There was something uneventful about seeing Kevin Durant explode for 38 points in the NBA Finals’ opener that made Golden State’s 113-91 win over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers pretty mundane. Perhaps it was last summer’s “decision” when Durant announced he was headed to the West Coast to add his superstar presence to a team coming off a 73-9 campaign. Or maybe it was the presumption that with Durant in tow, the Golden State Warriors would win a championship pretty fast and pretty easily. Game One’s resounding win definitely reinforced what many basketball fans already knew.
Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant wears a Finals cap during the trophy presentation after their 129-115 win over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 4 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals, Monday, May 22, 2017, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Durant’s defection from Oklahoma City quickly put him under a microscope, but it also placed him in a puzzling box. Win the title this season and he’s just doing what he’s supposed to do on a team with three fellow all-stars. Don’t win the title and now critics are waiting outside his door ready to eat him alive. The ultimate lose-lose situation for a superstar on the cusp of his first NBA championship.
How much will fans celebrate a title that many presumed would be a given? Where’s the surprise? Where’s the adversity? Where’s the glory? We’ve been waiting for round three of Golden State/Cleveland but Game One showed us that maybe we weren’t missing out on anything at all. Sure, outlasting LeBron is no easy feat but how challenging is it really when four out of your starting five are regulars for All-Star weekend?
Perhaps the bigger surprise will be what happens to the Warriors if they do indeed win the title. Do they split up, make a gazillion dollars as headlining solo acts on other teams or do they round up the troops again for another predictable, 65-plus win season that will more than likely end in another Finals appearance? For Durant, there is no right or wrong decision. No matter what he does or doesn’t do he’ll be vilified as a superstar who hasn’t won a title or a superstar that had to piggyback with other superstars. There will be no reward for Durant in triumph or without.