Twenty players took the basketball court Thursday at Valley High School, and 19 looked nervous. The other one looked like he was playing H-O-R-S-E in his driveway.
Kevin Durant had no reason to feel uptight on the first day of USA Basketball’s three-day minicamp.
After nearly making the U.S. Olympic roster last summer, the 6-foot-9-inch forward from the Oklahoma City Thunder played with ease and confidence throughout a two-hour workout observed by coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff. The 20-year-old was the best player on the floor.
"I’ve been through this before, so I kinda know what to expect," Durant said.
Having barely missed the Beijing Olympics, in which Team USA won the gold medal, Durant said he is highly motivated to make the roster that will play in the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey and 2012 London Olympics.
"Definitely," Durant said. "I’m watching (the Olympics) and I’m thinking, ‘Man, I would love to be there with those guys.’ So this camp is important in trying to establish myself for the next Olympics. It starts right now."
Durant, the 2008 NBA Rookie of the Year who averaged 25.3 points last season, probably doesn’t have to worry about being left out this time. Unless he gets hurt, Durant almost certainly will be on the World Championships roster. USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo all but said so after watching him Thursday.
"He’s obviously a very special, very talented player," Colangelo said. "This is his third year with us, and we have seen him grow and develop. He’s more mature, and he’s developing into a leader."
Jay Triano, who is coaching the team during the minicamp, said Durant’s experience gives him an advantage on the rest of the squad.
"When it’s your third time around, you feel more comfortable," Triano said. "He’s been through this routine, and he knows what’s expected. He definitely looked relaxed out on the court."
Durant said he refuses to take anything for granted.
"Nothing’s guaranteed," he said. "And even if it was, I’m going to play hard all the time. I’m fighting for a spot, so you can never relax."
He said part of the challenge this week is blending in with so many new faces. There are many first-time participants at the minicamp, and Durant is being viewed as the leader because of his experience.
"I’m comfortable with that role," he said. "We’ve got a lot of talented guys out here. Some of us know each other from the Select team, but there are a lot of new guys and we just have to work at blending together."
He was happy to have two familiar faces in camp — Oklahoma City teammates Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook. Durant also was happy to see Greg Oden back on the court as the Portland center attempts to gain an invitation to next summer’s World Championships training camp.
"It’s great having (Green and Westbrook) here," he said. "We’re trying to build something (in Oklahoma City), and being here together will help us get better as a group and help us next season.
"(Oden), he’s been through a lot. But he looks like his old self out there. I’m glad to see him back because he’s going to help (Team USA)."
Durant said the transition from college, where he played one year at Texas, to pro went smooth because he was willing to put in time to improve. He’s taking the same approach to Team USA as he tries to go from Select team player to Olympic squad member.
"I’ve still got a lot to work on," he said. "But this is very important to me. It’s my dream to be on the Olympic team, so I’m going to do everything I can to make that dream come true."
Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.Video