SAN DIEGO – At every stop on the road and occasionally when they’re at home in Oakland, the Warriors will confront not only the opponent but also at least two other potentially disruptive forces.
There will be venom from fans and maybe a few players who have targeted the Warriors, after adding Kevin Durant to a team with four All-Stars, as the NBA’s version of the Evil Empire.
Being tossed into such a role might even motivate the Warriors.
And then there is the intense, unrelenting spotlight that comes with being the league’s “it” team. Every move will be monitored, every word dissected in search of a sound bite, and every sign of body language will be analyzed in search of meaning.
Being thrust into such a position could very easily become annoying and, ultimately, a much more corrosive element for a team with such accomplished players.
The regular season is eight days away, and already forward Draymond Green has addressed his tumultuous first seven months of the year, guard Klay Thompson has clarified comments construed as selfish and Durant has endured scrutiny in search of reasons he departed Oklahoma City to join the Warriors.
It’s not going to stop, particularly regarding Durant.
“Yeah, we’ve talked about it,” point guard Stephen Curry said Monday, after practice at UC-San Diego. “We’ve talked about it, because of the questions that are asked of him and the response he gets in arenas, we all will be a part of it.
“He could (not) care less, and we could (not) care less, about whether he gets booed, cheered or whatnot,” he added. “We’re here to play basketball. He’s here to have fun. We’re here to win games. That’s what we’re going to focus on.”
Focusing is going to be the challenge. With double the attention as defending champs last season, the Warriors won their first 24 games. With the spotlight brightening, they finished 73-9, the best record in NBA history.
But Durant’s arrival has boosted the buzz to an even higher level. Opponents are chiming in with their opinions about what he should have done. Durant’s comments are being examined for slights directed at his former employer or former teammates.
Green last week took the unusual step of stridently defending Durant from those players who have been critical of his decision to join the Warriors.
“That’s what teammates do,” Durant said. “You have each other’s back, no matter what the situation is. And we’ll talk about the rest indoors.”
Asked on Monday about his decision to join the Warriors and the likelihood of ensuring criticism, Durant’s answers where curt and limited.
“I just did what I wanted to do,” he said. “It’s really that simple. No bells and whistles. No show. I did what I wanted to do.
“I just wanted to play here. No more than that.”
That’s it. Nothing more, and that was the end of the Durant’s media availability.
Durant clearly is tiring of the subject of Kevin Durant and the whys and wherefores of his decision. The Warriors, players and coaches, are eager to move on.
“We’ve kind of seen it all, done it all, good and bad,” Curry said. “Now it’s just about being ourselves, no matter what might come at us. We don’t know what this year is going to be. There’s going to be ups and downs. That’s guaranteed. We don’t know exactly what we’ll have to deal with.”
The chatter is going to linger into November and December and beyond, perhaps reaching a fever pitch when the Warriors go to OKC in February.
And it’ll become even broader and more relentless if the Warriors don’t own the league from opening night.
“As soon as we lose a game,” coach Steve Kerr said, “it’s going to be, ‘What’s wrong with the Warriors?’
“We’ll address that when we get to it. But going through last year, winning 73, setting a record, losing in The Finals, we pretty much saw everything. So we know.
We understand we’re going to get criticized, we’re going to get celebrated – and everything in between.”