LOS ANGELES — One of the safest bets of this NBA postseason is that Kevin Durant will end it with another championship ring to stash in his collection, with possibly another Finals MVP award to place alongside it.
Whether he will also head into the summer with a smile on his face? That’s a far more dicey proposition.
Everyone and everything, from the Las Vegas bookmakers to the statisticians, from the NBA’s historical precedent to common sense, indicates that the Golden State Warriors are marching in the direction of another championship.
Yet all those collective minds and computations would be stumped by one of the oddest questions of this season. Namely, what will it take to satisfy Durant? Will another NBA title do it? Don't be so sure.
MORE FROM THE NBA PLAYOFFS
- AND THEY'RE OFF: Best and worst from playoffs' opening weekend
- BIG TROUBLE? PG's shoulder injury casts cloud over OKC's hopes
- PREDICTIONS: Forecasting every round and who will claim the title
- BREAKDOWN: How each team can win the first-round and advance
He has been on edge all year, and it’s not abating. Durant and the Warriors will go into Game 2 of their first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers Monday night as overwhelming favorites again, deemed so likely to win that the series has turned into a curiosity for a different reason.
It is an irksome affliction, being grumpy all the time, and one of the problems with it is that other people start to notice, too. Going into this series, Clippers agitator-in-chief Patrick Beverley was always going to look for a target to focus his mischief. Given how Durant’s fuse has shrunk steadily in size throughout the campaign, there was only one candidate for Beverley.
The opening game concluded, as NBA Twitter has chronicled to great delight, with Durant and Beverley in the locker room, ejected as the final act of a snarky little spat that ran for most of the game.
You don’t get punished for technical fouls in the postseason until you have racked up seven, which sounds like a heck of a lot and is, for most players. However, when you consider Durant was hit with more than anyone else during the regular season, that his playoff tally already sits at two, and that the Warriors could end up playing 20 games-plus assuming they get back to the Finals, and something has to give.
Kevin Durant and Patrick Beverley were both ejected during Game 1. (Photo: Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports)
Either Durant finds a way to brush off the antagonizing that will now surely follow him, both in this series and beyond, or he’s going to end up with a mandatory one-game suspension.
Even that wouldn’t necessarily derail the Warriors’ charge, which leaves the more pressing question as being what could possibly stop Durant from being so pissed off?
Two NBA Finals MVPs haven’t done that. Two NBA titles don't seem to have pleased him much, either. Being regarded as one of the game’s absolute best by any sensible metric hasn’t stopped him from being quick to snap when things don't work out.
Indeed, being at Golden State, the move he wanted and pursued and undertook despite the negative jibes he knew would follow, has done nothing to enhance his outward cheer.
Maybe the standards he sets for himself are impossibly high. Maybe the criticism of his switch to the Warriors, who had already won a title and compiled a 73-9 season before his arrival, has never stopped rankling.
If, as is widely assumed, at the end of his expiring contract he heads to the New York Knicks in free agency, that would be a peculiar place to search for satisfaction — a chronically failing franchise with a boorish, wildly unpopular owner.
Figuring out Durant the person is even tougher than figuring out how to stop Durant the player, and no one has had much success at either.
Off the court, he has shown a philanthropic side, pledging $10 million toward The Durant Center in his hometown in Maryland, a place for students from low-income families to get assistance with studies and college prep.
Around the court, he has added the media to his list of beefs this year, engaging in a strange standoff with the Bay Area press for reasons only he can truly fathom. Coach Steve Kerr, almost certainly, would rather that be the target of his ire than his own teammates — Durant’s heated on-court verbal sparring with Draymond Green earlier in the season was the sort of thing that can toxify team chemistry.
Yet through it all Durant has kept going, kept performing at close to the ultimate level and kept boosting the statistical legacy of his career. As unpredictable as he is, that is the one part you can count on. He comes, he plays, he conquers.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Martin Rogers on Twitter @RogersJourno
Source: Read Full Article