Nets unlikely to stop Kevin Durant, James Harden from playing in Olympics

After injuries short-circuited the Nets’ season, some are worried about Kevin Durant, 32, and James Harden, 31, playing in next month’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo. But general manager Sean Marks doesn’t appear to be one of them.

“That’s a collective decision where we’ll sit down with the player and also with the performance team and map out this is what it looks like,” Marks said just before the Athletic reported Harden’s commitment to Team USA. “I think our guys have been through this enough to realize what’s best for them, what’s best for their body, and what their ultimate goal is.

“It’s very difficult to turn down playing for your country, and having the opportunity to go out there and having a heck of a summer and win an Olympic gold medal is their objective. For them to turn that down, they’ve got to look at the big picture and say, ‘Am I not healthy?’ For a couple of those guys, I know right now it’s probably not the first thing they’re thinking about. They’re decompressing after the season, but it will be a collective decision from all the parties.”

Nets general manager Sean Marks said the team isn't looking to stop Kevin Durant and James Harden from playing in the summer Olympics.
Nets general manager Sean Marks said the team isn’t looking to stop Kevin Durant and James Harden from playing in the summer Olympics.
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

The Nets have leaned into player empowerment as much as any team in the NBA. It’s likely a big part of why Durant and Harden picked Brooklyn in the first place. It strains credulity to think the organization would stand in the way of their two former MVPs and biggest stars representing Team USA.

Durant — who won in 2012 and ’16 — is looking to tie Carmelo Anthony with three Olympic gold medals, and pass the ex-Knick as the United States’ all-time scoring leader. Harden won gold in 2012 but withdrew four years later and some presumed he would do the same this summer to rest what he confirmed was a Grade 2 hamstring strain.

After his right hamstring forced Harden to miss 18 straight games — and 20 of 23 — near the end of the regular season, he went down again just 43 seconds into the Eastern Conference semifinals against Milwaukee. He essentially missed the first four games of the series before forcing himself back on the court for the final three.

“I have incredible respect, for one, for what James did,” Marks said. “But I’d say it’s hard for us to really know how he’s feeling the whole time, because he knows his body better than anybody else. And for him to be able to push through and play speaks volumes to the competitor that James is. For him saying, ‘Hey, look, yes I risk further injury but I came here on a mission, I came here to accomplish something,’ an incredible amount of respect.

“He’s gonna have to work these next three, four weeks and hopefully get back and be healthy again. But [it’s] admirable, and it’s a risk that was well-versed and well-talked about between performance, coaching and James. And it’s tough to say no to a player of that caliber, to say, ‘Hey look, you best need to sit out’ or ‘Steve [Nash] has to limit minutes’ and so forth, so it’s very difficult. You’ve got to trust the player a lot when it comes to that, and it just shows what he’s made of.”

That apparently applies to the Olympics, as well.

Team USA opens training camp July 6 in Las Vegas. Their Olympic opener is July 25 against France.

The NBA [playoffs are averaging 3.5 million viewers, up 39 percent from last year. Nets-Bucks Game 7 led the way with a 6.906 rating, with Hawks-76ers second-best at 6.2.

For perspective, Kawhi Leonard’s immortal fallaway bouncing winner against Philadelphia two years ago drew a 6.94, so that Brooklyn number is impressive in this viewing climate. At Game 7’s peak, 1.3 million people in New York were watching, according to NetsDaily.

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