For U.S. men's basketball team, it's heightened awareness at Verizon Center

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Americans facing Brazil's big front line

Kevin Durant always comes back to the District during the offseason. But the Oklahoma City Thunder forward's return Monday with the U.S. men's national team might be a little bit different than his hometown fans are accustomed to.

"This is not like a real summer league game where I can go out and do my thing like I do at Barry Farms," Durant said after Team USA practiced in front of 3,500 fans at the D.C. Armory on Saturday. "It's more team structured. Hopefully I just come out there and help out the team."

That also might understate the influence the NBA's leading scorer is expected to have against Brazil in the second of five games the U.S. men will play in the run-up to the Olympics. Durant is coming off a game-high 24 points on 9-for-11 shooting -- including hitting his first five 3-point attempts -- in last week's 113-59 romp over the Dominican Republic.

U.S. vs. Brazil
Women, Monday, 5:30 p.m.
Men, Monday, 8 p.m.
Where » Verizon Center
TV » ESPN2

The last time the United States faced Brazil, he had a game-high 27 points in a narrow 70-68 victory during the 2010 FIBA world championships. This time around the Brazilians have more size, with a front line that includes Wizards center Nene, Tiago Splitter (San Antonio Spurs) and Anderson Varejao (Cleveland Cavaliers), all of whom are 6-foot-11.

Seven-foot-one Tyson Chandler (New York Knicks) is the lone center listed on the U.S. team, and coach Mike Krzyzewski has stressed that Durant, LeBron James (Miami Heat) and Carmelo Anthony (New York) all are likely to see minutes in the post. With Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers) injuring his pinky and Deron Williams (Brooklyn Nets) settling his contract issues, Saturday was only the second time Krzyzewski had two point guards and 12 players available for a full practice.

"I think it's going to be great for us," said forward Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves), who is 6-foot-10 but expects to be a second-unit contributor. "I think we need this right now so we can come together and play at a higher level of basketball. I feel like Brazil's going to be very tough for us because in 2010 they took us right down to the wire."

The United States next plays Great Britain in Manchester on July 19. It concludes its Olympic tuneup with games against Argentina (July 22) and Spain (July 24) in Barcelona before starting the Olympics against France on July 29.

Nene is back in the District for the first time since the end of the NBA season, which he finished with the Wizards after getting traded from Denver in March. The Brazilians won't have to see the United States in the Olympics until the knockout portion of the competition, instead being paired with Spain, China, Russia, Australia and the Olympic hosts.

"It's preparation," Nene said. "We're going to take the U.S. with the best players. That's good to work with the best players on the best team because we can learn and we can get better. In London, that's where it's going to count. Now is a preparation game."

Nene isn't bothered by the expectations against an always favored U.S. team. But he has never played in front of President Obama, who is expected to be in attendance.

"Now that's pressure," he said.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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Craig Stouffer

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner