When the Warriors enter TD Garden in Boston on Friday, they should brace for a reception louder and colder than that they encountered in any of their six previous road games.
This, after all, will be their first venture into an arena where local fans truly visualized the possibility of cheering for Kevin Durant.
It won’t be as loud or as chilly as it will be when Durant and the Warriors go to Oklahoma City in February, but this could be the first place where they feel the animosity expected in the wake of signing Durant.
“What can they be mad about?” Durant told reporters after the Warriors 127-121 win at Toronto on Wednesday. “I never played there. I never said I was going there.”
True enough. But the window was open, if only for a brief moment. The Celtics not only sought Durant but were one of the six teams – along with the Spurs, the Heat, the Thunder, the Clippers and the Warriors – that personally engaged him during the recruitment process last summer.
As hard as the Warriors came at Durant, sending a seven-man delegation led by CEO Joe Lacob and two-time MVP Stephen Curry, the Celtics came nearly as hard. They persuaded Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to join them in a meeting with Durant, and the star power made an impact.
“I was ready to just say, ‘Alright, let’s go. I’m ready to go,” Durant acknowledged to reporters covering Team USA practices last summer. “Seeing someone so successful at his craft, and just a great ambassador for the game of football and the city of Boston, it was great to be in the presence of greatness.
“But at the same time, I knew I couldn’t let that distract me.”
Being so close to adding Durant, after signing free agent center Al Horford, had Boston and Celtics fans thinking big. They didn’t get Durant, Horford hasn’t played since sustaining a concussion one week into the season, and the team projected to earn a top-four seed is 6-5.
So, yes, the folks in New England might be a bit bitter.
“They’re going to support their team,” Durant said in Toronto. “That’s one of the best fan bases in the league, top-five easily. No matter who goes in there, they’re going to boo them. But I had no attachment to Boston at all.”