Kevin Durant turns jeers to cheers, leads Team USA to lopsided exhibition victory
LOS ANGELES — In his first game at an NBA arena since he made the decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant was met with a cascade of boos Sunday after his name was announced in pre-game introductions for Team USA’s exhibition against China. [restrict]
The type of reaction, though likely amplified by the number of Los Angeles Clipper fans among the sold-out Staples Center crowd, is something Durant will have to get used to as he takes on the role of NBA villain with his new super-team.
Though fans at Sunday’s contest jeered at the sound of Durant’s name, they couldn’t help but cheer his game as he led the Americans to a lopsided 106-57 victory.
For the second consecutive game, Durant was the brightest star for Team USA. He followed up his 23-point performance against Argentina with a game-high 19 points Sunday, 12 of which came from beyond the arc.
Two of Durant’s five assists against an overmatched Chinese side came on kick-outs that turned into Klay Thompson three-pointers, putting a smile on the faces of Warriors fans. The two Golden State teammates helped Team USA break out of an early shooting slump and combined for 36 points Sunday night.
“[Durant and Thompson] are two of the best shooters in the world,” Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Our guys want them to get shots. It’s neat when they do shoot that the whole bench wants that to happen. Hopefully they keep hitting them.”
Krzyzewski won’t be alone in his wishes for more Durant and Thomspon highlights at Team USA’s next contest, which will take place Tuesday at Golden State’s Oracle Arena.
There, Durant can expect a much warmer welcome as takes to his new home court for the first time.
“I’m excited going to Oakland as a member of the Warriors,” Durant said after Sunday’s game. “We’ll see. I don’t know to expect. I’m just going to go out there and be my normal self and do my normal routine and we’ll see what happens.
“I can’t wait. Every time I get to step on the court with these players, I feel better so I’m looking forward to it.”
After that, he’ll get more of a taste of what his new NBA journey will bring when he visits Chicago’s United Center and Houston’s Toyota Center before Team USA officially begins its quest for Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro.
Earlier this week, Durant told The Vertical’s Michael Lee he flat-out doesn’t care about whether he’s liked or not.
“I want to be liked by people that I think love me. People I don’t know, I don’t care about,” Durant told The Vertical. “I want you to respect my game and what I bring to the floor, and if you don’t like what I do as a person, I don’t care. I want you to respect my game and if you don’t, that’s your problem.”
So far, it’s mission accomplished for the newest Warriors star. [/restrict]