Durant set to spark West in NBA All-Star showdown
NEW ORLEANS - NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant looks forward to Sunday's NBA All-Star Game but is also excited about the United States' prospects at this year's FIBA Basketball World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
The 25-year-old Oklahoma City Thunder forward, who averages 31.5 points a game, will lead the Western Conference against Miami's LeBron James and the Eastern Conference at New Orleans in Sunday's 63rd edition of the annual elite showdown of basketball talent.
Durant, the 2012 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player, will try to spark a fourth win in a row for the West.
"We all like to see good basketball," Durant said. "I just go out there and play my game, control what I can control, play as hard as I can play, play the best I can for my team. That's all I can control."
Durant, who has led the Thunder to an NBA-best 43-12 record at the mid-season break, has 33 30-point games this season, 14 more than second-best James. He knows many All-Star players are happy to have a few days off from the grind of the season.
"A lot of these guys have a lot of load to carry," he said. "I'm sure a lot of these guys just want to relax and get off their feet."
Durant is excited for this year's Basketball World Cup, formerly known as the World Championships, to be played in Spain, the homeland of Thunder teammate Serge Ibaka and the club that pushed the US team, which included James and Durant, before losing in the 2012 London Olympic final.
"I'm looking forward to World Cup. It's something that's an honor to play in," Durant said. "I'm looking forward to playing against Serge. It's something that should be good for a lot of guys in our league.
"Being in the Olympics last time was a great experience. I hope I get the opportunity to go again. You basically have to sacrifice and give it up for your country. That's what makes it exciting."
'Ambassador for the game'
Durant said he hopes to join such NBA standouts as Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge and Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin on the US team in Spain.
"The game is growing globally year by year," Durant said. "I would like to visit a lot of countries and be an ambassador for the game."
James, the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player who has led Miami to the past two league titles, will lead the Eastern Conference squad.
Elaborating on comments that he would one day be knocking someone off the NBA's "Mount Rushmore" of four top all-time stars, James said the league needs room for more than his favorite icons - Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson.
James said he would want to add Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and ex-Laker legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the elite list.
"It's hard to knock anybody off," James said. "There needs to be another mountain built. There are so many greats that have played this game."
Asked if he was currently the NBA's top player over James, Durant dismissed the idea of comparisons but noted, "I've always had confidence. Let's put it that way."
Cleveland's Kyrie Irving said he would pick Durant over James if he had to select only one.
"KD or LeBron, it could go either way. I would pick KD. He's on fire," Irving said. "They are both great players. If you get the chance to choose either one, I don't think you could go wrong." - Rappler.com