Kevin Durant Says He Will Play for Team USA at 2016 Rio Olympics

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 6, 2016

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts during the second half of Game 7 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Monday, May 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant said he will play in the 2016 Rio Olympics despite his impending free agency.

The All-Star forward told his decision to ESPN.com's Royce Young on Monday (via ESPN.com's Marc Stein). Durant's commitment comes within hours of Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry's announcement that he would skip the Games to recover from knee and ankle injuries suffered during the playoffs.

Durant, 27, was a member of the gold-medal-winning USA team at the 2012 London Olympics. He led all U.S. players in scoring (19.5 points) while playing a team-high 209 minutes. He scored 30 points in the United States' win over Spain for the gold medal and was named to ESPN.com's All-Olympics first team.

Durant has long been committed to playing in Rio, as he told Stein in September 2014, but there are a number of mitigating factors that could have changed his decision.

The 2014 NBA MVP is set to hit unrestricted free agency in July, when he will command attention from every team he grants a meeting. His free agency is among the biggest in NBA history and could reshape the league's competitive balance. While the Olympics don't start until Aug. 5, combining free agency and international basketball doesn't leave much time for a break.

Durant is also just a year removed from needing three surgeries in a six-month span on his injured right foot. He returned to have a fully healthy 2015-16 campaign, but it's fair to wonder if he should be putting any additional stress on his body. Foot injuries are among the most recurrent for basketball players, and whatever team he winds up with would likely prefer him to focus on being 100 percent healthy for next season.

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More recently, athletes have also expressed concern over their safety traveling to Brazil. Chicago Bulls forward and Spanish national player Pau Gasol said he was weighing his options amid an outbreak of the Zika virus.

"It wouldn't surprise me to see some athletes deciding not to participate in the Games to avoid putting their health and the health of their families at risk," Gasol said, per the Guardian. "I'm thinking about [whether to go]. Just like every athlete, or any other person considering going to Rio, should be thinking about it."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently list the Zika virus as a Level 2 epidemic, meaning people should "practice enhanced precautions" when traveling to Brazil.

Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.

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