Now that Kevin Durant has dropped out of the FIBA World Cup, announcing his decision in a written statement Thursday afternoon, Thunder fans everywhere can chill out.
Serge Ibaka still is set to compete in the event for host country Spain, which gives the Thunder one remaining participant in this summer’s international event.
But after Durant followed in Russell Westbrook’s footsteps and backed out of the tournament, the Thunder’s two biggest stars are now safe, no longer subject to additional wear and tear or injury while not on the company’s time.
Durant’s decision might wash away fears of everyone with a rooting interest in the Thunder. But it’s a blow to the World Cup and, more importantly, to Team USA, which has spent the last several years cultivating a culture of players who are all in with their commitments to international competition. The timing of Durant’s announcement — he went through the entire training camp in Las Vegas while other stars pulled out before the team convened — made his decision even more peculiar.
So what prompted Durant’s exit?
Here are five factors that could explain Durant’s decision to withdraw and why he pulled out when he did.
Fatigue. This is the primary reason Durant gave. He said he needed to take a step back physically and mentally. But because Durant has never admitted to being fatigued skeptics would rightfully be suspicious. The raw numbers, though, are alarming. Over the past five regular seasons, no player has logged more minutes than Durant’s 15,064. In fact, the second closest player, LeBron James, trails Durant by 930 minutes. Additionally, Durant has appeared in 388 of a possible 394 games over that span. If anyone could use a break it’s Durant. Still, the guy has never saw a court he couldn’t get shots up on. Unless all those minutes, all those miles and all those milestones have finally caught up to Durant there figures to be something more.
A desire to focus on the upcoming NBA season. Here’s another reason Durant listed. He had a grueling 2013-14 season and, in a continued quest for the team’s first NBA title, he can expect more of the same next year. Committing to Team USA, however, mandated more than a month’s time and included extensive travel throughout the United States, Europe and Africa. Meanwhile, the tournament doesn’t end until two weeks before the start of training camp, which would have robbed Durant of all downtime and opportunities to unwind before again gearing up. Now, Durant can focus solely on individual workouts and doing whatever else it is he does to mentally prepare for a marathon season.
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