May 31, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) handles the ball against San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (20) during the first quarter in game six of the Western Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Durant surprised many NBA fans by bowing out the FIBA world championships. What does it mean and what are some other takeaways?
Durant valuing rest to give Oklahoma City Thunder best shot at title
Nobody can blame Kevin Durant for deciding to step away from USA basketball. He has any number of excuses. It could be he fears encountering the same fate as Paul George so close to a contract season. Fatigue is certainly a factor after several deep trips into the NBA playoffs. However, this move by the MVP has the smell of a player who is gearing up his mind and body for a championship run. The 2014-2015 campaign could be Durant’s last with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He owes it to them and himself to be 100% committed to going all the way. That includes saving every ounce of energy he can.
Kevin Love is a talented but big gamble for the Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers finally got into position to do what they couldn’t four years ago, which was give LeBron James enough pieces to make a championship run. Their trade for All-Star forward Kevin Love could be the pièce de résistance. His shooting prowess and rebounding ability are two huge keys that will help LeBron James on the floor. However, this move is not without its risks. Love is not an elite athlete, which explains why for all his offensive skill he isn’t a very good defender. He also has his problems with injury. It’s never comforting when a lot of “ifs” are attached to an NBA players’ name. Love is a calculated gamble, and that is the best Cleveland can do.
Derrick Rose takes on additional role as leader for Team USA
Paul George is out. Kevin Durant withdraws. Suddenly not only is Team USA becoming devoid of big men who can score, they are also being gutted of veteran leadership in international competition. Durant was by far the most experienced and was expected to lead the team with George out. Now he has stepped away too. Oddly enough, this event has had an unforeseen impact on Derrick Rose. Initially just focused on gaining a roster spot so he can continue his comeback from two knee surgeries, the Chicago point guard may now be seen as a core leader for the squad. Rose, after all, was a key member of the 2010 team that won gold in Turkey. That experience could prove invaluable to what is largely a young and raw team.