It didn’t take very long for everyone to turn on the Golden State Warriors, and they have Kevin Durant to thank for it.
Following their run to the NBA title in 2015, the Warriors entered the new season with more hype than ever before. They backed it up by ripping off a 24-0 start and eventually carried that all the way to a 73-9 record. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson shot the lights out, popping up three’s from all over the court and draining them with deadly efficiency. Draymond Green, the heart, engine, soul and mouth of the franchise elevated his game to a level the opposition simply couldn’t keep pace with each time up the court. The depth of the roster allowed them to rotate pieces in and out on any given night, with the likes of Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Andrew Bogut, Leandro Barbosa all contributing in their own way.
The Warriors were a traveling circus of basketball hysteria. For fans of the bottom feeders they just wanted to see them play in their building and catch the show hoping that Curry or Thompson would explode for 30 in a quarter at the expense of their own team. For others, they wanted a piece of the Warriors and a chance to derail them and their historic quest. The Celtics nearly pulled off the feat in December following a double-OT thriller in Boston but fell just short. Yet the Warriors were drained, and the next night they lost for the first time in Milwaukee to the Bucks.
(And of course we all remember the Celtics killing their 54-game home-winning streak in April, nbd).
(Mostly) everyone short of Chicago Bulls fans were rooting for the Splash Bros. and Co. to seal the deal and win their second-straight NBA title after such a ridiculous season, yet some of the allure and shine of the whole operation was beginning to rub off. Fans were growing tired of Curry’s warm-up routine that *always* managed to get on Twitter (oh look, yet *another* shot from the tunnel). They were growing tired of Green’s constant trash talk and his sneaky-dirty play style. They were growing tired of the Splash Bros. jacking up shots from 35-feet out, and the acquisitions that they’re overrated (they aren’t) were being asked from the casual to the hardcore fan and the all-time greats from back in the day.
Then, it all built up through the postseason run, and rather quickly. Steph got banged up a bit when he suffered an MCL sprain and later a bump on his elbow and whenever he’d brick a shot it was because of said injuries…yet when he’d then drain four threes in two minutes he suddenly wasn’t hurt anymore. Warriors fans simply couldn’t accept that the NBA’s golden child was sucking and couldn’t hit his shots, partly because he had to make them so damn difficult to begin with.
Then came Draymond’s nut kick to Stephen Adams in the Western Conference Finals. Green knew exactly what he was doing in that moment and tired to pass it off as as natural motion following a shot. Yeah sure. Green had racked up a million technical fouls and was flirting with a suspension essentially the entire postseason and he finally got his comeuppance in the Finals against the Cavs after his mix-up with Lebron James in Game 4, which turned the series right around.
Mired in another disappointing NBA Finals performance, Curry fouled out late in Game 6 and chucked his mouth guard into the crowd in a burst of anger. Off the court, Ayesha Curry accused the NBA of being rigged following Cleveland’s win and SHE WASN’T AFRAID TO GO THERE. Yes Ayesha, the NBA is so rigged that your husband is the two-time reigning MVP and was still at the time favored to win his second straight NBA title. DAMN YOU DAVID STERN.
The whole Warriors operation at that point in time managed to do the impossible: they actually made neutral fans root for LeBron James to pull off the incredible. Where LeBron elevated his play in those final three games of the season, the Warriors imploded. In Game 7 they completed their collapse, killing any and all significance of 73-9.
Yet following the series they were still pegged as favorites to win the title next season, and then the rumors kicked into high-gear that they were the leading suitor for Kevin Durant. A weekend trip to the Hamptons later and Durant was the newest member of Dub Nation.
For Durant to latch on to the team that just beat him in the Western Conference Finals by ripping out the spine of the franchise is such an unbelievably weak move. It reeks of Durant telling the world he doesn’t have a competitive, killer edge like a Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or even, dare I say it, Lebron James. After such a demoralizing defeat Durant should’ve pinned up a poster of the Warriors above his bed to remind himself everyday of the opportunity that slipped through the cracks.
Instead, he’s decided to join them and become the third wheel to Curry and Klay. It’s ring-chasing to the highest degree, joining up with an all-time team to ride their coattails and get in on the party while the gettin’s good. With one year left on his deal in OKC, Durant decided he had enough and wanted a change of scenery.
Now, fans of teams that aren’t the Warriors or Cavs are throwing their hands up and asking Adam Silver to forfeit the whole season and just play the Finals in October. Yet in all honesty, this is really the best thing that could’ve happened to the NBA. Each game the Warriors play next season will be war. 29 other teams will want a piece of Golden State at every chance they get. Don’t be so quick to chalk them up for 69, 70 or even 74 wins. The fouls will be harder, the defense will be tighter and the effort will be increased (as for what happens in the postseason the Dubs will likely stomp all over the competition en route to the title but shhhh).
A year after capturing the attention of the nation by chasing history, the Warriors will again be the center of attention through the usually monotonous regular season for a similar yet totally different reason: for being the unquestioned bad boys, the NWO, the Miami Heat 2.0.
Where before everyone watched in awe over how far Curry and Klay could shoot the ball or marveled at the win totals as they climbed higher and higher, that attraction and fascination has now devolved into hate and animosity. They have Kevin Durant to thank for that.
Follow Mark Burke on Twitter @m_burke42