Even a hater’s schadenfreude-filled dreams could not have imagined what’s taken place over the last 48 hours to the Golden State Warriors. The greatest team ever assembled, playing with as much joy and elan as we’ve seen since Kevin Durant upended every basketball scribe’s Fourth of July two summer’s ago, reportedly stands on the precipice of an implosion. An on-court confrontation between Draymond Green and Kevin Durant on Monday night escalated in the locker room after the game. And when the team handed down a one-game suspension without pay to Green, it vivisected a squad with nearly Ginsu finality. That might smack of hyperbole, but the fissures in the Bay run deep, and in a very real way the Warriors as we know them may never be the same.
This could all be overblown, of course. We still haven’t really heard from the centerpiece of the drama, so maybe an extended act of contrition will save the day. It might be the only thing that can considering how personally Durant takes anonymous online insults. However, Green’s role as the supposed antagonist in this incident with Durant might actually be the grist needed to finally break up an unfathomably dominant dynasty. Green has turned inconsequential slights into deep-seated reservoirs of pain in an effort to reach the zenith of his potential—just ask him to name the 34 players picked ahead of him in 2012 Draft. So, Golden State’s overt reproach of him on Tuesday may well have unintended long-term consequences.
While the Warriors have reached seeming watersheds with Draymond before, most notably at halftime of a 2016 game before Durant arrived when he nearly threw down with coach Steve Kerr, never have the Golden State higher-ups so publicly rebuked him. They took Durant’s side when they suspended Green for Tuesday’s game against the Hawks without pay. That’s more than $120,000. While Green signed a deal in 2015 paying him $82 million over five years, 120 stacks is still a lot for a kid who grew up in Saginaw, Michigan, one of the most violent cities in the country. It’s a lot for anyone.
But Green’s KD animus wasn’t formed in a vacuum. He isn’t alone in his belief that Durant’s continued cloudiness surrounding his impending free agency has unnecessarily complicated the drive for a three-peat. The Athletic’s Warriors insider Marcus Thompson revealed as much in his feature on how Green’s suspension and loss of income only tears at the already frayed dynamic behind KD’s uncertain future in the Bay. Thompson reported there’s a “contingent” like Green “that believes Durant has a hand in creating the hype about his free agency.” There are sides now in the locker room, and that’s the first sign of a skirmish that could escalate into a war.
Some believe Green was way out of line for aiming his verbal slings and arrows at Durant, while others say it’s “just Draymond being Draymond.” But even those who think Draymond was out of line might not agree on the team’s heavy-handed response to suspend him without pay. To take a man’s livelihood may have been a step too far. With the move, it’s also clear Golden State’s management—including coach Steve Kerr, who was the final say on the suspension—is doing so in an attempt to show Durant they’re on his side. Again, there are sides now.
While some on the Warriors’ roster might feel Monday night was simply part of the Draymond experience, it was obvious in Golden State’s punishment and Durant’s own stunted comments about the whole mess on Tuesday, that Draymond’s words, continuously calling him a “bitch”—no matter how flippant or emotional—penetrated deep in Durant’s psyche.
“Who knows,” KD said when asked if the clash with Draymond might make the team stronger. “We’ll see.” While it’s been easy for NBA Twitter to paint Durant as an insecure cupcake (keep an eye on Russell Westbrook’s Instagram), it’s just as obvious why he might’ve taken such offense. An insult’s bite derives its potency from the glimmer of truth.
A sense of belonging is exactly what Durant has sought since coming to the Bay. You’d think he would have earned it after playing an integral role in successive titles.
Multiple sources tell Thompson that during Green’s outburst against Durant reminded the two-time NBA Finals MVP that he would never be a true Warrior like Green, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson. The anti-Warriors collective on NBA Twitter, and even some diehard Warriors fans, revel in the fact those three had already won two rings and had a 73 regular-season win total before Durant came aboard. That otherness has followed KD since he made his controversial decision to leave OKC. The brutalness of Draymond’s diction also mirrored the uncomfortable jokes GM Bob Myers uttered during Golden State’s championship parade, when he alluded to Durant’s next contract in relation to Steph.
“[Steph’s max deal] was different,” Myers said. “He was here from the way before days.” Remember, Durant took a paycut when he re-signed in the summer of 2017, in part so the Warriors could offer more money to Andre Iguodala, who the Rockets were close to signing away.
A sense of belonging is exactly what Durant has sought since coming to the Bay. You’d think he would have earned it after playing an integral role in successive titles, as evidenced by his pair of Finals MVPs. But first their GM, as a joke on a day that was supposed to be a celebration, and then Draymond, in his brutally blunt manner Monday night, reminded Durant he’ll always be outside the pale with Golden State. If Green takes a recalcitrant response to his suspension and loss of money, it’ll merely exacerbate KD’s insecurity about truly belonging with this team. If that happens, KD will be in one corner, and Green will be in the other. There are sides now, and the passage of time—normally the best way to defuse a battle—might only entrench them further. If so, the end is nigh.