OAKLAND — Warriors coach Steve Kerr wore his “Supervillains” T-shirt at the interview podium a couple weeks ago. It was a little joke. But as we prepare for the start of the 2017 NBA playoffs, it’s time for Kerr’s team to embrace the nickname in earnest. The Warriors need to locate their inner darkness.
First, a quick word on Wednesday night’s game at Oracle Arena. The Warriors beat the Los Angeles Lakers 109-94 in a contest with slightly less drama than an accounting firm’s annual report. If the NBA postseason is a season unto itself, then the final regular-season game — with playoff positions locked in — is more like an exhibition. And that’s what it felt like Wednesday.
Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala got rest days. And truth be told, Kerr and his coaching staff probably hadn’t spent a minute scouting the Lakers. They were already onto the Portland Trail Blazers, their first-round playoff opponent.
That series begins here Sunday afternoon.
And when it does, a lot of people across this nation will be rooting for the Warriors to lose. A lot of people. It’s a strange development for a team that seemed to delight the world in 2014-15, when folks hopped on the Golden State bandwagon like it was the last chopper out of Saigon.
Everywhere the Warriors played that year, the stands seemed to be half-filled with blue-and-yellow jerseys. The Warriors were the little guys who hadn’t won a title in decades, draining 3-pointers and turning games into parties. Stephen Curry, in his first MVP season, was more teen idol than basketball player.
Gradually, things have changed.
“I think we started to feel it last year, maybe midway through,” Kerr said Wednesday morning, after he had called off a scheduled shootaround for general lack of interest.
The Warriors were still the most intriguing team in the NBA last season. But no longer were they universally liked.
“I think what happened over the last year or so is what always happens in sports when a team wins at a really high level,” Kerr said. “There’s suddenly a lot of interest in that team, and it generally splits in two. You have people who love the team, and people who are dying to see them knocked off. I saw it with the Bulls for years.”
As the Warriors rocketed to the best record in NBA history in 2015-16, eclipsing Michael Jordan’s (and Kerr’s) Chicago Bulls, the dichotomy formed. Curry remained immensely popular.
But you began to hear grumbles that he shimmied a little too much after hitting treys. Later, in the playoffs, Green emerged as a serial crotch-abuser, pulling his team toward true villainy.
Winning had become too easy for the Warriors. Folks resented it. By the time they fumbled a 3-1 series lead and were stunned by the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, a lot of people were delighted. If anyone deserved to be the butt of 3-1 jokes, it was the Warriors.
The final touch of evil came when Golden State signed Kevin Durant last July. The move made perfect sense for both the team and the player, yet everyone from Skip Bayless to the most casual fan was outraged. Durant’s move sealed it. If you don’t live in Northern California, you probably despise the Warriors.