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OAKLAND — I have a motto: There's always time to panic.

And so, Warriors-rooters, take a seat. We’re only one game into a long march. And if the Dubs falter and fail, there will be plenty of time to jump on that pile.

Remember, there are four playoff rounds in all, including the Finals. Even if a team was to win every matchup 4-0, they would still play an entire, 16-game NFL season between now and June.

Having done it three years in a row, nobody knows the grind better than the Warriors. It almost justifies tanking the final regular-season games.

Almost.

Let’s don’t kid ourselves — there is a weird vibe around the team, and it isn’t the lack of Steph Curry. Much of the speculation centers around Kevin Durant, who was apparently kidnapped by a voodoo cult and, in the words of Charles Barkley, turned into “a totally different person.”

I think there are a lot of persons inside that 35 jersey. Durant is an interesting guy. I don’t want to say “intelligent,” because we use that so often it is a cliche. But he’s got a lot more interests off the court than I expected. He genuinely seems like someone who moved to the Bay Area to broaden his horizons.

But beginning with five ejections (he had just two before this year), Durant is having an odd season. He gets tossed — the last time with two T’s in seconds — then comes into the interview room and chats like no big deal. So were you mad, KD, or is this something else?

And it has to be said, once this run-out-the-string period of the schedule arrived, Durant was the clear captain of the “Who Cares Brigade.” That inbounds pass in the Utah game, which was so careless and obvious that Ricky Rubio had time to run around Quinn Cook and intercept the ball with both hands like a handoff, put the lack in lackluster.

Such sloppy play was a pattern for the final weeks. So coach Steve Kerr went to his patented break-the-clipboard moment.

After a 20-point loss to the Pacers, Kerr said his team put in “an embarrassing effort, a pathetic effort.”

Reporters asked Durant what he thought, and he said the Pacers “came out with a better strategy …”

Which set off ooohing and aaaahing all over the blogosphere. Clearly, they said, Durant is clapping back at his coach. Is there locker room drama?

(Which, I just have to say, is why you have to love the NBA. In baseball they charge the mound. In pro hoops they parse the meaning of “strategy.”)

Anyhow, the usual template is that the Warriors, duly riled up, come out full of fire in the next game and establish order. And they did play better.

But they lost to the Pelicans by six. Which is just a reminder that it isn’t as easy to turn it on as everyone seems to think.

And then, even more fascinating, on Sunday, after defeating hapless Phoenix, Kerr made a point to backtrack on the tough talk.

“Probably chose my words poorly,” he said. “That can be interpreted as questioning their character.”

You get the message. Sorry, guys. Was just trying to keep you fired up. Didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings (Kevin).

And then they went out and lost by 40 to Utah. And everyone seemed fine with that, including Kerr. So it is not unfair to say there are questions to be answered here, beginning with Round 1 and San Antonio. The Spurs own the worst road record in the playoffs, 14-27, but their home court is a classic, player-baiting pit. This series will be decided when it moves to San Antonio.

How will that affect someone like Durant, who has experienced some meltdown moments this year?

Well, a couple of things. Last week the infamous Daily Oklahoman 2014 newspaper cover re-appeared. That was the full page, front page, photo of Durant, then at OKC, reaching for a ball with two words in bold type across the top of the page, “Mr. Unreliable.”

Even the newspaper knew it had gone too far. It issued an apology and the sports editor admitted that it sounded as if they were questioning Durant as a person “or even (his) character.”

Alert readers will make the connection. Having been through the OKC experience, Durant is sensitive about people questioning his character.

And second, did you watch the NBA Finals last year? Do you remember Game 3, with 47 seconds left? When Durant hit a 3, over LeBron James, to give the Warriors a one-point lead? Did he look unreliable to you?

So, if Kerr did the calculus and decided the best approach was to back off and cut KD a little slack … probably not a bad idea.

And finally, do you remember the last time the Warriors were torn asunder by a player who could not control his emotions?

That would be in 2016, when Draymond Green was an out-of-control maniac. There was a startling story during a nationally televised game when a TV reporter said she heard Green screaming “I am not a robot!” in the locker room at halftime. Later reports would say Kerr and Green had to be restrained from going after each other.

And the next year, with Green making the All-Star team, the Warriors won their second championship in three years.

So pay attention to this stuff, but give it some time. Sit back. Relax. It could be a long campaign. Better pack a lunch.

Contact C.W. Nevius at cw.nevius@pressdemocrat.com. Twitter: @cwnevius.

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