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Booing Durant, Point DeAndre, and More Team USA–China Observations

Man, the Warriors are going to be good

Getty Images
Getty Images

Before heading to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio next month, Team USA played China, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, for its second tune-up exhibition game. With a whole four minutes coming between the first and second baskets for the U.S., it took some time for the engine to warm up. But once it did, the Americans ran China out of the gym, winning 106–57. Even so, there are worthwhile things to be gleaned from this 49-point shellacking.

1. The crowd booed Kevin Durant.

Durant (who, again, is now a Warrior — that happened) was welcomed into Staples Center (home of Clippers and Lakers fans and, most vocal of all, the Kobe fan screaming at Carmelo that he will never win a ring) with a warm, healthy chorus of boos, cementing his status as soap opera villain for the upcoming NBA season. This is wonderful news, because I am all the way here for Kevin Durant–as-heel. Do you have any idea how fun that’s going to be? Let people boo. It’s not like they can conceivably do much else. Also, it’s not called “despair” so long as you can still get angry.

2. Watching KD and Klay in harmony is high-key terrifying.

Like I said: boo him. In Team USA’s first exhibition against Argentina, Durant led all scorers with 23 points in just under 21 minutes. On Sunday, he led all scorers again with 19 points in just over 18 minutes. Klay Thompson was second on Team USA in scoring with 17 points. Both Durant and Thompson hit four 3s apiece. Watching Durant swing a pass down the baseline for Thompson’s fourth and final trey, and seeing Thompson’s man get flipped and turned around like a single sock in a spin cycle, it occurred to me that Steph Curry wasn’t even there. He was off at Edgewood participating in the (hopefully) annual Group Carlton with Alfonso Ribeiro and Justin Timberlake during a celebrity golf tournament.

While the strength of the opponent isn’t lost on me, I feel comfortable in estimating the 2016–17 Warriors offense will look a little something like this:

Deep breath: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

3. China was actually a passable defensive test.

In the same way that a backup defensive end can mimic J.J. Watt for a full-pads intrasquad scrimmage. While it never even came within driving distance after the first-quarter whistle, China forced 13 turnovers and provided a decent preview of the dogged full-court pressure that Team USA will likely encounter in Rio. Guards Zhao Jiwei and Guo Ailun did a particularly valiant job of at least inconveniencing Kyle Lowry and Kyrie Irving, getting up in their shit on a fairly regular basis.

4. DeAndre Jordan balled out.

A lot of the time, when DeAndre Jordan puts the ball on the floor, it doesn’t go so great. Occasionally it can even be hazardous.

But every once in a while, like in the second quarter of Sunday’s game, something beautiful happens. That’s when D.J. scooped up a loose ball and led a fast break. Jordan couldn’t sell a ball fake at the hoop, but instead of dunking both the ball and his defender, as he’s wont to do, he had the wherewithal to dish to Kyle Lowry for one of his two assists on the night, creating a three-point play opportunity.

Add to that his 12 points, five rebounds, and three blocks — one of which he damn near spiked through the floorboards — and it almost feels silly that Jordan’s Team USA candidacy was even in question.

5. DeAndre Jordan also air-balled.

China was already down a whopping 51 points by the time this happened, but Jordan’s performance, while compelling, would’ve been strangely incomplete without it.

6. DeAndre Jordan’s primary skill is still finishing alley-oops.

7. Team USA is still the team to beat.

This 2016 version of Team USA doesn’t even come close to the 1992 Dream Team benchmark, but let’s keep it a buck — no team ever really will.

But even with four of the current five All-NBA First Team selections — LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, and Russell Westbrook — bowing out of this summer’s Olympics for assorted nebulous reasons (all of which have nothing whatsoever to do with the risk of contracting the Zika virus), this team is ridiculously strong. While we’ll feel pain from not getting to see the real-life Avengers (James, Curry, Westbrook, Durant, Draymond Green) take the court and blow out everyone by 50 this summer, but it’s hard to imagine this Team USA winning by anything less than 10 points.