Coach: Kevin Durant too unselfish
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Kevin Durant is too unselfish.
That's the one criticism U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski has of the Oklahoma City Thunder forward so far in the Americans' preparations for the world championships. He's watched Durant pass up too many shots.
A team's best player can't do that. Krzyzewski freely bestows that distinction on the 21-year-old Durant and is confident the other players on this young squad agree. It's hard to argue, considering Durant last season became the youngest to win the NBA scoring crown.
"They look to him all the time," Krzyzewski said after Friday's practice at the New York Knicks' training facility. "They're OK with Kevin shooting. If he misses, they want him to shoot again. They know. They've seen it."
He needs to keep shooting even in games like Thursday's intrasquad scrimmage at Radio City Music Hall, when Durant was 4-of-12 and missed all five 3-point attempts.
"He's our guy," elder statesman Chauncey Billups said. "He's the go-to guy. He's the guy who for us is going to be the scorer and do all the things that Kobe, LeBron did on the Olympic team."
Durant sounded a bit conflicted upon being told his coach wanted him to be less unselfish.
"I thought I was doing a better job of finding the open man, but I guess he wants me to be more aggressive," he said.
"I don't want to be a guy that comes out here and tries to take all the shots," Durant added. "We have a lot of scorers here, so I just want to be a complement on the floor."
But he's noticed his point guards, Billups and Rajon Rondo, reminding him when he's not assertive enough.
"Certain situations during the game, I'm just letting him know we have to go through him down the stretch," Rondo said. "There's going to be some games where he has to take us home and not be so passive and be aggressive. The coaches obviously are drawing up plays to put him in situations to score the ball."
Durant averaged 30.1 points in his third NBA season to earn All-NBA first-team honors. He led the Thunder to the playoffs, where they pushed the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers to six games in the opening round.
"Be yourself," Lakers veteran Lamar Odom said of his advice for Durant. "He led the league in scoring. If he could lead this league in scoring, too, that would help."
But that's the prominent position Durant finds himself in even though this is his first stint on the national team. The U.S. heads into the world championships in Turkey later this month looking to win to clinch a berth at the 2012 Olympics.
"Everyone says Kevin Durant's the leader. He may be our best player; that doesn't mean you're the leader," Krzyzewski said. "Let him just be the best player. Let Chauncey and Lamar, those guys be the leaders."
The Americans play an exhibition Sunday against France at Madison Square Garden, the next chance for Durant to show he's not passing up on the shots a team's best player needs to take. His performances these coming weeks will determine not only whether the U.S. automatically qualifies for the Olympics but also perhaps how quickly he can carry his young Thunder team to even greater heights.
"Kevin wants to be an outstanding player," Krzyzewski said. "He wants to be the best. So being in this environment with this caliber of player, how he asserts himself here in a different environment will help him even more when he goes back to his current environment."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press