There are few athletes more candid and self-aware than Draymond Green. So when he addressed the press for the first time since his end-of-game argument with Kevin Durant that rocked the NBA and resulted in a one-game suspension, it was no surprise that Green’s opening remarks were honest to the extreme.
They’re worth parsing in greater detail, because there’s a lot going on here.
“Kevin and I spoke. We’re moving forward.”
Nowhere in the entire 2+ minute monologue is there an apology to be found toward Durant, the Warrior organization, or his teammates. (Ever thoughtful, Draymond did apologize to the press for “ruining everyone’s stories” about the immediate end of the Warrior dynasty.)
Understand that this isn’t a situation where Draymond is saying one thing to the media and another behind closed doors. Just about every sordid detail of their postgame blowup has already been laid bare for everyone to digest, so there’s no need to hide behind team business cliches or what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room.
We already know what we need to know about the situation and now we know that Draymond isn’t backing down. If he was going to be contrite, he would have offered that up publicly.
“I’m never going to change who I am.”
Green did acknowledge that his emotions sometimes get the better of him, but, again there was no apology given. This has always been the double-edged sword that comes with Draymond Green. If he didn’t have that emotion, he wouldn’t be the same player, and if he wasn’t the same player, he’d be doing himself and the Warriors a disservice.
As he noted, his resume, and the team’s resume, speaks for itself. The Warriors are who they are, in part, because they have been raised in an environment that encouraged all of their talents and personalities to be true to themselves.
Steph Curry can be one of the greatest players of all time, while shooting 30 footers with impunity. Klay Thompson can be one of the best two-way players in the league and an endearing black hole. And Draymond Green can be an All-NBA player without the normal skill set one associates with that caliber of player by living on the edge.
To consider any other way would be self-defeating. So, deal with it.
“Whatever Kevin decided to do, whatever Klay decides to do, whatever who decides to do, we had great years together.” (Emphasis mine.) I support everybody wholeheartedly 100 percent.”
The past tense feels important because its being read as an admission that there’s no going back from this. It also requires some context.
Draymond famously took less money on his last contract in an effort to clear enough room to make it possible to sign Durant. KD did much the same, which gave the Warriors the runway to sign Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston to sizable deals.
You can argue the merits of either decision, but three titles in four years don’t lie. Winning championships and individual honors has been very good for the business of Draymond Green, just as winning two was good for KD. That was their right and it paid off handsomely.
But — and this is where the Warriors are now — there comes a time when players need to account for their bottom line. As Green noted, that’s about more than Durant’s free agency. Thompson will also be a free agent this summer and Green’s deal will be coming due the year after that. There are only so many chances to make a big score before players begin to lose control of their futures.
The balance between team harmony and individual reward is always fraught with tension. This is yet another acknowledgement of a reality that is typically left unsaid in other situations. Draymond doesn’t do passive aggressive.
“What you must know, nobody in this organization -- from a player, not myself, not Kevin, not anybody else -- is going to beat us.”
This is the key part of Green’s statement from a basketball perspective. As a student of NBA history, he’s well aware of how dynasties have been undone from within. The obvious parallel is to the Kobe-Shaq Lakers, who simply couldn’t work together anymore after three straight titles from 2000 to 2002 and a Finals loss to Detroit in 2004. Their inability to get past mad cost them at least one championship, and maybe two or three more.
This moment has become more than a flashpoint. It’s become the team’s identity. As mottos go, “Nobody in this organization is going to beat us,” doesn’t look as good on a t-shirt as “Strength in numbers,” but it’s honest.
This is also Draymond throwing down the gauntlet to Durant and everyone else. In effect he’s saying that the Warrior collective is not going to let KD’s impending free agency beat them. There’s business and there’s basketball, and he’s drawing a clear distinction between the two.
“Anyone want to talk about basketball, I’m here. If not, it’s been real.”
The obvious followup, and the one that was asked was: ‘What about management?’ Nope, Draymond wasn’t talking about management. He wasn’t going to debate the merits of the suspension that was handed down from general manager Bob Myers and coach Steve Kerr, which was an answer in and of itself.
This isn’t going away because, duh, nothing goes away in this league. The NBA thrives on drama and gossip. No doubt this will all come bubbling back up again at some point during the season, maybe even Thursday night when the Warriors play the Rockets on TNT.
What Draymond did was reveal the tension so that it’s all out in the open now. There may be no going back, but there’s also nowhere else to go but forward. As he said, “You think you saw something before, good luck with us now. We’re not going to crumble over an argument.”
That’s the only way they can lose, and they know it.