What’s Behind the Kevin Durant — Draymond Green Argument?

Mark R. Bacon—Main Event DC

Let’s have some fun, shall we…

Draymond Green botched the final possession of regulation against the Clippers on Monday night, so Kevin Durant yelled at him on the sideline, Green yelled back, one or both of them did some more yelling in the locker room. Green got suspended one game for conduct detrimental to the Warriors. Turns out, they were yelling about a lot more than who should have gotten the ball on that possession!

The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson II has a report a day or so ago, from anonymous sources “in the locker room, the front office and to adjacent parties,” on what earned Green his suspension, and it’s a pretty damn spicy:

Green took exception to how Durant addressed him. The exact dialogue couldn’t be recounted as it was said, but it began with Green immediately firing back. “Who the fuck you talking to?”

According to multiple sources, Green then 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.

That’s the mild version. The original version included Green calling Durant a “bitch” several times — disrespect that management said was too harsh to overlook.

A few things, here. First of all, don’t call your coworker a bitch! Dig?! I feel like that’s pretty clear. Secondly, Green really did blow that possession; he probably should have passed to Durant, even if the alternative weren’t the Keystone Kops routine he went with. When you screw up that needlessly in that kind of moment, it’s customary to eat some shit, and in the NBA it’s fairly ordinary or at least uncontroversial for a player of Durant’s stature to take license to feed that shit to a lesser teammate who fucks up. Up to this point, it’s easy to make Durant’s case.

On the other hand, the Warriors are not an ordinary team, Draymond Green is not an ordinary lesser teammate, and Durant doesn’t have anything like an ordinary relationship that a great player might have with the team around him. The Warriors were already at least among the best teams in history before Durant joined them; Green and the other members of the team’s core (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala) had already won a ring and set the record for wins in a season by the time they recruited Durant. So Green … actually kinda has an understandable gripe, here: He’s probably done enough in the NBA, and with the Warriors specifically, that he should not have to endure the Mario Chalmers Treatment—particularly not from a guy who joined the team specifically so he could attach himself to the level of greatness Green and company established before he arrived.

Peppering this gripe with the word “bitch” and yelling it at Kevin Durant in the immediate aftermath of throwing away the last possession of regulation is not ideal! But that doesn’t put him totally in the wrong, here. If nothing else, not applying the social and contextual awareness to recognize, in that moment, that the extremely notoriously hotheaded and proud Draymond Green isn’t the one, certainly counts as some kind of failing on Durant’s part.

But the real meat is the free agency stuff. Durant*—and Klay Thompson!—will be a free agent after this season, and Green will be one in 2020, and it’s unlikely in the extreme that the Warriors will be able to keep all of them long-term without paying a truly insane luxury tax bill. So either at least one of them is eventually gone, or at least one of them will have to sacrifice lots and lots of millions of dollars to keep the team together.

Durant (or his intermediaries or whatever, it makes no real difference) have made it clear that he’s at least considering leaving if not determined to go; his (understandable) refusal to commit, as the Athletic’s Thompson notes, has been a source of tension among the Warriors’ players since at least the end of last season. But let’s be realistic, here: That changes absolutely nothing about how desperately Golden State, as an organization, wants to keep one of the NBA’s very brightest stars and most extraordinary talents. They made a spectacle of him visiting their unfinished new arena, for chrissakes.

Green is a fantastic player, but, in contrast to the otherworldly Durant, he’s also a pear-shaped below-the-rim grinder whose game and body, never remotely as transcendent as Durant’s to begin with, seem unlikely to age all that gracefully.

If the Warriors’ personnel honchos could retain Durant by making salary commitments that effectively precluded Green staying beyond next season, they’d be insane not to; in any event, nobody in the front office has made a show of begging him to stay. And this is an ugly reality of which Green, a generally savvy guy whenever he isn’t doing Yuen Woo-ping shit to an opponent’s balls, surely is aware. In effect, it is very much like he is being asked to compete with the world’s second-best player for his own spot on the only team he’s ever played for, the team where he transformed himself from a lumpy second-rounder to a (still-lumpy) core player, champion, all-star, and Defensive Player of the Year. And now the world’s second-best player is giving him the Mario Chalmers Treatment in front of the whole damn league. You can imagine that stinging a bit.

And so the real villain here is … the NBA’s salary cap and max-contract system! The Warriors have plenty of money and likely would extend Green’s and Durant’s—and Thompson’s—contracts into outer space if bad rules hadn’t been put in place to attach ludicrous penalties to doing so. Instead, the players are forced into this wack lifeboat shit, a season-long Time For Some Game Theory where they can either pretend they’re not competing against each other for the right to remain on the best team in history or agree to sacrifice tens of millions of dollars and/or years of security for the privilege of repeating this same screwy scenario.

This is a predictable result of a bad economic system. More to the point, it’d put a strain on any relationship, so it’s no surprise that Draymond Green and Kevin Durant can’t deal with it. Assholes!!!

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