Kevin Durant Still Under the Radar, and It's Fine by Him
ISTANBUL -- Kevin Durant loves to tell stories about times he doesn't get recognized. Apparently, it keeps him humble.
There's the tale Durant told recently about how a security officer mistook him for Miami forward Chris Bosh when he was at the airport in Las Vegas in July for Team USA training camp. Then there's a story about Durant walking around with some of his Oklahoma City teammates at a Charlotte shopping mall last season.
"Some people thought we were a college team,'' Durant said. "They said, 'Good luck and hopefully you'll make it to NBA.' We were like, 'All right.' "
Asked if he's been recognized much in Istanbul in the week the Team USA forward has been here for the World Championship, Durant said he really hasn't been out of the hotel except to go to games and practices.
One thing is for sure. There are no posters of Durant in Turkey. The American most often featured on posters promoting the Worlds is Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, and he's not even here after dropping out, along with all the other members of the 2008 Olympic team, in early July. Either the printing deadline was quite early or nobody in Turkey bothered checking the Internet.
Regardless, Durant doesn't mind in the least that he's not getting much hype here in Istanbul despite being the only player from last season's All-NBA first team playing in the Worlds. In fact, there are no players from Turkey off the All-NBA second and third teams either.
"I'm fine with it," Durant said. "I like to be under the radar."
It's amazing he still can fly under it at times after leading the NBA in scoring last season with a 30.1 average. One reason is he plays in the outpost of Oklahoma City.
"People see us and wonder who we play for, and we tell them Oklahoma City, and they still don't know," Durant said of times in the U.S., let alone in Turkey, when there is confusion about the Thunder, which began playing in Oklahoma two years ago after moving from Seattle.
Not surprisingly, Durant has taken his scoring show overseas, and he's been by far Team USA's best player. He's averaged 17.8 points in just 24.2 minutes in five group games for the undefeated Americans, who face Angola on Monday in their first knockout-round game and need to win four straight games to claim the Worlds gold medal for the first time since 1994.
And to think that before Team USA left for Europe two weeks ago to play exhibition games in Spain and Greece, coach Mike Krzyzewski had to tell Durant he was passing too much and needed to shoot more. But that's just the way Durant is, always concerned about not wanting to be perceived as selfish.
"He's really humble," said Team USA center Lamar Odom. "Obviously, his family did a great job of raising him. He's a good young man with a lot of character, a great young man."
Durant gives plenty of credit to his mother, Wanda Pratt, for helping him stay humble.
"I've always been like that," he said. "My mom always told me to never brag no matter how many points I score. I'm always going to say, 'I did OK and I can do better' because I know I can. I do feel good sometimes when I have a good game but there's no need to brag at all because you never know when it can be taken away. So I continue to be humble."
But might Durant brag a bit if Team USA claims gold Sept. 12?
"We can have a little fun with that," Durant said.
For that to happen, Durant needs some help. Despite not having lost, Team USA has been sluggish offensively at times and too many players have been inconsistent. It almost cost the Americans when they barely beat Brazil 70-68 last Monday.
But Durant certainly wasn't a problem that day. He had 27 points and 10 rebounds.
Durant hasn't had an off game the entire tournament. He's shooting 55.2 percent, including 50 percent (9-of-18) from three-point range, and is averaging 6.2 rebounds and 2.0 steals.
"He's a scorer, which is very deadly for other teams to have to put a big guy on him," said Team USA guard Stephen Curry. "He can space the floor, and he can put it on the floor and go to the basket."
Until the knockout round, games were played in four Turkish cities: Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Kayseri. But all games now will be in Istanbul for the knockout round, which beings Saturday, so the nation's basketball focus no longer will be divided.
Maybe there's not as much of a buzz as one might think yet about Durant and maybe he's not on any posters about town. But Team USA assistant Jim Boeheim predicts it will be different by the conclusion of the gold-medal game.
"They'll know him after this tournament," Boeheim said of the Turks.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson