Pencil in Kevin Durant for a spot on the 2010 version of Team USA.
Better yet, put it in ink.
Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski singled out Durant and showered him with praise following the first day of a three-day mini-camp for a group of 20 young players trying to make the senior national team.
Durant was the most dominant player on the floor in the team’s 12-minute scrimmage after the squad spent the bulk of Thursday’s practice working on drills. Friday’s practice was expected to be more focused on scrimmaging.
“Everyone who was watching from our group said you could tell that Durant was a little bit on a mission — and that’s good for them to see that, it picks everybody up,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s that versatility guy, and the other thing is he’s a shooter, and with the way we were playing defense for most of the Olympics, with his length, he could be a heck of a defender.”
“So he’s really at the head of the list for me,” Krzyzewski said.
Durant was given serious consideration for the 12th and final roster spot on the Redeem Team that won the gold medal in Beijing, part of a threesome that also included Tayshaun Prince and Tyson Chandler.
Prince ended up getting the spot, and eventually moved ahead of Carlos Boozer in the rotation.
Durant, along with Andre Iguodala and Jeff Green, is now back for his third consecutive summer of practices with the so-called Select Team, and his familiarity and comfort level with the Team USA system were superior to that of anyone else on the court Thursday. Others who caught the coaches’ eyes included Rudy Gay, Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon and JaVale McGee, and several team insiders said they were surprised how spry Greg Oden looked.
Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo and the coaching staff are concentrating on three areas where they expect to have to fill out the roster — a third point guard to play behind Deron Williams and Chris Paul; an extra big man with the combination of quickness, defensive intensity and shooting range to play inside or outside; and a Mr. Versatility who would have the ability to spell LeBron James at the power forward spot, Carmelo Anthony at small forward, and Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade at shooting guard.
Durant fits the bill for that third guy.
“The more versatile team you have, especially at 3 and 4, when they can do both that adds a lot because so many of the international players play away from the basket and are really perimeter players,” Krzyzewski said. “And the big guys, we try to envision if we got all the guys back, who would complement the guys that we have.”
“That’s why I’m putting him at the head, because I know him the best, and then he comes out and he’s terrific [in practice]. Plus his attitude and commitment, he’s made a hell of a commitment each summer, three in a row.”
Next summer will be No. 4 in a row, and from the sound of things, Durant can expect to have his passport stamped with a Turkish visa when Team USA heads overseas in 13 months to attempt to win the world championship for the first time since 1994.