Programming note: Warriors-Nuggets coverage starts tonight at 5pm with Warriors Pregame Live on CSN Bay Area, and streaming live right here.
Through the venom sprayed upon Kevin Durant by fans in Oklahoma City, as well as the goading of his former Thunder teammates, we learned Durant is in a better place than he has ever been, and with more self-belief than he has ever known.
Once justifiably considered vulnerable in psychological warfare, he is, at 28, exceedingly difficult to knock off his game.
In the five most emotionally challenging games for Durant as a Warrior -- the Thunder three times, LeBron James and the Cavaliers, twice -- he was as ruthless as he was efficient: 34.0 points, 60-percent from the field, including 51.3 percent from deep; 93.7 percent from the line; 9.8 rebounds.
That Durant finds another level in games that mean the most implies he has found a degree of certitude that bodes well for the Warriors in the postseason.
The way Durant coped with the weekend hostilities at Chesapeake Energy Arena was, for the most part, letter perfect. His greatest failures Saturday night were in his actions on the court, specifically getting caught up in machismo contests with former Thunder teammates Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson. Westbrook and Roberson acted as instigators, and Durant let himself get dragged into the skits.
As for the nightlong shout show put on by mostly adult fans, some of which surely feel jilted by his departure last summer, while others seemed to be looking for a room in which to scream insults, Durant took a complete detour.
Warriors forward Draymond Green got caught up in it. As he walked toward the scorer’s table to reenter the game, one local superfan sitting courtside, near the Warriors bench, shouted, “Don’t kick anybody.”
Green glanced back over his shoulder and said, “I’m gonna kick you.”
Shortly thereafter, as officials gathered to review whether Roberson was overly aggressive in hacking Durant, that same fan couldn’t help diving into the proceedings. As players from both teams awaited the verdict -- it was ruled a common foul -- the fan was standing and pointing and shouting and, according to Green, firing off a stream of insults with a perceived racial edge.
It was intense enough to compel several cops to intervene.
Intense enough that Andre Iguodala, clearly agitated, demanded for an ejection of the fan and was highly indignant when the cops did not.
Durant spent those moments of madness sitting on the scorer’s table observing, with no more reaction than a grin and lift of a brow. He was locked in. May as well have closed his eyes and indulged in an inspirational chant.
This is not, according to Durant and those who have spent time around him, who Durant has always been. He came to the Warriors with a reputation for being relatively sensitive, even thin-skinned, as if he sought approval. The implication was that he was a slave to the burnishing of his image and that anything considered contradictory was to be refuted, if not expunged.
That Kevin Durant seemed to be truly worried about what others thought of him, which would have made him compromised prey for the howling predators in the arena. The old KD might have wilted, if not visibly then perhaps internally.
The Kevin Durant we’ve seen this season has dropped that vibe. Burned it. He vowed during the preseason to stop homogenizing and just “be real.”
He is content with himself, he says, and all signs suggest there is truth to this.
Understand, Durant still has connections in the Oklahoma City area. He remains involved in the community. He continues to give. He credits OKC at most every turn. The old KD easily could have moped and questioned his commitment and been offended by their fickleness.
How could they turn on me? Don’t they know what I’ve done around here? Is there a way I could get a refund on that $1 million donation to the American Red Cross for tornado relief?
Instead, Durant sailed through the evening, posting team-highs in points (34) and rebounds (nine) and never once engaging the furious masses.
He eventually applied the proverbial dagger, staring down Westbrook and draining a 3-pointer from 28 feet, cooling an OKC rally and giving the Warriors a 123-104 lead with 3:40 remaining.
So when Durant said he harbored no ill will toward the fans, that they were amazing and brought nothing unexpected, it was believable. When claimed to be unbothered by his ex-teammates, that, too was believable.
Maybe everything that was thrown at him bounced off, if he felt anything at all.