The Thunder will be well represented in London as Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden have all been named to the 2012 Men’s Olympic Basketball Team.
Here’s how cool: The Thunder are the first NBA team ever to have three players on Team USA.
Both Durant and Westbrook have national team experience having led Team USA to gold in Turkey during the 2010 World Championships, with KD winning the tournament’s MVP. Harden was a late addition to the Team USA player pool after Derrick Rose’s injury and became a real consideration following Dwyane Wade dropping out.
(And don’t forget, Serge Ibaka is a prominent player for Spain, who is expected to be Team USA’s top competition.)
Westbrook and Durant will be featured players on the team, with Durant a likely starter and Westbrook a key role player off the bench. It’s unclear what role Harden might play, but with so much depth on the squad already, he might settle in as mainly an end-of-the-bench guy.
Some seem to be wondering why Harden, but here’s why: With two spots remaining between Andre Iguodala, Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Rudy Gay and Harden, Coach K and Jerry Colangelo went with Iguodala, an elite wing defender and Harden, a versatile ball-handler that can play three spots. Harden can handle, pass, shoot, score and obviously has an incredible ability to blend in well with anyone on the floor. He gives Team USA a fourth point guard, a knock down shooter and a player that will probably fit the international style of basketball extremely well.
“I think he surprised people,” said USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo. “Two months ago he was on the radar screen, but not shining brightly necessarily. Given the opportunity, he finished so strongly this season, he gave us something to really sit back and think about. He has size, he has length at his position.
“Defensively, he’s more than adequate,” he continued. “He comes up with a lot of loose balls, a lot of steals and he is a scorer. And by the way, he can also shoot it. I think there’s a little bit of a difference between the two. Tough choice we had to make, Eric Gordon, James Harden. Harden deserved it for the reasons I mentioned and we expect him coming off the bench as he did and he’s accustomed to and to play whenever he’s called upon.”
Why Durant and Westbrook? Because duh.
“Well first of all, this young man was born to play the game. He’s a coach’s dream,” said Colangelo of Durant. “He has great character, he has great passion for the game. And then his skills are off the charts. He plays with such enthusiasm that it’s difficult to keep him off the floor and in the World Championships he just rose to another level.”
Said Mike Krzyzewski of Westbrook: “No, there isn’t [a more explosive player]. I love Russell. It’s an honor to coach him. He is such a versatile player and as good an athlete as there is on this planet playing basketball. He plays with an abundance of energy and courage.
“I’m a big Russell Westbrook fan.”
For those saying the U.S. should’ve picked Gordon because he’s a shooter: Harden shot 39 percent last season, while Gordon’s career best is 38.9 percent. Both are 37.0 career 3-point shooters. So it’s not like Harden can’t shoot. In fact, he probably shoots it better.
One question that comes along with this though is what Harden making it might do to his potential market value. If Eric Gordon got a max deal and Harden beat him out for Team USA, that doesn’t bode well for the Thunder’s negotiations.
Oklahoma City put three players on the greatest basketball team in the world. That’s incredible.
The 2012 Summer Olympic Games will be held July 27-August 12 in London, England.
The full Team USA roster:
G – Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
G – Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets
G – Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
G – Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
G – James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder
F – Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers
F – LeBron James, Miami Heat
F – Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
F – Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
F – Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
F – Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
C – Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks