The night after he and Draymond Green got into an argument that resulted in Green’s one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, Kevin Durant spoke about the incident, but his terse comments did little to put it to rest.
Green began arguing with Durant during the Golden State Warriors' loss Monday to the Los Angeles Clippers and the heated exchange reportedly continued into the locker room. As of Tuesday evening, the two had not met to resolve the problem, but Durant told reporters after the game Tuesday night against Atlanta that “I’m sure it will [be]. “We’ve got a long season ahead.”
According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Green repeatedly called Durant an expletive Monday after the latter expressed irritation that Green didn’t pass him the ball in the closing seconds of regulation. Instead, Green dribbled the ball upcourt and into traffic, failing to get a shot off as the game went to overtime. Durant was asked after Tuesday’s win over the Atlanta Hawks if Green had taken things too far.
“I’m gonna keep that in-house,” said Durant, wearing a Redskins cap pulled low over his brow. “That’s what we do here. I mean, obviously I know you guys got a job to do, but I’m not trying to give nobody no headlines. What happened, happened. We’re trying to move on — just trying to play basketball.”
Durant admitted that it was odd not to have Green in the lineup Tuesday, “I mean, his presence has been a part of this team for a while,” Durant said. “Even before I got here. You know, he’s been a huge staple in this organization. So, obviously it’s definitely weird not having him around ... and just ... everything that went down. But that’s what happens. S--- happens in the NBA. I just try to do my best to move on and be a basketball player. I don’t got nothing else to do but to be the best player I can be every single day. I try not to worry about nothing else.”
If he was surprised by the suspension, he wasn’t giving that away. “I was just focused on the game,” Durant said. “I didn’t really care either way. I was just focused on trying to come out here and finish this back-to-back off.”
Green is expected to be back when the Warriors' three-game road trip begins Thursday in Houston and his absence left Coach Steve Kerr and General Manager Bob Myers explaining the dust-up on a team that is usually relatively free of public drama.
“Draymond is always going to be who he is,” Kerr said. “Draymond is a powerful force. You guys know that. He’s a huge reason why we’ve had so much success here, and Draymond is going to continue playing the way he plays, and I don’t see him operating any other way.”
Myers noted that “basketball’s an emotional sport” and that the team felt the blowup “rose to the level of acting the way we did.”
During the Warriors' huddle before the extra session Monday night, Green, Durant and other Golden State players could be seen having an animated discussion. Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports reported that Green “challenged” Durant about the latter’s “impending free agency,” and that the entire episode was “a simmering issue for the Warriors” on Tuesday.
Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears of ESPN reported that witnesses described the ensuing locker room scene as “one of the most intense of this Warriors era,” although it never got physical. Klay Thompson surprised his teammates, per Haynes, when the usually quiet shooting guard addressed the room with a message about the importance of sticking together.
Both Kerr and Myers tamped down the notion that Durant’s impending free agency this summer might have played a role in the incident or be affecting the locker room dynamics. Since arriving in Golden State as a free agent in 2016, Durant has passed up opportunities to sign long-term contracts and has instead chosen two-year deals with opt-out clauses after the first year. The nine-time all-star, who has earned back-to-back Finals MVP honors in leading the Warriors to consecutive NBA titles, is expected to again exercise the clause this summer and hit the market, although he may well end up staying with the Warriors.
Asked Tuesday if Durant’s possible departure in free agency was a “festering” issue in the locker room, Myers said he did not think it was, instead pointing to how “hard” it is to win championships and claiming, “That’s all anybody’s thinking about, because I think that’s all you can think about.”
“Nobody ever talks about Kevin’s free agency,” Kerr said. “We’re focused on this year.”
As Anthony Slater of the Athletic pointed out Tuesday, though, that kind of ongoing contract situation caused stress and uncertainty in Cleveland when LeBron James continued to sign such deals rather than commit long-term to the Cavaliers. Nevertheless, most of the tension Monday, according to Slater, stemmed from Green’s aggressive response to being questioned by teammates about his decision-making with the ball at the end of regulation.
While making himself an indispensable member of the Warriors' dynasty, including another NBA title and a record 73-win season before Durant arrived, Green also has become known for his volatile, occasionally abrasive personality. Under Kerr, Golden State has been more than willing to try to manage that side of Green in exchange for his defensive and passing skills, as well as his overall intensity.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported that some members of the Warriors organization were of a belief that Green “went too far” on Monday, while other “are still shrugging this off.” According to Sam Amick of the Athletic, Kerr made the decision to suspend Green for Tuesday’s game. On Wednesday, the Warriors will try to move forward and Durant said he had no idea if the team’s core would emerge stronger as it chases a third consecutive NBA title.
“Who knows?” he said. “We’ll see.”
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