OAKLAND – Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, speaking minutes apart on Friday, were in perfect harmony. They’ve been teammates long enough to know this may disappoint a segment of sports fans.
You’ve heard them. How can you not? These people say things like the Warriors are a better without Durant. Or the team’s famously fabulous chemistry is being compromised, by Durant.
“I feel like for the last three years, everybody has taken their shots at trying to nitpick or break us down or drive a wedge in our team chemistry or our togetherness or whatever the case is,” Curry said after practice. “And even this year, it’s been amplified even more with (Durant’s) free-agency stuff. Nobody can say anything without it getting scrutinized or criticized. Nobody can be happy when people are playing well. That’s the part, to me, that’s most surprising. If it’s KD playing well, it’s ‘Oh, they’re playing a different style and it’s not as fun to watch.’ Or when he’s out and we’re winning games, ‘Are we better or more fun,’ whatever the question is, you hear it all the time.”
Never mind that the Warriors are in the midst of the most successful NBA run since Bill Russell, now 85, was patrolling the middle for the 1960s Boston Celtics. Or that when the NBA Finals begin next week the Warriors are favored to capture a third consecutive championship.
Yet Durant, particularly since he dropped out of the lineup May 8 with a calf injury, remains a popular target, with some folks claiming he is a man apart – and not always because of his singular talent.
“It’s been that way since I got here, that it’s the Warriors and KD,” Durant said. “I understand that. And I feel like my teammates and the organization know exactly what I’ve done – on and off the court – to become a part of this culture.
“I know what I bring to the team,’ he added. “But I also know a lot of people from the outside don’t like to see us together. I get it.”
Every argument, every off-script moment and every sideways glance can lead to social media buzz, as well as that of TV and radio talk shows. The Warriors constantly are having their temperature taken by folks trying to diagnose from a distance.
Durant often gets the blunt end of the discourse, at least partly because he, for better or worse, engages more than most.
“It’s hard to get away from that because I watch the games and watch the lead-up to the games and that’s all everybody is talking about,” he said of the negative outside noise. “From my perspective, I want to focus on rehab, but I also want to be a fan of my teammates. I want to enjoy my teammates from a different view.”
Durant is not expected to play early in the NBA Finals, which begin next Thursday, but he is holding out hope he can get back on the court at some point during the series.
Much of the recent chatter is related to the Warriors being 5-0 since Durant went down, winning Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals in Houston before sweeping the Trail Blazers in the conference finals. This has spawned the usual instant “analysis” that some try to pass off as informed opinion.
“We are one group, until we’re not,” Curry said. “I don’t think we’re going to let any noise around us – as frustrating or entertaining or whatever you want to call it is on a daily basis – break us down in terms of distracting us from what the goal is.
When Durant was asked a question Friday – ‘’How have you thought about their (the Warriors) play?” – it was notable that he quickly corrected the reporter.
“Our play? I think we’ve been playing great.”
Even with continuing subplot of Durant’s looming free agency, both players stressed that the “common goal” overrides all other factors. Durant was having perhaps the best postseason of anyone before he was injured. Curry has since grabbed that torch.
The Warriors went as far as possible in the first two seasons with Durant. The story of this season, despite predictions of collapse at several points, is in progress.
“We’re a great team because everybody who puts on the uniform goes out and competes at a high level,” Curry added. “We look out for each other. There’s a little bit of sacrifice. But at the end of the day, it’s all about winning. And no matter who is on the floor, that’s what we’re all about.”
While it’s true all is not blissful with this team, that doesn’t automatically mean it is a catastrophe waiting to happen