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CHICAGO -- United States coach Mike Krzyzewski says he was surprised by Kevin Durant's decision to leave the team last week because of "physical and mental fatigue."
"Yeah, I was," Krzyzewski said after Team USA's practice in Chicago on Thursday. "No question. I was."
Krzyzewski wasn't the only one surprised, but he might have been the most frustrated. Durant, the reigning NBA MVP, was expected to be the leader on and off the floor for Team USA.
"It's one of those things; you don't replace Kevin Durant," Krzyzewski said. "You look different. And so we have today and [Friday] to look different before we play a really good team. That's of concern for me because we were pretty far along. We had our best camp ever in Vegas since I've coached [Team USA]. Those guys were terrific. We had more in [game plan-wise], but we had more in to play a certain way. And then Kevin deciding not to play ... it's concerning.
"But hopefully we'll be good enough on Saturday, and then we use New York and Gran Canaria to get better and get better during pool play."
|Kevin Durant left Team USA because of "physical and mental fatigue." Coach Mike Krzyzewski said he was surprised by Durant's decision and that it will change the team's offense in a big way.|
Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo echoed those sentiments.
"Kevin is a terrific guy and a terrific USA Basketball guy, and he was really despondent about not being able to play," Colangelo said. "He wanted to. But he found himself in a situation where he had no choice ... in terms of his contractual situation."
Between Paul George's gruesome leg injury at the end of Team USA's scrimmage two weeks ago and the fact that Durant has been linked to a huge multimillion dollar deal to sign with Under Armour -- Team USA is sponsored by Nike -- Colangelo could tell the Oklahoma City Thunder star had a lot on his mind.
"I was at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies this past weekend when I got the call from Kevin, and I wasn't surprised," Colangelo said. "That was predicated on his week in Vegas where I thought he was ... he had a lot of things on his mind. So for him to indicate that he was mentally and physically exhausted, it kind of came but not as a surprise."
Durant's teammates definitely were caught off guard after watching him put so much hard work in during the first part of training camp in Las Vegas.
"We were surprised for sure," Team USA guard Stephen Curry said. "Because he played well in Vegas and looked like the Kevin we knew, and obviously you can't fault a guy for making a personal decision. We all made personal decisions to be here and everybody's in a different place in their career, so you're not going to knock a guy for that."
Still, Krzyzewski knows he is going to change his entire game plan because of Durant's decision. Much of Team USA's strategy, especially on the offensive end, was based on Durant's presence.
"We had the whole team building what we were doing around him," Krzyzewski said. "In everything, because you have really one of the great scorers at the 4. So how does that change your offense? It changes your offense immensely."
Rudy Gay might be at the center of some of those changes. The Sacramento Kings' small forward has a 'legitimate chance' to make Team USA's 12-man squad, according to Colangelo.
Though Gay didn't take part in the first portion of Team USA's training camp two weeks ago in Las Vegas and was not invited to participate until late last week, George's injury and Durant's decision to leave have given Gay the opportunity to provide some much-needed scoring.
|After the injury to Paul George and Kevin Durant's early exit, Rudy Gay has a "legitimate chance" to make Team USA, according to managing director Jerry Colangelo.|
"Yes, he does have a legitimate chance," Colangelo said. "Rudy was on our 2010 World Championship team. He made a great contribution there. He's in pretty good shape and he stepped in today like he hadn't missed a beat either."
Gay knows he is fortunate to have landed in such a great situation, but he wants to earn his spot over the next two weeks of camp.
"I hope that I wouldn't come all the way out here for nothing," Gay said. "But I wouldn't even want (Colangelo) to tell me that out of respect for these guys that have been here and done all this for this time -- for me to just come in here and assume a spot it would be wrong. I came out here ready to work and ready to do all the things the other guys are doing."
Despite losing Durant and the uncertainty that came with that, Curry is still confident the team can win the World Cup of Basketball when it starts later this month in Spain.
"The mood around here is the same," Curry said. "We've got a mission to accomplish, and we've got to figure out a way to get it done. It wasn't going to be easy with Kevin, and now we got guys that have got to step up and be versatile, play different positions and really show out when we get over to Spain, so it's going to be fun.
"I don't know if people doubt us or not, but we have the highest confidence in what we're going to do."