Draymond Green loves to push it. That’s how this whole mess started. At the end of regulation in a tie game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, the Golden State Warriors forward grabbed a rebound and hustled up court, ignoring Kevin Durant’s desperate pleas to pass him the ball. Green lost control as time expired, and Durant expressed his frustration as the team prepared for overtime. Green—who, again, loves to push it—snapped back with a string of insults so extreme that they led the team to suspend him for a game without pay.
What exactly did Green say? According to the Athletic’s Marcus Thompson II, he basically ran through the standard talk radio anti-Durant take, arguing that the two-time Finals MVP is a bandwagon-jumper who’s only out for himself.
According to multiple sources, Green … went on to make it clear he’s been making plays for years. He reminded Durant the Warriors were winning before Durant showed up so he wouldn’t stand for Durant talking to him as if he were a scrub. Green accused Durant of making the whole season about him even though he was going to leave after this season. Green let out his frustrations about how Durant has handled free agency—keeping his options open and keeping the story alive, consuming the Warriors and their season with talk of what Durant will do next.
Green also reportedly called Durant a “bitch” multiple times.
This is all relatively predictable as far as palace intrigue goes, the Draymond equivalent of “backed into a corner, Donald Trump lashes out at advisors.” In 2016, Green had to be restrained in the locker room during an argument with head coach Steve Kerr. That skirmish came during the greatest regular season run in NBA history, which lends credence to Kerr’s later assessment of Green: “We’re not a crazy group, and you need a little crazy.”
Durant was not on Warriors’ 2016 Finals-losing squad, though Green was instrumental in bringing the forward to Golden State, going so far as taking a lower salary so Golden State could afford to bring in the then-Oklahoma City Thunder star. Back-to-back titles followed, but this week’s dust-up seems to demonstrate that the famously self-conscious Durant is still unprepared for his main recruiter’s motivational techniques. Compare Durant’s glum, pessimistic press conference from Tuesday night with Klay Thompson’s humorously nonplussed performance at the same venue.
That is a man who is used to playing with Draymond Green.
Too many descriptions of Green, who’s often dubbed Golden State’s “emotional leader,” ignore has value on the court, evoking visions of him leading moonlit grievance circles instead of fast breaks. Kerr has called him the “heart and soul” of the Warriors, which is a tellingly banal phrase coming from someone as thoughtful and eloquent as the Golden State head coach. Green’s a jerk, and there’s no avoiding that, but he’s also the team’s best defender and doesn’t have to be convinced to bring energy to, say, a Monday night game in November against the Clippers. (The Warriors lost the game in overtime, by the way.) He is a nuclear reactor of a player, and sometimes the benefits of powering an entire town outweigh the dangers of destroying it with the odd radioactive steam burst.
The Warriors are 12-3. Earlier this season, they were playing some of the best basketball we’ve ever seen from them. If Durant’s free agency saga has been affecting the squad’s chemistry, it was not the least bit evident on the court before Monday night. Golden State is aerodynamically engineered to be undisturbed by ill winds, even when one of its most important members seems hellbent on steering into turbulence. That we’re talking about the bumpy ride so early in the regular season is what makes this situation surprising.
The Warriors have been peerless for years, but they are especially isolated this season atop an uncharacteristically weak Western Conference. This week’s discord shouldn’t present a real obstacle to the team’s pursuit of a third straight championship. It could, though, affect the Warriors’ post-three-peat plans. Thompson, like Durant, is eligible to explore free agency this offseason, while Green, whose contract expires in 2020, says he’s no longer interested in providing his services at a discount. Conflict and chaos, it appears, are inevitable. We’ll just have to wait until summer to get it.