PORTLAND – We’ve seen no pitchforks, no torches, no spittle leaping off the lips of the livid. One week into the NBA season, the promise of great rage and fury coming down upon the Warriors away from Oakland has thus far gone unmet.
The search for an explanation settles, perhaps most of all, upon the Warriors themselves and their failure to immediately meet enormous expectations.
Surely there would be anger in the stands if the Warriors, looking like the machine as presumed, had opened the season with a blowout victory over San Antonio. By getting pounded at home and being merely a cut above average in two victories, it seems they’ve taken the teeth out of the anticipated hatred.
It’s hard to sling venom at a team struggling to find itself.
Maybe that will change Tuesday night in Portland, where the Trail Blazers, bumped from the playoffs by the Warriors last May, boast one of more rabid fan bases in the league. Maybe the Warriors will enter Moda Center perceived as Lucifer’s spawn and at last get showered with boos.
That was not the case for the vast majority of the preseason schedule and it most certainly was not the case in Phoenix on Sunday or in New Orleans two nights earlier. The Warriors, in both places, from pregame introductions to final buzzers, received only a smattering of boos among the cheers. And there were many cheers, just as there were last season when they became the league’s shiniest toy.
Now, any visiting team is going to get at least a smattering of disapproval. That’s how fandom is designed to work. The Warriors, however, were not supposed to be any visiting team. They were designated as the Super Team, and therefore to be portrayed with all the evil that accompanies such a label. After rampaging through the league last season, winning a record 73 games, they responded to losing the NBA Finals by gathering the core of that splendid roster and serenading the singular superstar Kevin Durant until he could not say no.
Such gall and greed was, by most accounts, bound to incite the usual protests that accompany the rich brazenly getting richer and bragging about it. Hate the bully. The narrative made sense.
Already among the elite, the Warriors set fire to the concept of parity! They bought themselves a better team! They’re trying to destroy the model for the proper construction of an NBA team! Durant is a weasel four days a week and an ungrateful scoundrel on the other three!
That not any of this is true, or ever was, was beside the point. The rebellion was on, and the Warriors were going to pay for their nefarious ways with blistered eardrums in the various centers, arenas, palaces, forums, fieldhouses and gardens that dot the NBA landscape.
Teams would trash-talk them, but fans would detest them. It was only a couple weeks ago, in the midst of a six-game preseason win streak, that coach Steve Kerr grinned and sarcastically referred to the Warriors as “Super Villains.”
Kerr, further indulging his playful side, followed up by authorizing the Warriors to wear T-shirts with the words “Super Villains” imprinted on the front.
Kerr seemed to be saying, “if they hate us because we’re good, we may as well have fun with it.”
Yet the anticipated verbal malice has not materialized. Stephen Curry still gets earfuls of love on the road. Kerr receives at least polite applause. Even Draymond Green, who during the last postseason became a caricature for mischief, if now evil, has been subjected to barely a whisper of loathing.
As for Durant, scripted to be the primary target for “abandoning” his previous employer, he’s heard more oohs than boos.
No doubt the Warriors, Durant and Green in particular, are going to hear when they go to Oklahoma City. That’s not until February, though.
There are three-plus months of meantime, though, so the Warriors had better start demolishing opponents and giggling over the ruins.
Maybe then, the haters will start hating. Otherwise, this whole Warriors-as-villains thing will die before it ever really lived.