Kevin Durant keeping Team USA possibility alive amid lost Nets season

MIAMI – Kevin Durant and the Nets both have steadfastly insisted the star won’t play a second for Brooklyn this entire season.

But the Olympics apparently are on the table.

“(Tokyo is) definitely a possibility,” Rich Kleiman, Durant’s friend, manager and business partner, told the Washington Post. “He allowed his name to be in the group of finalists.

“But there are other benchmarks in front of him that are more important before he makes those decisions.”

It’s unclear exactly what those benchmarks are.

But Durant – recovering from a ruptured Achilles suffered in Game 5 of June’s NBA Finals – has been working out with the Nets players who are out of the rotation and getting extra work. He’s made significant progress of late.

Will it be enough to suit up in Tokyo? And with Durant, Kyrie Irving and Joe Harris all among the 44 finalists to make the team, could Team USA have a Brooklyn flavor?

Kevin Durant
Kevin DurantCorey Sipkin

Durant already is a two-time gold medalist, having won in London in 2012 and helped Team USA defend the title four years later in Rio.

That second Olympic experience is where Durant, Irving and DeAndre Jordan all played alongside each other, winning and bonding. The trio talked about teaming up in the NBA, and this summer Brooklyn GM Sean Marks – or perhaps more accurately, Nets owner Joe Tsai – handed out over $300 million in contracts to make it happen.

Irving has played just 20 games in his homecoming campaign, opting for season-ending arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder impingement. And the team has maintained Durant won’t play after Achilles surgery. That leaves their Olympic availability in doubt.

But Kleiman predictably vowed that his friend, partner and client will not only return from a serious injury that has derailed careers, but get back to his old dominant MVP-caliber self.

“I have no question he’ll be back better than ever,” Kleiman said. “By next season, I expect nothing but KD. Great things will happen.

“Injuries are a part of the game, and it’s obviously been a bit frustrating. The Nets are still in playoff position. The players are developing and getting better. I expect things to pick up. Everyone knows what (Durant and Irving) can do when they’re playing and healthy.”

Another nugget that Kleiman dropped is arguably Durant’s most ambitious long-term goals. When he retires, Durant wants to follow in the footsteps of Michael Jordan and buy a team.

“We both would love to own and operate a team one day,” Kleiman said. “The biggest goal for us is to build up the company and to be respected as moguls in the space we’re in. There’s no exit. There’s no rush to get somewhere or to be acquired. You find something you love doing — we share a love of sports and storytelling — and you try to create something that’s everlasting.”

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