It's been a chaotic week for the Golden State Warriors. First, Stephen Curry injured his groin, sidelining him . Then, in news that could have much bigger ramifications, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant got into a heated argument late in Monday's loss against the Clippers, which reportedly and led to an intense exchange of words.
What Green exactly said to Durant remains unknown, although he reportedly challenged K.D. about his impending free agency -- apparently a simmering issue among teammates -- and called him a derogatory term. Steve Kerr and the Warriors ended up suspending Green one game for "conduct detrimental to the team." The suspension cost Green $120,000, which he.
So who's right and who's wrong in this messy situation? In our latest 3-Man Weave, NBA writers Brad Botkin, Colin Ward-Henninger and James Herbert try and make sense of the drama and how it will affect the team.
What do you make of the Durant/Green situation in Golden State?
Brad Botkin: It's not nothing, that's for sure. At first, like a lot of people, I took this as your typical flare-up in a competitive environment that would ultimately blow over. But some of the people most plugged-in to that locker room have painted a very different picture, and it doesn't look pretty for the Warriors. Apparently it was even a big enough deal for the normally quiet Klay Thompson to speak up. That's when you know it's real. This doesn't feel media generated. It doesn't feel overblown. It feels very real, and certainly very concerning for the Warriors. As Klay reportedly said when he addressed the team, the only team that can beat the Warriors is the Warriors. They basically have to fall apart, and if this is starting to happen in even the slightest way, let's not forget that they still have to add DeMarcus Cousins into the mix later this season. Are they going to be stable enough by that point to withstand another shock to the system? We shall see.
Colin Ward-Henninger: Like most, I was ready to chalk this up to an unextraordinary tiff between teammates that was blown out of proportion due to its public nature. Then I went to Tuesday night's game at Oracle. It took one look at Kevin Durant's face afterward to realize this situation cut him to the core. He was irritated, clearly still hurt by whatever Green said to him, and made not even the slightest hint that things would soon be resolved. Steve Kerr's demeanor was completely uncharacteristic -- stoic, impatient -- he even let out a big exhale of frustration, exhaustion, relief, or some combination of the three, as he walked out of the room. Whatever is happening in Golden State is real, and it hearkens back to the curious comments about hidden internal strife from Shaun Livingston and David West after winning last season's title.
The most concerning aspect to all this, in terms of the Warriors' future, is the decision by Kerr and general manger Bob Myers to issue a suspension. Green is coming off of an injury, and the Warriors could have easily played this off as resting him on the second half of a back-to-back, while privately fining him for his transgression (how badly do we all want to know exactly what he said, by the way?). It would have raised eyebrows, but the gravitas of the incident wouldn't have escalated into the avalanche it has become. The suspension was a public declaration for Team Kevin over Team Draymond -- one that could have long-lasting ramifications for the franchise.
James Herbert: It's messed up. Friction can be healthy, but this feels like much more than a little tiff. If this was just about late-game decision-making, I honestly wouldn't care about it. As soon as the on-court bickering turned into an airing of personal grievances, it became a problem. The fact Golden State suspended Green speaks volumes.
Maybe there is value in Green getting things out in the open instead of simmering below the surface. Maybe this will look like a minor bump in the road a few months from now. I have no idea if Green and Durant can repair their relationship, and, even if they can't, I tend to think they should at least be able to keep working together in the short term. The Warriors are so talented that this could simultaneously be irrelevant in terms of how they fare this season and a critical moment in the bigger-picture story of the team.
What's more important for Warriors: Winning a title this year, or keeping Durant?
Botkin: Definitely winning a title this season. I talked to Warriors assistant GM Larry Harris before all this went down, and he made a good and obvious point: If you win four titles in five years, and three in a row, you thank the players that did that for you and accept whatever happens moving forward as pure gravy. There is no guarantee Durant stays after this season even if the Warriors win it all again. They have to have tunnel vision on winning this season, because there are certainly signs that this could be the end of at least the Durant-Warriors marriage.
Now, can the Warriors win a title with a fractured locker room? It's fair to think they are talented enough to overcome anything. Put it this way: Vegas isn't going to make some other team the favorite because Durant and Draymond got into a tiff. That said, there are some pretty great teams in the NBA right now that don't get enough credit for how good they are because of the attention the Warriors get. Last season the Warriors lost a bit of their identity in the Houston series, when Durant tried to play a little too much hero ball, and nearly got eliminated. It is possible for them to implode just enough to open a door. I think the Raptors, Celtics and 76ers, by season's end, could all be capable of posing a similar threat to the Warriors as Houston did last season.
Ward-Henninger: The Warriors haven't said this publicly, but it seems that they're playing this season as if it's their last with Durant. From top to bottom, the message on Media Day before the season was "stay in the moment" and "enjoy the ride." It doesn't take too much tea leaf literacy to infer that there's at least mild concern that K.D. will bolt next summer, and players have anonymously told Warriors insiders the same thing. With that in mind, winning this year's title becomes the ultimate goal. On top of that, there's got to be at least some sentiment among the Warriors that they won before Durant got there, and they can win after he leaves. This is perhaps Golden State's best team of the dynasty, and the apparent drop-off of the Rockets makes the path to this year's title even smoother. For a team that has to be looking for motivation, the prospect of winning a title without Durant next season could be the ultimate kick in the behind. However, suspending Green showed that management isn't as willing to let their two-time Finals MVP walk.
Herbert: Winning the title this year, as it is all the Warriors can control. Durant could leave regardless of how well they perform and how fantastic their pitch is. While every team must devote time and energy to planning for the future, it would be disrespectful to the players on the roster to act as if the most important thing is anything other than making the most of the opportunity in front of them. In fact, I'd argue that Green's resentment is because of this very point -- it sounds like he feels Durant is allowing this season to be about him, not the group's pursuit of a fourth championship in five years.
Does Green have a point about Durant being non-committal to the Warriors long-term?
Botkin: Yes and no. We often forget these athletes are human beings, and from a human standpoint, when you're all in and it maybe doesn't feel like one of your teammates is the same, you can understand that being frustrating. Or annoying. However you want to put it.
That said, the NBA is a business. That's become cliche to say because it's true. I've asked multiple GMs about this exact situation when a star player keeps doing these effective one-year deals, never allowing the team to plan much beyond that time frame, and how hard that can be. It's a challenge, no doubt. It doesn't make the Warriors' job easier. But as Hawks GM Travis Schlenk, who was with the Warriors for 13 years, recently told me: "If you're fortunate enough to have one of the top five players in the league, I think you just have to enjoy it while you have, to be quite honest."
That's the truth, though it doesn't sound like anyone in Golden State is enjoying all that much at the moment. It's certainly become a fascinating storyline to continue to monitor.
Ward-Henninger: The Athletic's Marcus Thompson has reported that Draymond's concern isn't necessarily about Durant signing another one-plus-one deal, but rather the way that he's allowed his free agency to become a distracting storyline this season. We saw Kyrie Irving squash that talk by verbally committing to the Celtics before the season began, and while Durant may not want to go that far, he could simply refuse to entertain any questions about free agency until after the season. In that sense, Green does have a point. Nothing is ever black and white, so it becomes about the nuance. And if teammates feel that Durant has helped keep the "Where will K.D. play next season?" carousel spinning, it's not hard to see why things blew up in the fashion that they did.
Herbert: Of course he has a point. Durant has not done the I-love-it-here-and-would-love-to-stay thing, and even though he hasn't directly fueled speculation about his intentions, the fact that he hasn't directly tried to stop it can be seen as equally dubious. If Durant's top priority was making sure this storyline didn't become a distraction, he would have either signed contracts for more than a season at a time or done what most star players do in his situation (and what he did in Oklahoma City): shut down any and all questions about free agency.
At the same time, Durant is not necessarily obligated to protect his teammates from questions about his future. As a reporter who would like athletes to be able to speak honestly instead of tiptoeing around anything that might be twisted into something slightly controversial, I do not want to get into the business of scolding anybody for the act of not lying. After Durant joined the Warriors, he was criticized for leading the Thunder on. In other words, he was supposedly speaking too positively about the city and organization.
All of this is to say that there is no perfect way to handle this. Clearly, Durant's approach has not pleased at least one of his teammates, but it's not as if he has been brazenly flirting with other franchises or dropping hints that he is leaving. He is well within his rights to keep his options open and tell the world that he's doing so. He also must understand that his choices affect everybody else on the team.