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Team USA’s super fans

NBA players keep winning games, soaking in Olympic experience

Argentina’s Manu Ginobili, center, and Leonardo Gutierrez try to stop LeBron James during Monday’s win by the Americans. (Associated Press)
Argentina’s Manu Ginobili, center, and Leonardo Gutierrez try to stop LeBron James during Monday’s win by the Americans. (Associated Press)
Charean Williams Fort Worth Star-Telegram

LONDON – Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant are the faces of Team USA. They have popped up everywhere.

Bryant was spotted on Centre Court at Wimbledon, watching Roger Federer in the longest three-set match in the professional era. Durant spent some time trying to learn beach volleyball from Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings. Both Bryant and Durant watched Michael Phelps swim and Usain Bolt run.

The NBA players are Team USA’s biggest fans.

“I love it,” Bryant said. “I’m having a blast, checking out all the events and the athletes. It’s kind of been like a historical Olympics. There are so many world records and Olympic records being set. It’s fun to kind of witness.”

Usually, fans pay to see Bryant and Durant entertain like they did Monday night in a 126-97 victory over Argentina in the final game of group play. Durant scored 28 and Bryant contributed 11 to thrill the crowd of 9,605 that included former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and ex-heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield.

But every other day – the nights they’re not playing – Durant, Bryant and many other NBA players find an event to attend.

Bryant said cycling in the Velodrome was “the most fun.”

Durant has been to swimming, boxing, track and field and beach volleyball.

“I’m having a blast,” the former University of Texas star said. “It’s a blessing to be here. I’m excited to get to represent the USA, and I just want to do my part in supporting other athletes, just coming out and being a great teammate. I’m just having fun and taking it all in. This is my first one. I want to go out with bang with these next three games.”

The two couldn’t stop talking about watching Bolt run an Olympic-record 9.63 in the 100-meter dash Sunday night.

“I could probably run it in 8 seconds,” Durant said, laughing. “Nah, I’ve always just been a basketball player.”

Team USA offered a little excitement of its own in the third quarter when Argentina’s Facundo Campazzo took what the Americans deemed a cheap shot at Carmello Anthony. The two teams exchanged words.

“It was inappropriate,” Bryant said. “I said, ‘You know you don’t do that.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I know.’ He knows what he did was wrong.”

The U.S. outscored the Argentineans 42-17 in the third quarter to blow open a game it led only 60-59 at the half. Durant scored 17 of his 28 points during the period. It came two nights after a tight 99-94 victory over Lithuania.

“You kind of want to send a message a little bit,” Bryant said. “This has been the second game in a row that a team played us close. It gives a lot of teams confidence with that, and we didn’t want to give them confidence.”

The U.S., which went 5-0 in group play, will play Australia (3-2) in a quarterfinal game Wednesday.

“I think we did a great job of responding from the last game,” Durant said. “Our second half play is how we want to play.”

The Americans have two days to work on it before facing the Australians, who pulled a surprise earlier Monday, handing Group B champion Russia its first loss, 82-80, on Patty Mills’ 3-pointer as time expired.


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