This season, the Warriors have morphed from robotic destructor of the NBA into Team Soap Opera. And the drama boiled over, hot and scalding on Wednesday night.
The latest mini-drama had revolved around Kevin Durant and his recent uncharacteristic silence. The Silence of Durant finally ended after nine days, following the Warriors’ 141-109 demolition of the San Antonio Spurs. Durant lashed out at the media.
Then he got to the apparent heart of the matter: his anger at a particular reporter with The Athletic.
“Ethan Strauss comes in here and gives his own opinion,” Durant said. “I don’t trust none of you all. Every time I say something you try to twist it up. I just want to play ball, go to the gym and go home. Is that a problem?”
Durant hadn’t been available to local media ever since the Knicks traded Kristaps Porzingis last week, opening two max-salary slots on their roster and unleashing a world of speculation about Durant landing in New York next season.
That silence was unusual for Durant, who has been accessible and available ever since he signed with the Warriors in summer 2016. Save for a few days after he exchanged words with Draymond Green in November, Durant has spoken to local reporters on a regular basis, after almost every game and often during practice.
“I have nothing to do with the Knicks, I don’t know who traded Porzingis. It ain’t got nothing to do with me,” Durant said. “I’m trying to play basketball. You come in here every day and ask me about free agency. Then when I don’t want to talk to you all, it’s a problem with me.”
“Grow up,” he snapped. “Grow up. It’s not me. I try to be the best player I can be.”
He finished with an angry “I’m done” that was as emphatic as one of the dunks he slammed down against the Spurs.
We get Durant’s frustration. Kind of. There’s no in-season speculation like NBA in-season speculation. The drama has been bubbling up since Durant signed a contract that allowed him to opt out after this season. Now, in the run-up to Thursday’s trade deadline, while teams try to position themselves to not only potentially unseat Durant’s current team in this postseason but find a way to make room for the Warriors forward next season, the conjecture has ramped up to white-hot levels.
“We all have things that go on in our life, and sometimes you just want to curl up,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Most of us are allowed to do that, but not in the NBA.”
And that’s the thing: this is the NBA. Durant is a superstar. He has been hyper sensitive for years, both in Oklahoma City and here, about his future. But that’s just part of the deal of being a multimillionaire, other-wordly talented player. Perhaps the best player in the league.
So while it’s understandable that Durant might want to, as Kerr said, “curl up” in the fetal position and shut out the noise, it doesn’t go with the job. He might want to avoid the topic when there remains five months before anything is settled. But it would be easy to simply say, as he has in the past, “I’m not talking about free agency right now.”
Instead, by breaking from his regular routine, which he did long before Strauss’ recent article about the silence, Durant has created another subplot. The silence, in many ways, only fueled the noise.
There’s no doubt that Durant can be his own worst enemy, sensitive to criticism, possibly feeling undervalued and letting others control the narrative swirling about him.
The Knicks speculation is definitely based in reality. Durant’s agent, Rich Kleiman, is a native New Yorker who tweeted last season, “Imma run the Knicks someday.” The belief is that the Knicks are eyeing both Durant and Kyrie Irving, whom Durant has called “one of my best friends,” to fill the salary slots they just created. Maybe Durant has nothing to do with the Knicks right now, but the Knicks are clearly eyeing him.
In New York, Durant would be something he isn’t and will never be with the Warriors: the man. As long as he is in a Warriors uniform, he’ll always rank behind Stephen Curry in importance. He’ll be admired, respected, idolized by many. But he will never be universally adored, the way Curry is.
Being the man may be very important to him. But could it be more important than winning championships? It’s hard to imagine that happening with the dysfunctional James Dolan-owned Knicks, no matter what stars the team signs. More important than money? The Warriors can offer Durant more money than any other suitor.
And if Durant is so sensitive to the words of one reporter, is New York really the right place for him? If he proves to be too sensitive, or is unable to take the Knicks very far, he wouldn’t be the man for long.
Though every insider will tell you he or she knows with certainty that Durant is gone and that the recent streak of silence only confirms that, it is very possible that Durant doesn’t know himself what the future holds. That he really just wants to play out this season before deciding.
“I don’t think about that stuff,” he said angrily on Wednesday.
But he knows everyone else does. Just one more episode in Team Soap Opera.
Source: MSN News (Ann Killion)
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