OAKLAND — A clearly-rattled and emotionally exhausted Bob Myers and Steve Kerr danced around insinuations and any long-ranging repercussions on Tuesday evening, as both addressed the suspension of forward Draymond Green before the Golden State Warriors’ game against the Atlanta Hawks.
On Monday night, TV cameras caught Green and Kevin Durant in a public spat on the sideline between the end of regulation and the start of overtime against the Los Angeles Clippers. The argument continued after the 121-116 loss — Golden State’s second in its last three games — as the two had a post-game shouting match in the locker room, according to a report by ESPN.
Neither Kerr nor Myers went into detail about the reason for Green’s suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team,” and both were reticent when asked whether Durant’s impending free agency or Green’s own volatile history played into the decision to suspend one of Golden State’s five All-Stars. As tough as last season’s run to a second straight NBA Finals win was, this could be the first true crack to show in what’s been a dynasty marked by joy and unselfish camaraderie.
Kerr, who famously got into a fight with Michael Jordan during a practice in their time with the Chicago Bulls, provided the only levity of the proceedings, declaring that he “kicked MJ’s ass.” It was the one break in a tense atmosphere that was a broad departure from the focused optimism and nonchalance that usually pervades Kerr’s pregame comments.
“I think we’ll be fine,” Kerr said, after a lengthy pause. “We’re a team that goes through stuff, just like everybody else. Things happen. Bumps in the road. You’ve got to move forward. It’s all a part of coaching a team. It’s all part of being on a team.”
The decision to suspend Green was made collaboratively with both Kerr and Myers. Myers said that, when told of the suspension, Green was “professional,” and gave the same description of Durant, when he was informed of the decision. Green was not at Oracle Arena for the game. Myers characterized the move as an “organizational decision, not [Durant’s] decision.”
“I think we felt like this rose to the level of acting the way we did,” Myers said. “That’s a decision we have to make.”
During the 2015-16 season, Green and Kerr himself got into a heated shouting match at halftime of a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Feb. 27, with the two nearly coming to blows, according to a report by ESPN. Green’s temper also earned him a suspension for an accumulation of flagrant fouls during the NBA Finals that season, opening the door for the Cleveland Cavaliers to affect a 3-1 comeback. Green has not let go of that suspension.
“Knowing him for however many years I’ve known him, if caring too much is something that he struggles with, well, that’s who he is,” Myers said. “We made a decision. We felt like this action merited the decision we made, but I have every confidence that he can move forward with it.”
Kerr has long said that Green has been the emotional core of the Warriors, and Kerr said on Tuesday that his opinion that the Michigan State product was the “heart and soul” of the team remains unchanged.
“My feeling on Draymond and his impact on our team doesn’t change,” Kerr said. “These things happen sometimes over the course of an NBA season. We deal with it internally. Any conversations that are happening or have happened, that’s our business.”
Green, according to a report by Shams Charania of The Athletic, impugned Durant for the unresolved nature of his contract situation during the locker room shouting match. Green has been with the Warriors since he was drafted 35th overall in 2012.
In signing a 1+1 deal with Golden State this offseason (a one-year deal with a player option for a second), Durant will be a free agent for the second consecutive offseason, and the third time in the last four years.
Arguably the greatest scorer of his generation, Durant was one of the key pieces on an Oklahoma City Thunder team that battled the Warriors as the their dynasty took shape, before he elected to join them in the summer of 2016.
Weeks after the Warriors blew that 3-1 lead to the Cavaliers, a contingent that included Green, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala visited Durant while he was on vacation in the Hamptons. That delegation convinced him to sign a two-year deal, and they have since won back-to-back NBA championships.
Durant had previously played with Green and Thompson on the 2016 Olympic gold medal-winning team in Rio de Janeiro.
“I think they have a lot in common,” Myers said. “They both love to win. They both love to play. I think they would play basketball for free. But, they’re competitive. It’s a relationship that wants to do great things together. They will, and they have. I think they’ve got a sound relationship. One of the best things about sports is that it’s emotional, and sometimes, it becomes too emotional.”
Green and Durant have long pushed one another. After Durant scored 22 points on 8-of-18 shooting in a Western Conference semifinals loss to the New Orleans Pelicans last May, Green told ESPN he was up all night watching film. At 4 a.m., he texted Durant in order to challenge him to be better.
Durant responded with three words: “I got you.” The next game, Golden State rode Durant’s 38 points to a 26-point Game 4 win.
On Monday, Green tried to take the ball up in the final seconds of a tie game against the Clippers, only to lose the handle instead of passing to Durant. Durant took him to task on the sideline. The two got heated, and were separated. After the game, and the reported shouting match in the locker room, Kerr and Myers immediately began evaluating the situation.
Kerr has spoken with Green since the suspension, but declined to divulge any details of that conversation. He did, however, immediately jump at the question of whether Durant’s free agency had festered in the locker room.
“Not the slightest bit,” Kerr said. “Nobody ever talks about Kevin’s free agency. It doesn’t bother any of us … This is the NBA. Guys are either under contract or they’re upcoming free agents. It’s the business, and we’re focused on this year. I don’t think anybody in our locker room, anybody on our coaching staff, thinks twice about Kevin’s free agency this summer. That’s next summer. We’re coaching this year. We’re playing this year.”