It has long been the case that the biggest threat facing the Warriors was purely internal. Specifically, either one of two things: a Stephen Curry ankle injury or a personality implosion sparked by the blown-speaker-made-human that we call Draymond Green.
Curry has stayed mostly healthy since the birth of the Golden State dynasty in 2013. Green has skated on the knife’s edge over the years, with a few spills, one of which helped cost the Warriors a championship in 2016.
He flew off the edge again on Monday.
As you know by now, the Warriors suspended Green without pay for their Tuesday game against the Hawks due to conduct detrimental to the team. That conduct reportedly included Green calling superstar teammate Kevin Durant a b---h a few too many times and screaming about KD being a free agency tease. The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson reports that the level of sanctions surprised Green and others. Green expected to walk away with a small fine and an unofficial suspension without being docked a game check or embarrassed in the media.
Green was piping mad at Durant before this punishment. How’s he going to feel now?
Thompson, who knows the personalities inside the Warriors better than anyone in the media, is sounding the alarm bells about a breakup. He’s previously written that his “guess” is Durant will leave in free agency this summer, and reports now that the players and organization are reckoning with that as well.
For Green, who played a huge role in recruiting Durant after the 2016 screw-up, this is particularly irksome. It must feel something like a betrayal.
This could have all been calm and copacetic: a final bash with the super-duper-team before the Warriors retreat to being merely a super-team built around Curry, Green, and Klay Thompson. There are worse things, and Durant will have stayed for two or three titles in three years, burgeoning everyone’s credentials and helping the crew make history along the way.
But this is Draymond Green. Calm and copacetic aren’t really his thing. Durant chiding him for a late-game turnover — and worse, a waving-off of Durant in a crunch time moment when KD had been hot — blew the top off. Clearly, Green had been at a high simmer, and the lid popped off in this moment. If it hadn’t then, it would have at some point.
Thompson’s alarm bells are focused on how Green and the Warriors move forward assuming Durant leaves. Will Green want to leave too, feeling betrayed by Steve Kerr, who approved the punishment and has had a difficult relationship with Draymond over the years? Green is a free agent in 2020, and the Warriors are too smart to give him a full maximum-value contract without being convinced he’ll get it somewhere else. There could absolutely be hard feelings and consternation as that free agency approaches, especially if Green wins another Defensive Player of the Year and becomes eligible for the supermax extension.
Does that fear lead the Warriors to kick the tires on a Green trade before then, perhaps this summer should Durant flee? (Or heck, perhaps more so if Durant stays.) What exactly would the Warriors be looking for in return as a capped-out, star-laden squad? Does the mere hint of a potential trade lead to an immediate internal crisis as the betrayal of Green comes into full view?
How does Curry feel about all of this? He wasn’t in Los Angeles when this blow-up went down — good ol’ Klay had to play peacemaker, which is hilarious to imagine — but he has a strange relationship with Durant and a long, fruitful history with Green. He has the personality to handle Green. Most notably, he’s not going to call Green out for a turnover. He’s not going to get mad about not getting the ball in that spot. He’s too chill to spark that cherry bomb over a regular season game against the freaking Clippers.
If this gets worse, which it might, will Curry quietly side with Green in the internal debate? Or is he, as a chill human apparently uncomfortable with confrontation, secretly hoping Green’s bark could disappear from his life?
How does DeMarcus Cousins figure into all of this? Boogie has famously struck up a great relationship with Green, and Kerr has flat-out said Cousins is simply a visiting scholar in Warriorsland and won’t be back next year. Is Cousins cool enough to stay out of this, or is he going to serve as a backroom accelerant for Green? We don’t know much about Cousins’ relationship with Durant, but he’s friendly with Curry and Klay as well as Green. Is this an X factor we all need to pay attention to as Cousins inches closer to an on-court presence?
Is this how the Warriors fall apart?
We won’t know until we know, and we should give the benefit of the doubt to a smart, cool Warriors front office who know what they are doing. We should give Kerr the benefit of the doubt: he’s been as close to perfect as you can get managing the strange brew of personalities this dynasty contains for years. We should give Durant and Green the benefit of the doubt that they can shrug this off as they’ve shrugged off past disagreements. We should give Curry the benefit of the doubt as a calming force.
Perfect harmony can’t last forever, though, and we might be watching the dynasty buckle. We’ll know when we know.