Kevin Durant: Time in Rio provided escape from criticism

LeBron's past requires him to support Durant's move (1:02)

ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith says LeBron James made positive remarks about Kevin Durant's move to Golden State because James made a similar decision leaving Cleveland to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami in 2010. (1:02)

Kevin Durant said his experience in Rio de Janeiro with Team USA provided a needed escape from the backlash he has received since leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder to sign with the Golden State Warriors.

Durant scored 30 points Sunday in the United States' 96-66 victory over Serbia in the gold-medal game. He told The Vertical that playing for his country helped to flip his script and change his role from villain to hero.

"It was therapy for me after making a big change in my life," Durant told The Vertical. "It made my life easier ... I knew [a backlash] was coming.

"It was definitely different for me, but to come here in an environment where people accepted me and didn't care about anything except being my buddy, that's what I needed."

USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo agreed that Durant's Olympic appearance was a needed distraction for the All-Star forward, who signed in June with the Warriors on a two-year, $54.3 million deal with a player option after the first year.

"I can't let anybody steal my joy."
Kevin Durant

"This was good for him. For his psyche," Colangelo said.

Durant didn't dispute Colangelo's diagnosis.

"I can't let anybody steal my joy," Durant said, presumably addressing critics of his free-agency decisions. "[Former Thunder assistant and current Team USA assistant] Monty Williams used to tell me that every day; don't let anybody steal my joy."

ESPN's Marc Stein contributed to this report.