Monday, July 23, 2007

Durant Shines in State Farm Challenge

The U.S. Senior Men's National Team concluded its weekend training camp on Sunday with the State Farm USA Basketball Challenge, which split the 17 players in Las Vegas into two squads that faced off in an All-Star Game of sorts.

While this was merely an exhibition, pride and potentially spots on the U.S. roster for the FIBA Americas Championships were on the line. That showed in a game that was intense and hard-fought to the final buzzer, with Kobe Bryant winning it for Team Blue 105-104 with a jumper with six seconds remaining.

Sonics rookie Kevin Durant came off the bench for the victorious Blue squad and put together another strong performance, capping a week where he opened some eyes and improved his chances of making the squad next month. Wearing No. 8 (FIBA rules don't allow numbers larger than 15), Durant scored 22 points in 24 minutes, shooting 9-for-14 from the field and hitting a pair of three-pointers. He added five rebounds and four steals.

"It feels great," Durant said afterwards. "Being able to play with all these players I have looked up to was special. And getting the win was the best part. I had fun.

"We came back after being down a lot. We missed some shots we should have made, but we played some good defense and got the win."

By all accounts - including a glowing review by's Dave McMenamin prior to the intra-squad scrimmage - Durant played beyond his years in Las Vegas, showing the ability to potentially play a role for the U.S. team in the FIBA Americas Championships. His ability to spread the floor with his three-point shooting from the frontcourt could be a perfect fit for the international game.

When the U.S. team reconvenes on Aug. 13 in Las Vegas for final preparation for the FIBA Americas Championships, Durant will have a Sonics teammate alongside him. As first reported by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Nick Collison has been asked to participate as well. The Lawrence Journal-World reported that Collison, a veteran of several tours of duty for USA Basketball (including the 2003 Americas Championships), would have taken part in this weekend's practices and scrimmage if they did not conflict with his marriage to the former Robbie Harriford.

Elsewhere, free agent Mike Wilks has apparently drawn the attention of the Sacramento Kings. The Kings are in need of a point guard after rescinding their qualifying offer to free agent Ronnie Price last week. Mike Bibby is the only true point on Sacramento's roster, but definitive Kings blog Sactown Royalty explains that the Kings have several other players capable of playing the position. (HT: Eric Williams' blog)

In case, like Supersonicsoul, you were wondering why Quinton Hosley played only six minutes in Friday's Rocky Mountain Revue finale despite playing well for the Sonics in the Revue, wonder no more. Hosley lost a tooth early in the game and did not return. On Thursday, Hosley scored 22 points as the Sonics defeated Chicago.