Durant, Warriors blow off boos in preseason opener
Former MVP scores nine points in first game since defecting from OKC
VANCOUVER, Canada – Tension in the Warriors locker room!
“I really don’t like him,” Stephen Curry said, actually said, of Kevin Durant, and so what that Curry was clearly being facetious and quickly added “I’m just messing with you,” just to make sure everyone could understand him while speaking with tongue firmly in cheek.
Tension everywhere around Durant!
He was booed during pre-game introductions, booed most every time he touched the ball in the exhibition opener Saturday and probably, based on evidence from Rogers Arena, booed going through customs. If border agents let him back in the United States at all, that is, when the Warriors were scheduled to return later that night.
Oh, the humanity. Durant, on top of everything else through the years, and especially through the last few months as the target of joy (for Warriors fans) and disdain (everyone else), just became the guy who could also generate emotion for an Oct. 1 game in a neutral site.
Very early or not, about 300 miles up the Pacific coast from Portland as the nearest NBA city, with a turnstile at the scorer’s table as coach Steve Kerr waved 18 players into the game with second-round pick Patrick McCaw getting more minutes than any Warrior, there was a sign of what Durant can expect in his transition to a new franchise.
The negative reaction to leaving Oklahoma City for Golden State was going to come no matter what, of course, but it says something about what is ahead once the Warriors get to actual enemy territory if there is fallout in a place happy just to get an exhibition game.
It certainly wasn’t an anti-Dubs sentiment with the Raptors basking in home-country advantage – other Warriors were cheered during the 97-93 Toronto victory, even Draymond Green, needing an image repair after a series of scrapes on and off the court late in 2015-16 and into summer. But it was interesting enough that teammates noticed.
“It’s just funny,” Curry said. “I highly doubt anybody in this arena was affected by (Durant’s free-agent decision). It’s just funny kind of buying into a narrative that doesn’t really make sense. It probably won’t be the last time. But he handles it well and at the end of the day it’s just about playing basketball.”
The Warriors as a whole will mostly yawn through the reaction as exhibition play turns into the regular season, except maybe for the two games in Oklahoma City (Feb. 11 and March 20), while understanding the passion from the home schedule at Oracle Arena could make it impossible to hear on the road anyway.
They embraced the villain’s role long ago, loving long win streaks on the road and the especially emotional ways of Green that led to suspension in last year’s Finals collapse. Just as important, they had proven more than capable of handling the massive spotlight that will again follow them as favorites for a third consecutive Western Conference title.
“I don’t think it can get much crazier. It feels about the same so far, but I guess we’ll see,” Kerr said. “We’re kind of used to being a travelling road show, circus, whatever you want to call it. It’s not anything that bothers us. We just go out and play and have fun.”
He admitted it was not just another game as the first time playing for someone other than the Thunder/SuperSonics organization, until the opening tip and then everything seemed familiar. He missed seven of nine shots and had as many turnovers (three) as assists while scoring nine points in 19 minutes.
But it was a typical exhibition opener for all the Warriors as the offense, with constant lineup changes and reliance on several reserves who won’t be around for November resulting in 39.3 percent from the field and 22 turnovers.
“I heard more cheers than boos, to be honest,” Durant said. “But I was just so locked in on trying to get ready for the game that I wasn’t really focusing or listening too hard for any boos or anything. I heard cheers, though.”
Mostly he was glad to play against someone other than other Warriors in training camp. It was one game, but he insisted it felt like a positive experience, clunky offense and all, debatable reaction and all, and even the locker-room tension threatening to tear the team apart before opening night even gets close.
That much was Curry at his dramatic best. It’s a lot of the other noise surrounding Durant’s early days in Golden State that could become real.
Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.
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