How Draymond Green, Kevin Durant and the Warriors move forward

ByNick Friedell ESPN logo
Friday, November 16, 2018

HOUSTON -- In the hours leading up to Draymond Green's first public comments about Monday's incident with Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors personnel were uneasy about how Green would handle things. Would he show remorse? Would he go back at Durant after Durant's icy comments about their relationship following Tuesday's game?

By now everyone knows the broad strokes of what happened Monday night. In the midst of -- and following -- a tough overtime loss to the LA Clippers, Green and Durant got into a heated verbal disagreement. The Undefeated's Marc Spears reported Green was "questioning the two-time NBA Finals MVP's loyalty with his upcoming free agency." All the questions and intrigue that had been building for the past month and a half bubbled over during a game in which the Warriors -- playing withoutStephen Curry-- fought fiercely down the stretch.

During a two-minute monologue after shootaround Thursday in which he never actually apologized for anything, Green also wouldn't address why this was the moment that cracked the facade, only to say his emotions got the best of him.

But byoffering a lengthy statement in which he said he believes the Warriors will grow stronger from the incident -- and by not taking followup questions during his post-shootaround session with reporters -- Green avoided saying something that could potentially do more damage to the team.

"You know, at the end of the day, as I've said before, whatever Kevin decides to do, whatever Klay [Thompson] decides to do, whatever who decides to do, we had great years together," Green said. "And I support everybody wholeheartedly, 100 percent. Because as a man, as a human being, you got the right to do what you want with your life. So I will never question that."

Green's words Thursday echo comments he made earlier this season.

As the 2018-19 season began, Green told himself that Durant'simpending free agency would not have an impact on whatever the Warriors accomplished this season.

Green, after all, knows the seesaw role he and Durant have played for each other over the past two-plus seasons as teammates. When Green got too riled up, it was Durant who was there with calming words. And when Durant needed a pep talk, it was Green who usually knew what to say. Earlier this season, Green said he wasn't worried about the future because he wanted to focus on Durant's present -- and the Warriors' ability to become the first team to win three straight NBA championships since the early-2000s Los Angeles Lakers.

So why was Green, who knows better than anyone how Durant's mood can sometimes shift, not worried about the questions that would come their way?

"Because nothing anyone else says or thinks impacts us," Green told ESPN a couple weeks ago. "We have enough amongst ourselves to deal with and sort through than worrying about what everybody is going to say. And there's nobody that can come in between this group of guys. So we don't think, 'Man, is KD going to New York?' Nah, what are we going to do tomorrow? And what are we going to do today? We're trying to fulfill these days and fulfill this year."

Green's point was the same one the organization has stated publicly since the beginning of training camp, despite the ongoing uneasiness throughout every facet of the team that Durant may leave at the end of this season. Still, as Green got rolling that day at the Warriors' practice facility a few days into the regular season, he remained convinced that nothing could come between Durant, his decision and the rest of the team this season.

"You worry about next year when it get here," Green said in that earlier conversation. "Or the summer when it get here, but right now we have to fulfill everything that we're trying to do this year. And so, yeah, there is a great balance, and we all do keep each other in check. But I think the most important thing about all of that is that we all know we got each other's back. And because everybody -- a guy's got your back, whatever that situation is, you get through it, because I know at the end of the day this guy got my best interest. And that's what's important."

This is the quandary the organization now finds itself in for the next seven months: In the wake of Monday's ugliness, each game -- every exchange -- will be scrutinized. Green understood long before Monday's incident that winning and losing was never going to be a clear determining factor in the future. In Green's mind, Durant's decision will be based on where he feels most comfortable. Green knows winning a third straight title will be special, but it won't guarantee Durant coming back.

"I don't think winning or losing eliminates anything," Green said in that conversation. "Nor should it. At the end of the day, you make the decision that you feel best suits you in your life. And you move on. Whatever that situation is. If that situation is to sign, obviously I'm staying here, great, we move on, we move forward. If that situation is, 'Man, I feel like I need to go somewhere else for whatever that reason is,' at the end of the day it really don't matter what the reason is. It's your life. And we support you. And it is what it is.

"This ain't no marriage. None of us are married to each other. You got to -- the decision you make should best suit you. Because if you make a decision to come back here because you feel it best suits us, and it don't best suit you, it's going to fall apart anyway."

Thursday was the culmination of a strange four-day stretch for a team that looks like it has reached an early-season breaking point. The only issue for the rest of the league is that's not the way the people inside the Warriors see it.

Green confidently said the team would win more games soon enough, and then another championship. Klay Thompson predicted the Warriors would be able to bounce back Saturday night in Dallas. For a coach who has seen almost everything the NBA has to offer, Steve Kerr projected the kind of positivity that can only come from experience when a team's back is against the wall. He believes his squad will heal and grow from this incident, a belief shared within a locker room full of players anxious to put the past week behind them.

"Every team's different," Kerr said. "That's kind of what makes it fun. I look at every season, every team is like a living, breathing thing -- like an organism. And I know this probably sounds corny, but it's the truth. And you have to nurture them, you have to go through every season and deal with the overall general well-being of your team. You got to do that as a player. That's why it's so valuable to have veteran players on your team. That's why we've had Zaza [Pachulia] and David West, Andre [Iguodala], Shaun [Livingston], you need players who know that stuff is going to happen -- and, trust me, it happens to everybody, every year, every team. It's happened to every team I've ever been on, and you deal with it.

"And every team's different. You have to have the foundation in place in order to allow yourself to move forward. The foundation is the key to everything, and we've got a strong foundation. That's why we're going to be fine."

As tough as the past few days have been on the Warriors, Green and his teammates maintain the Golden State dynasty isn't going to crack just because of a bad argument -- something both Green and Kerr made clear in their postgame remarks Thursday.

While Green acknowledged he played "horribly" and struggled to find a rhythm in a 107-86 loss to theHouston Rockets, he made his best attempt to help defuse what had been a tense situation. Contrasted with Durant tersely telling reporters not to ask him about the incident again, there was Green, moments later, making light of his past few days while describing the ongoing pain he feels in his toe. It was a stark contrast to how the night began, when the usually jovial locker room that pulsates with music was mostly quiet and detached before the group's worst performance of the season.

What can't be overstated both in the short and long term is how much of a force Curry's presence can be in healing the fractures caused by the Green and Durant dust-up. Curry wasn't in L.A. on Monday, but there he was Thursday night, sitting on the bench alongside Green, Durant and DeMarcus Cousins. Even in the face of a blowout loss against a Rockets team that almost closed the Warriors out in the Western Conference finals last spring, the organization seemed collectively better with Curry there.

"He's got the respect of everybody in the organization, on the team -- he's very wise," Kerr said of Curry. "He's a guy who we count on to keep things rolling. I've said it many times. Steph's the short Tim Duncan. Having played with Tim and having been through all kinds of stuff in San Antonio, Pop would tell you we went through stuff back then -- actually Pop would not tell you, but we went through all kinds of stuff back then. When you have a guy like Tim Duncan, when you have a guy like Steph Curry, it makes your whole world easier."

The Warriors are in the middle of a rough patch that occurs in even the strongest of unions. How they respond from this point forward will set the tone for the rest of the season. Back before the argument between Green and Durant that cut right to the core of this group's present and future, Green knew Durant had to make the best decision for himself in their professional relationship, or else risk everything falling apart.

"So it's not about winning or losing,"Green said. "It's about where do you feel like you're at in your life and what best suits you. And whatever that is, it's what it is."

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