“Who are you? Why do I gotta talk to you?”
Reporters crammed the paint, eager to challenge and ask questions of a man who happens to be the NBA’s most coveted free agent once the season ends on his eight day vow of silence amid rumors of the possibility of him bolting for the New York Knicks in July.
Durant felt himself and his anger rise above the scrum. He didn’t want to settle for the silence and avoid his pursuers anymore. This was personal. They were going to get this work, and man did they ever. Durant “yammed” all over those reporters, unleashing a posterizing windmill of defiant and sharp answers. Durant didn’t just break his silence, he shattered it and in the process made the mainstream sports media scatter in defense of themselves.
Everybody -- fans, coaches, players, and even members of the media -- have been walking on eggshells when it comes to Durant all year. Don't forget that he has all the power -- he's a 10y NBA vet who knows how this show works, and this is how he's chosen to wield that power.— Dieter Kurtenbach (@dkurtenbach) February 8, 2019
KD is right about his routine. Dude is great because works at it being great.— Monte Poole (@MontePooleNBCS) February 7, 2019
He is wrong about Bay Area media pestering his teammates and coaches every day about his upcoming free agency. https://t.co/XVT89bKsYG
If not on Twitter, the writers let Durant know in their columns that just wanting to hoop and go home isn’t how things work in the hyper-intense and unforgiving world of NBA media coverage.
But here’s the thing: Durant knows exactly how the NBA media machine works. Thinking otherwise is not giving him enough of credit. Durant went ‘zero dark thirty-five ‘ either for reasons no one knows or just simply he just doesn’t feel like talking, which is his right.
Yet the problem with what Durant did was two-fold. One, the media was going to speculate whether he spoke or not . Two, Durant’s rant may have missed his intended mark.
Given that Durant signed another one-plus-one contract to keep his options open after the season, naturally there would be speculations and rumors, and columns and articles drowning in click-baity headlines. He wanted no part of that; all he wanted to do was to focus on the season and deal with free agency in its time. However, that wasn’t going to get those clicks or the ratings, and when it comes to the Warriors, Durant’s inaction was not good enough for some of the hopeful fans in suits and on camera everyday either.
“This may be Kevin Durant’s last year in Golden State. ‘Sources’ within the team says theres a vibe around the team that's leading to an exit in the offseason” they’d say.
“Everyone is freeing up cap space to put themselves in position to be contenders and set themselves up for a post Warriors run” they’d say.
The speculation was what Durant tried to ignore, but all it did was put him in a position that he couldn’t win regardless. Talking would have fed speculation and fostered narratives. The week-long self-imposed media ban didn't work because his silence led to more speculation. With the way that some in the media want to see this iteration of the Warriors disbanded at all costs, I’m willing to bet that if Durant would have said, “I’m focused on this team. Don’t ask me anything about the Knicks or free agency at all until after the season, thank you,” it wouldn’t have mattered.
What Durant said Wednesday night was justified. However, he might have missed the mark only because those who deserve the brunt of his tirade weren’t anywhere in the vicinity of Oakland. See, there are sports reporters and there are sports personalities.
The sports reporters, the beat writers, were in Oracle. They have a thankless job at times. They are the ones who are churning out the most content. They are the ones building relationships, trust, and rapport with whoever that they are covering. They are the ones having to hustle and sidle up to these players, knowing good and well that at times these men want to be left alone. Afterwards they get to watch sports personalities make tons of money from 6 am to noon to say some of the most asinine things on air for the sake of the ratings box. If not that, these sports personalities participate in NBA fan fiction disguised as narratives peppered with two shots of unnamed sources and a hint of fact, which lead to more speculation and more questions about the same thing. It trickles down to the beat, and they at times bear the brunt of what the player says in response.
However, the local beat isn’t totally guiltless in their role either. Remember they are also in competition with the sports personalities and with each other. But hey, clicks and aggregation over everything right?
What frustrated Durant to the point of directly addressing the Athletic’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss was the fact that he felt as if Strauss didn’t bother to actually report and ask questions before penning his article, “Silent Star: on the presumed Warriors exit of Kevin Durant” Plus, he felt as if Strauss made the presumption of a possible Warriors exit after the season, judging from the Green incident in November plus unnamed insiders around the league. Not to mention unnamed people within the Warriors organization.
Durant felt as if Strauss concocted an article chock full of “sources” without any tangible and factual substance to it.
It’s like what Stephen Curry said in Durant’s defense. He wants to be able to focus on the game and nothing more while having the autonomy over his own thoughts.
“Honestly, I think it’s him not being able to control his own voice,” Curry says of Durant, “He's focused on basketball and that’s what he should do. We want to see that KD everyday. What he can’t control is BS that happens in the media or people making the decisions for him and all that other stuff.”
The speculative BS will always be there. July will be here before you know it. The temptation to reach before then is strong, but so is the urge for players to “dunk” at the podium. Reach at your own risk.