadership skills and on the court just continue to be me. And hopefully through the experience I grow a little bit and I bring it back to Oklahoma City.”
Durant’s enthusiasm to join the Olympic team was evident, as he reflected on not making the 2008 Olympic squad. Westbrook will be playing in his first Olympics as well, and he echoed Durant’s comments about learning a thing or two about directing a team over the course of this summer. In addition, Westbrook made certain to outline his plan to do whatever it takes to help the team win. Above all, Westbrook’s unparalleled relentlessness and energy on the court will be essential to the role he plays for Team USA.
“Leadership can be a big thing, especially watching and learning from a lot of different players,” Westbrook said. “You always have to stay going. That’s my job and that’s what I do. Just keep on going until I make sure everybody is on the same page.”
Both Durant and Westbrook believe that their success and experience with the 2010 World Championship team helped prepare them for this moment as they will both certainly play an important part in the U.S. National Team’s quest for gold. On Friday, Krzyzewski discussed the way accomplishment has a wonderful influence on confidence for young players, and Durant seemingly took a page out of Coach K’s notebook when he waxed poetic about the nature of NBA and international basketball spawning further success.
“In this league and in basketball in general, when you have opportunity and you have confidence, your game can go to new heights,” Durant said. “In 2010, just playing under Coach K and his staff, they gave us a lot of confidence just to be ourselves and this time around, we know what it takes and know what we have to do.”
Durant and Westbrook have found the fruits of their Team USA labor, but for Harden, this is his first trial run in international basketball, and thus the beginning stages of what his two Thunder teammates experienced in 2010. Going from the third overall draft pick in 2009 to the Sixth Man of the Year in 2012 to a late addition to Team USA, Harden has witnessed dramatic developments in his own basketball life, and is loving every minute of it, just as the Thunder has experienced a massive change in its own standing in the NBA from 2008 until today.
“It’s the best phase of my life,” Harden said. “Definitely all the hard work and dedication is paying off. Five years ago I was a senior in high school, I couldn’t imagine playing for the US Olympic team, playing for the country. It’s been a long journey, but it’s definitely a dream come true.”