OAKLAND — Somehow, some way, the Golden State Warriors return to training camp a better team than they were the year before.
General manager Bob Myers ensured Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West and Zaza Pachulia returned for another season happy — no small feat in the NBA. I’m reminded of the Pat Riley theory, “The Disease of More,” that finds championship-winning teams are often brought down by internal forces. And with the rest of the NBA in a tailspin trying to play catch-up, The Disease of More will be the Dubs’ biggest rival this season.
But the typical trappings — i.e. salary/playing-time demands — of The Disease were addressed during the offseason. Durant sacrificed millions of dollars to ensure Curry could get a due pay raise. The team found money for Iguodala to keep him around as a mentor and important cog for the playoffs. And the team upgraded role players with hungry veterans who want to win titles and solidify their legacy with team success: Nick Young and Omri Casspi know they won’t be feature players and they’re ready to fit the mold.
On Media Day at the team’s headquarters, there were unimportant discussions — like Durant’s tweets, and a yet-to-happen discussion about what the organization will do if and when it is invited to the White House. And then there was the talk of something incredibly important — head coach Steve Kerr’s health — that could remain an issue as the season (that’s going to be even longer than before) unwinds.
Basketball will eventually be played, but for now, let’s run down the most interesting talking points at Media Day.
Durant made a mistake — a snafu, if you will — by bashing his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in the third-person on Twitter. It sure looks like he forgot to switch to a burner account, but he swears that isn’t the case. Either way, does it really matter?
Compare it to a more typical offseason scandal: What crime did he actually commit? He didn’t endanger anyone’s safety or livelihood. Durant did a dumb thing on an even dumber medium and exposed himself for being a little too self-conscious. It’s a PR booboo, because he upset a group of people who are already predisposed to being upset (OKC fans). There’s no real damage here, there’s no need for real contrition.
Even better, compare it to a social-media scandal brought on by his own teammate Draymond Green. Remember last summer when he accidentally posted a picture of his member to his Snapchat story, which was seen by thousands before he deleted it.
Green remembered the reaction to his problems and he wasn’t going to let Durant escape the treatment he got.
“I saw him in person and I laughed in his face,” Green said. “I thought it was — I got a good laugh out of it. It’s pretty funny to me. And I reminded him — since you want to talk about my mishap — I reminded him of my mishap. And when we were at USA Basketball, the day my mishap happened, I was stressed out and all of them were laughing in my face from him to — Demarcus [Cousins] probably was the worst. And the beat goes on. They all laughed in my face. So it was a little payback. I stood right there, and I laughed in his face. And it felt pretty damn good to do.”
If this were serious, the Warriors would act like it. Instead, they brushed it aside like the non-issue it is. Durant can deal with it in his own way. But this isn’t worth any more of a reaction than a slight chuckle and moving on.
Don’t poke the Trump
From the start of the day, the company line on what the Warriors would do should they get invited to the White House was clear: They will talk it over as a team and decide from there. They will respect the opportunity and understand what it means to the company as a whole, the thinking goes.
The players’ commitment to that spiel wore on as the day continued.
Curry was the first to break from the script. The former MVP had said he wants to make a statement by refusing to go. He expanded on that after saying it would be a team decision.
“We don’t stand for basically what our president has — the things that he said and the things that he hasn’t said in the right terms that we won’t stand for it,” Curry said. “And by acting and not going, hopefully that will inspire some change when it comes to what we tolerate in this country and what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye to.”
West is another player who has voiced his displeasure with Donald Trump. He stayed faithful to the company line, but made it clear that when it’s time for his opinion to be heard, it will be heard loud and clear.
Finally, Iguodala was the last player to address the media. He handled the issue with his typical humor, which was sharp and — in this case — served the greater good of not answering the question directly.
“North Korea is on our ass, I heard, so we’ve got bigger problems than the guys shooting the ball in the hoop going to the White House,” Iguodala said.
My read: The odds that Trump would expose himself to an ego blow of inviting the Warriors for them to reject that invitation seem pretty slim. Because when it comes to our esteemed president, the preservation of his ego ranks above all else.
Curry appeared none too happy about Durant taking a shot at the brand he’s aligned with. (Durant earlier said that no one likes to play in Under Armour shoes).
He also didn’t care to make it a bigger deal than it is.
“I guess maybe in practice we should just play in our socks and call it a day,” he joked. “That would probably be the best way to make sure there’s no drama when practice starts, you know what I’m saying? So we might do that. Unbranded socks.”
That can’t be good for the ankles.
Contact Examiner Sports Editor Jacob C. Palmer at email@example.com or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.