Not every NBA superstar is playing in Miami these days. The Team USA scrimmage on July 24 highlighted some of the best remaining young talent in the league not named

Dwyane Wade, LeBron James or Chris Bosh. In a high-octane, turnover-prone track meet, basketball browsers were treated to the talents of Rudy Gay, Stephen Curry and Rajon Rondo for samplers, and Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose for dessert.

The household buzz on Durant has been simmering for a little more than a year now, but after the reigning scoring champ had a breakthrough season with a stellar playoff performance, the lid is ready to let loose. Last Saturday’s 28-point explosion from Durant was just another feather in the cap for the Suitland, Md. native, who’s the only assured lock for this year’s American team. Armed with a deadly jumper, electric athletic ability and a 7-foot-4-inch wingspan, the 21-year-old is on the verge of mega-stardom. Durant has improved so much in what’s now his fourth summer in the league that a starting spot on the 2012 Olympic team shouldn’t be too far out of reach.

The same American aspirations have to be bubbling inside Rose’s brain. The 6-foot-3-inch point guard was the second best player on the court last Saturday, breaking down defenders with ease and pushing the ball relentlessly at dangerous speeds. Picasso paintings aren’t as pretty as Rose flying in the open court. The third-year guard simply terrifies defenders when he’s force-feeding the ball on fast breaks and double twisting and pumping on acrobatic layups. His scrimmage stat line (15 points, eight assists, zero turnovers) didn’t do him justice; Rose was fabulous during the scrimmage and should be another lock for this year’s Team USA.

Durant and Rose are somewhat of your anti-NBA superstars. The talent is overwhelming but the humility and professionalism that the two 21-year-olds possess is refreshing. The last few weeks in the NBA have been laced with words such as “narcissism,” “selfishness” and “greed” but you won’t find those words stamping this pair of All-Stars’ Facebook and Twitter pages.

“I doubt I’m the next face. I’m just another guy helping to bring the gold back to the U.S.,” Durant gushed when reporters asked him about USA Basketball director Jerry Colangelo’s plans on making him the face of the team. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little kid.”

When NBA TV sat Rose down in a televised interview days before last Saturday’s performance, you’d thought he was on the verge of getting cut from the team. “It’s going to be tough. But I think that I’ve worked hard enough to make the team,” Rose said. “It’s going to be a challenge but that’s why you play the game. I think I should have a good shot. It’s just an honor to be on this team even if you don’t make .”

Rose and Durant aren’t the only NBA All-Stars fighting to make an Olympic roster this summer, but they represent the cream of an outside crop. A pair of humbled 20-somethings with undeniable talent backed with behind-the-scenes-type attitudes; perhaps just what the NBA needs right now.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO