It's confirmed! Kevin Durant will be returning to Team USA, leading the charge against the rest of the world in this fall's 2014 FIBA World Championship. Durant still has to technically make the final squad, but he's basically a shoe-in for a starting spot.
As you might know, Team USA announced their 19 man roster mid-day today, and will have to cut the roster down to 12 before it's all said an done. All 19 players will meet in Vegas this month for training camp, with cuts made gradually before the World Championship starts on August 30th.
It's going to be tough going for Durant, though. Only three other players are returning from Team USA's 2012 Olympic roster. One of them is former teammate James Harden, who will likely see extended minutes for the first time. It will also be the first time that Durant and Harden have played together after Harden's departure to Houston. The other two returnees are Kevin Love and Derrick Rose.
The most notable name left off that list, at least for Thunder fans, is Russell Westbrook. Russ announced earlier this month that he would be missing the World Cup this year. There hasn't been a specific reason given, though he is dedicating a lot of time to running his camps and making a name for himself in the fashion world. In the end, Russ said that he hopes to come back in 2016. The only other notable Thunder disinclusion is that of Reggie Jackson. But, given the plethora of American PGs, it's hard to see him finding a spot.
Meanwhile, the newcomers are nothing to sneeze at. Superstars like Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin, and Paul George are certain to make the roster and capture our hearts. The list is rounded off with the names of Chandler Parsons, DeMar DeRozan, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Gordon Hayward, DeMarcus Cousins, Bradley Beal, Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried, and Kyle Korver.
Team USA didn't lose in 2012, but it could be argued that they had two flaws. One was that the team lacked a complete post presence, with Kevin Love lacking defensively and Tyson Chandler lacking offensively. The other flaw was a lack of three point shooting. (Obviously, the theoretical team that could seriously exploit these two flaws doesn't exist, but you know....)
With the newcomers, it appears that Team USA wanted these flaws addressed. Andre Drummond, DeMarcus Cousins, and Kenneth Faried all have all-around games and don't mind mixing it up in the post. They could easily provide a level of tenacity down there not seen in 2012. Meanwhile, the inclusion of Klay Thompson and Kyle Korver indicates how strongly the team feels about solid shooting. I could see either of them giving opposing teams fits while shooting behind the shorter international three point line.
We'll have complete coverage of Team USA's training schedule and KD's adventures here at WTLC, so be sure to stay tuned.