Kevin Durant’s decision to sign with the Golden State Warriors propelled expectations in the Bay Area to unimaginable new heights, and it’s safe to say the former MVP is aware of how he’s perceived now that he’s a member of the NBA’s pre-eminent superteam.
According to ESPN.com’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Durant stayed on the practice floor late at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans after his teammates left and motivated himself by repeating criticisms that have been lobbed at him ever since he decided to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder.
During his extended shooting session, Durant reportedly yelled, "They say I ain’t hungry!" and "They told me I ain’t have no drive! I’m out here. They called me a coward! Putting in work."
As it turns out, Durant told reporters he uses outside criticism to fuel his desire to get better.
"That’s what I say to myself when I’m working," he said, per Strauss. "I hear it all the time. You hear the noise. You hear what they say about you. Everybody hears it. So it’s a little extra motivation when you hear it."
Pressure is certainly on Durant and the Warriors after last year’s record-setting 73-win squad added one of the league’s most lethal scorers to its ranks, but there’s no reason for the Dubs to panic after one loss.
Although the Spurs crunched Golden State by 29 points on Tuesday night, Durant acquitted himself nicely with 27 points (11-of-18 shooting), 10 rebounds and four assists in 37 minutes.
But from a broader standpoint, it’s clear Durant and the rest of the Warriors’ star-studded cast need more time to develop chemistry—especially on defense.
Golden State’s lineup consisting of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Durant, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green posted an offensive rating of 130.8 against the Spurs, but its defensive rating of 144.9 in nine minutes was slightly alarming.
That said, it was only one game.
Superteams generally take a few months to find their groove and establish an identity (just ask the 2010-11 Miami Heat), and some extra noise from the outside shouldn’t deter Durant and Co. from striking fear into the rest of the NBA.
With the New Orleans Pelicans on deck Friday night, expect Golden State to come out focused and ready to make amends for a poor opening-night showing.