The things left unsaid. We love to fixate on it. Someone could have said a thousand words, and the things that will keep us awake at night stoking our disquiet are the things we read between the lines, and these are corrosive, revealing, and sometimes controversial.

There are two types of things left unsaid that latch to us. The first type is the one that was not said directly—a subtext, an inference. The second type is the one that should’ve been said, as a matter of honor or duty, made a necessity by the norm, or as a show of compliance.

The basketball world was abuzz about the semantics—and the grey areas—of Kevin Durant’s comments during an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. The perceived implications of what people feel were left unsaid roused many to rumor-mongering and petty nitpicking. Is he not driven, not motivated anymore to win a title? 

He never said he is not interested anymore in winning another championship, but the subtext is dangerous for morale and alarming for the front office. The things he said he felt about a championship inferred a possibly lackadaisical—even cavalier—attitude towards a championship which is very important to the team paying him millions of dollars to lead and to inspire success. Worse, it feels like Durant is already making an excuse in the event he fails in winning a championship for Brooklyn.

His teammates need to hear Durant say that it is worth working hard for, that it is worth aspiring, and saying that you weren’t “expecting to be a happy human being from a title” feels counterintuitive.

It puts a question mark on the effort to win. If a championship didn’t make Durant happy, then what does a championship mean to him? It is not duty, because duty is merely fulfilling one’s obligations as a player. Winning a championship takes more than a sense of obligation - you want to earn it, you want to have it, you want to deserve it. You want to go there. Every superstar who became a champion was motivated by the belief that a championship is all there is in playing competitive basketball.

Traditional wisdom tells us that having champion players improves the chances of winning a championship. True, but only if a championship still means that much to these players. Many of those who have already won lose that fire, that edge, that desire. What’s the use of a man without motivation and what is the value of his championship experience in a quest that demands adamance?

What would you rather have—someone hungry for a first championship, or a champion unstirred by the prospect of not winning again? You can say “let’s have both!” But you can’t give all 12 players 40 minutes and 20+ field goal attempts.

How do you trust him, unenthused about winning a championship, especially when he is playing badly, when resentment and loathing feel valid? How do you accept meager minutes and stand behind a player who seems disinclined to chase another ring while here you are, ready to run back and forth until your knees buckle or your tendons are torn, if that’s what it takes to win a championship?

I want to win a title for Brooklyn is a proclamation left unsaid. A bold promise; nonetheless, it is a promise he should be committed to as a cornerstone of a super team built to win now. Maybe there is no guarantee, no certainty that this promise will be fulfilled, but at least, this gives fans hope. His teammates feel motivated. Durant was supposed to help stoke the flames of desire for a championship, not undermine it by sowing seeds of disinterest among players, who could be swayed into the same mindset—that a championship may not make them happy so focus on improving your game instead. 

This is poison. Sometimes, a personal goal does not serve the best interest of the team. If Giannis Antetokounmpo wants to focus on becoming better, he might start taking more threes to work on his weak spot. But do it now and Giannis is shooting himself in the foot, and the team on the head because this will make him and the Bucks easier to defend. Coaches plan in detail to defend against Giannis’s interior game. Extending towards the arc is Milwaukee removing its major offensive weapon, and its chances of winning a title.

Brooklyn is ready to fight tooth and nail for a title. The team should be focused on the team goal, ready to give it all. The timing of Durant’s self-awareness feels self-centered and selfish. Durant’s comments sound like him saying “I’m a great swordsman, but I want to be a better warrior. Maybe I’ll hone my skills in bow and arrow now and join the archers in the rear.” It seems that championship hasn’t taught him timing and discretion.

If Durant is not on the same page as the Nets, then this is a major oversight, a costly mistake waiting to exact a toll. Brooklyn gave him a pen with a task to write this chapter in Nets history, hoping to chronicle the journey to a championship quest, even if the end is not promised to the ink that marks the paper an indelible black. 

There is an art in leaving things unsaid so that you do it the right way. The Battle of Pelennor Fields is a King Théoden master class in saying the right things, and carefully choosing what ought to be left unsaid: “Arise, arise, Riders of Théoden! Fell deeds awake, fire and slaughter! Spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered, a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!” That is how you lead your men to battle—with hope, determination, and valiance. As for the things that were left unsaid here—it served them well that these were left unseen and hiding in the shadows.

Topics: Unspoken , Kevin Durant , Brooklyn Nets
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