Fresh off their return to the United States after their gold-medal win with Team USA at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Oklahoma City Thunder stars Kevin Durant and James Harden made a stop in New York City to appear on NBC's "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" to discuss their experience in London and how it'll impact the coming NBA season.
The young Thunderers were good sports, despite being clearly jet-lagged from the trans-Atlantic trip (and, presumably, exhausted from all that post-gold Instagrammed celebrating). Durant let the host hold his gold, which I swear is not slang, for all of 10 seconds ("That's probably the first time I put it down," he said) and the duo discussed what it was like to be embroiled in such a close contest with Spain late in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Harden, for his part, said he didn't sweat it.
"To be honest, you've got 12 of the best players in the world, so you know, you see on the court Kevin Durant and LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, 'Melo — at the end of the game you don't have worry," Harden said. "You're not worried at all. That's how I felt."
Durant, however, begged to differ.
"Me, on the other hand, I was a little nervous," said the man who played 38 of the game's 40 minutes, scored a game-high 30 points (a U.S. record for gold-medal-game scoring) and grabbed nine rebounds.
If Harden didn't feel nervous in the slightest, his free-throw stroke told a slightly different tale — remember, he split his four final-minute free throws, making it just a bit warmer under coach Mike Krzyzewski's collar as the clock ticked down. (Then again, that could be attributed to the little-used guard having just pulled off his warmups for his first action of the gold-medal game.)
Still, Team USA prevailed over Spain, which gave U.S. teammate Kobe Bryant bragging rights over fellow Los Angeles Lakers star Pau Gasol.
"Kobe's like ... he's, like, a beast," Durant said. "Like, he don't care about anybody else. So he really hated Pau, actually."
"And we felt the same about [Thunder teammate] Serge Ibaka," Harden added.
But just as the USA/Spain divisions will fade for Bryant, Gasol and the Thunder players once the NBA schedule kicks back into gear, so too will the bonds forged by sharing the experience of coming together as a national team and playing for gold. Neither Harden nor Durant plan to spend much time reliving their London memories when they face their USA teammates this fall.
"On the court, it's different," Harden said.
"I think the competitive fire's going to be, you know, inflamed a little bit more, because we enjoyed being around one another so much, and you always want to beat your friends," Durant said. "We want to have bragging rights. If we beat the Knicks or the Nets or the Clippers, oh, we're going to talk a lot of trash throughout that whole season."
Hey, KD: Couldn't help but notice one team you didn't mention there. You know, the one you got asked about a couple days back?
"Now, what do you think about Dwight Howard going to the Lakers?" Fallon asked.
The guests met the question with shrugs and silence; the audience met the silence with laughter.
"Come on, though, that's major — the Lakers are getting a crazy team," Fallon pressed.
More silence. And then:
"Good for them," Harden said, with the disaffected tone of a man who hasn't forgotten beating the Lakers four games to one just three months ago.
"Yeah, man," Durant added, barely even registering it.
Man, can I not wait for the start of the season.
A couple of other notes from the interview:
Harden on his after-the-final-buzzer decision to grab and dance around with a stuffed-animal likeness of creepy 2012 Summer Olympics mascot Wenlock: "I don't even know. I just saw it there and I grabbed it and I ran around with it. I don't even know. [...] Just having fun."
Durant on why Olympians bite their medals after receiving them: "I don't know, man, that's a good question — I just did it. I watched the other sports and I seen people do it, so ... [shrugs] I wanted to be a part of the team."
(Luckily, we've already answered this one for you.)
Durant on Team USA's special accommodations in London: "No, we stayed at a hotel; like, the other athletes stay at the village." The Olympic tournament's leading scorer added that he wanted to stay at the village ("I just wanted to get the whole experience"), which prompted Fallon to suggest that the U.S. stars would have been "part of the Village People." Harden really got a kick out of that, which is great, because watching that beard shake is like watching a star being born.
But check out the way Durant raised his eyebrow after saying "the other athletes stay at the village:"
Something about that seems to suggest two things:
1. Team USA rolled like bosses in London;
2. There are some good stories of precisely how they boss-rolled to be told, though one would suspect we won't hear 'em anytime soon.