Kevin Durant had been just ordinary so far in these Olympics.
It’s probably not good enough for gold.
Not in this US men’s basketball team, an unproven and yet unspectacular group.
Durant is the top scorer to ever wear the red, white and blue, a player who has been unstoppable on the international stage since his arrival.
He finally demonstrated it yet again on Saturday night with 23 points in the Americans’ 119-84 victory over the Czech Republic in their final group game.
“This is literally our third game together,” said goaltender Jrue Holiday, “but we knew KD would come and do what he was supposed to do, do what he always does.”
And exactly what the United States needs.
Americans continue to learn from each other and the international game, with differences from the NBA in the way it is played and refereed.
Durant has already mastered it.
And now he can teach this group.
He’s not trying to be a vocal leader, relying more on the way he plays and trains to set an example for his teammates.
Sure, the three-time Olympian has shared stories about the opening ceremonies or his other experiences with some of the newcomers, but he’s not about to talk to them about how to play what he calls a simple game.
“It’s basketball at the end of the day,” said Durant, who has played for the United States as well as anyone who has done it before – if not better.
He now has 354 points in his 19 Olympics (18.6 per game), surpassing the 336 that Carmelo Anthony has scored in his four Olympics.
But Durant had yet to be sharp in Japan, shooting just 4 for 12 in the opening loss to France and scoring 10 points in both games.
“I think it was only a matter of time,” Holiday said.
US officials were unsure of their chances at the 2010 World Basketball Championships, after none of the 2008 Olympic gold medalist veterans chose to play and left the Americans with a number. of players in their early twenties.
Durant averaged 22.8 points and won tournament MVP honors as the Americans took gold and he never slowed down once he made the Olympic roster two years later. .
He scored 156 points in 2012 and 155 in 2016, finishing both tournaments with 30 points in the gold medal game.
Even if it was to become a blowout, the Americans were lagging behind at the start of the second quarter on Saturday before Durant warmed up.
He continued to roll into the third quarter and by that point his teammates had relaxed after their uneven start and easily advanced to the quarterfinals.
Durant is still a long way from the top scorers in Olympic history. Brazil’s Oscar Schmidt scored 1,093 points and Australia’s Andrew Gaze had 789 points. Both have competed in five Olympic Games.
But Durant sees himself as much more than a goalscorer anyway. He finished with eight rebounds and six assists, the team’s two highs, as well as a blocked shot that triggered a quick break as he played indoors for an undersized American team.
In his first season back from a ruptured Achilles tendon that forced him to miss a season, Durant had to do everything for the Brooklyn Nets at the end of the playoffs. Although Kyrie Irving and James Harden both suffered injuries in the series, Durant took the net in a game seven against eventual champion Milwaukee in the second round. He had 49 points and a triple-double in Game 5 and 48 in Game 7.
He won’t have to score that much in this American team, but he’s ready to do whatever it takes.
“I’ve been asked a lot for every team I’ve played for since I was 8,” Durant said.
“I feel like I have to be prepared to do anything on the pitch.”
This may be what it takes.