LONDON — The skinny kid needed a talking to, not a lecture. It was time for a chat to remind him why the U.S. team needed him to be more selfish.
Kevin Durant wasn’t listening.
So Kobe Bryant spoke to him first. LeBron James followed.
“I told him, ‘If we don’t have the K.D. from Oklahoma City on this team then it makes no sense for you to be here,’” James said Tuesday while getting ready for practice. “We need that guy. We need the scoring champ on this team. We got guys who can do everything else, but we need that from him.”
James stopped and smiled.
“I’m happy,” he said, with a laugh. “He’s doing that.”
Doing. Shooting. Scoring.
Durant has become the Olympic team’s primary offensive weapon on an American roster filled with those types. James and Carmelo Anthony have scored on a par with him, but the majority of the U.S. team’s offensive sets are designed to get the ball in Durant’s hands.
On Monday night, Durant scored 28 points, including 17 during a torrid third quarter of deadly outside shooting, as the U.S. outslugged Argentina 126-97 in a rough game that included accusations of punches and cheap shots.
Durant’s performance was just what the Americans had been waiting for from the modest 23-year-old.
For weeks, U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski, his staff and Durant’s teammates have been urging him to shoot more, to score more and to dominate the way he did in leading the Thunder to the finals this season. Durant, though, has been reluctant, almost afraid. It’s not his nature to be forceful.
“I don’t want to step on nobody’s toes,” he said. “The last thing I want is for guys to say ‘All right, it’s time for you to stop shooting.’ But they get on me so much for not shooting when I’m wide open.”
His advice was simple.
“Just do me,” Durant said. “He told me to do what I do. Coming from one of the greatest players to ever play, I’ll take that.”