Much of the chatter surrounding the Golden State Warriors last season revolved not around their play, but about what came next. That’s what happens when you’re this good for this long; a certain dynastic fatigue, where everyone is obsessed with talking about your incoming downfall rather than what you’re doing in the present. Just ask the Patriots. It’s the price of being great.
This took a toll on Kevin Durant, the central figure in rumors concerning the undoing of Golden State’s dynasty. In an interview with Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes, Durant discussed these rumors and the end of his tenure with Golden State. The superstar forward said his response to the chatter was to just dive into the game and work even harder to prove doubters wrong, the same people who believed he already has a foot out the door. Haynes revealed the rumors not only took their toll on Durant, but affected team officials as well:
“For Durant, it was unwarranted, irresponsible chatter that took on a life of its own, with his future largely overshadowing the team’s quest for a three-peat. And it took a toll on the Warriors. The only way Durant knew how to defuse the dialogue was to keep his mouth shut and focus on his craft.
His approach made some uneasy, with ownership, management and coaches privately questioning — and in some cases inquiring — whether Durant was at peace with the franchise.
On a few occasions during the season, a team official asked Durant to liven up his disposition, league sources told Yahoo Sports.”
Sports franchises are always concerned with the public perception and how people view their team; this seems only natural as the power and influence these organizations have continues to grow. But to ask your superstar player to perk up in such a time implies several things, things that aren’t great to see if you’re a player for the franchise.
First, it shows that Durant’s word that he wasn’t thinking about July wasn’t enough for the team. They needed to see it reflected in his attitude. Second, in asking Durant to “liven up”, the franchise indicates they care more about their players acting happy than their actual well-being. Public perception is everything to organizations that depend on their customers to the degree sports franchises do, but this isn’t a great look.
The article wasn’t all bad for the Warriors, as Durant adamantly denied they mishandled his Achilles injury. But this tidbit won’t go under the radar.