Remember when the emergence of Alfonzo McKinnie was the most interesting story in Golden State Warriorworld? My, how things can change in a couple days.
Drama found the Warriors. It has been a major thread running through the NBA this season, engulfing the Minnesota Timberwolves (Jimmy Butler vs. the franchise), the Los Angeles Lakers (Magic Johnson vs. Luke Walton) and other teams. The Warriors were immune, cocooned in layers of championship good vibes and coach Steve Kerr’s plea to appreciate, rather than attack, the 2018-19 season.
It lasted nearly a month. Then Draymond Green and Kevin Durant exchanged unpleasantries on the court in Los Angeles. Suddenly a hole has been torn in the cocoon, and you can see the worms.
Now even reporters with deep ties to the Warriors’ locker room, including The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson, are openly wondering whether this is the crack that will ultimately become a fault line and crumble a dynasty. We all know the Warriors won’t be great forever. But no one except their detractors has been willing to believe it could happen any time soon.
I have a couple thoughts on this blowup. One is that the Warriors did the right thing when they suspended Green for one game.
This is not a consensus opinion. Some worry that the suspension can be read as the organization taking Durant’s side over Green’s, and that the fiery power forward will never forgive them. Remember, this is a man who can still recite, in order, the names of the 34 players drafted ahead of him in 2012. He will certainly cling to the embarrassment of a public rebuke and the loss of a game check worth approximately $120,000.
Nevertheless, it was the right thing to do. Professional athletes yell at each other all the time — more than you know. It’s part of the competitive makeup of these men and women. The exchanges can be frank, rude, even insulting. But there are certain lines you don’t cross.
You don’t talk about a teammate’s family, or his/her significant other. And you don’t talk about their money.
Green did just that at Staples Center on Monday, taking an argument with Durant that was strictly about something that happened on the court, and pivoting to the uncertainty over Durant’s looming contract decision. Green also reportedly called his lanky teammate a derogatory, emasculating word. That’s a transgression, too. Honestly, though, it’s a lesser offense in the hierarchy of the locker room.
Suspending Green for Tuesday’s game against Atlanta at Oracle Arena was a clear signal. The Warriors have always tolerated his outbursts, because they are an inseparable part of what makes him great, which is an inseparable part of what makes the Warriors great. But even Green can’t cross those red lines.
The more important question, of course, is how this will affect the Warriors for the rest of the season, and beyond. And despite what you might hear on the radio, no one knows. Probably not even Kevin Durant or Draymond Green.
But I would argue that the process of healing this fracture lies squarely in Durant’s hands — the same hands that clapped for the basketball, but remained empty, after Green’s rebound at the end of regulation against the Clippers.