The circumstances surrounding Kevin Durant’s abrupt departure from USA Basketball last week have always been murky. The reigning NBA and FIBA World Championships MVP officially cited mental and physical fatigue as means for his decision, but rumors immediately swirled that his looming endorsement switch from Nike to Under Armour was his primary justification. And just over a week later comes a report lending credence to that notion, plus much, much more.
In a wide-ranging, pessimistic report bemoaning the influence of agent Jay-Z and Roc Nation Sports, Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops says that Durant quit Team USA under guidance from his representation. And according to Sheridan, it’s not just Durant’s undecided shoe contract future that is causing the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar widespread disharmony – it’s the cumulative actions of Jay-Z and company that are really taking toll on Durant.
Team USA is only the latest entity to be left with a sour taste after dealing with Durant and [Jay-Z]. The folks at Nike aren’t exactly happy. The folks at Gatorade already were unhappy.
“It’s like Jay-Z is determined to do a scorched earth negotiation with everyone Kevin Durant is currently aligned with, and they aren’t doing him any favors,” one source close to Durant told SheridanHoops on Friday as Team USA prepared for its first exhibition game in preparation for the 2014 World Cup.
Durant left former agents Aaron Goodwin and Rob Pelinka for Jay-Z and Roc Nation last summer, a landmark signing for the music mogul’s burgeoning sports agency. Prior to Durant joining Roc Nation, it didn’t represent a superstar basketball client.
Jay-Z’s general hubris coupled with that inexperience is making things difficult for Durant, Sheridan says. In addition to ruffling feathers with Gatorade last September when he spurned them to shill for Sparkling Ice, Durant’s recent actions have not only done the same with Nike, but USA Basketball, too.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski nearly said as much in an exclusive interview with Sheridan, alluding to Durant’s detached attitude since Team USA’s training camp broke in late July.
“Looking back, if you could turn back time. you would like for him to make that decision before Vegas. We might have invited somebody different,” Krzyzewski said. “But saying that, that’s in the past, we’re forward, and it puts us a little behind, just like the injuries.”
More from Krzyzewski, in an exclusive interview with SheridanHoops:
“I think he had a good camp, not a great camp,” the coach added. “He was not as vocal as he usually was. Even after Paul (George’s) injury, he was saying ‘What can we do when we go to Chicago to get the guys to rally?’ So that’s the reason we were caught unexpected. I asked him to be a leader, and he was leading after the Vegas game.
“And then he wasn’t with us. ”
That Durant left Team USA and Nike is the sole provider of apparel and equipment for USAB is hardly coincidence either, Sheridan says.
Durant has been with Nike since entering the NBA, and Nike has a close affiliation with USA Basketball and FIBA. Clearly, there would be some discomfort if Durant decided to leave Nike at a time when he was scheduled to be traveling to Grand Canaria, Bilbao, Barcelona and Madrid on a three-week overseas trip where he would be riding on the same bus with numerous Nike executives. That dynamic surely played a part in his decision to quit the team.
Jay-Z and Roc Nation are reportedly at the genesis of all this discord. Rather than looking out for their client’s longterm best interest, Sheridan says many believe Durant’s representation is instead intent to capitalize on the rapidly ascending height of his star.
And it’s not just KD’s peripheral relationships that are suffering. According to Sheridan, Durant’s brain trust of family and friends is feeling the ill effects of Jay-Z and Roc Nation, too.
I have heard more about Durant’s inner circle – and the feuds and fallout he is experiencing – than I am comfortable reporting. But I will say this: All is not well with the reigning MVP. Far from it. What we are seeing now is the manifestation of that dysfunction.
Durant’s departure from Team USA seems to be the continued manifestation of friction ushered in by Jay-Z as opposed to a decision based on his preparation for the 2014-2015 season. And if that’s indeed the case, it’s disheartening to know that such ancillary business influence is weighing so heavily on not just one of basketball’s best players, but its best people, too.
Which is why we’re so confident that Durant will ultimately overcome this reported swell of negativity. Let’s just hope he does so sooner rather than later. It would be a shame if his play on the court suffered as a result of this relative, ongoing nonsense.
What do you think?
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