Warriors drama a reminder of a championship window’s fragility


Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant, right, reacts as he fouls out of the game while forward Draymond Green, left, and guard Andre Iguodala look on during overtime against the Los Angeles Clippers Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

There’s trouble in paradise as the Golden State Warriors — the franchise the rest of the NBA has been chasing for the better part of the last half-decade – is under the microscope for all the wrong reasons.

Let’s recap: On Monday night, during the final seconds of a tied game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Draymond Green corralled a defensive rebound, looked off of Kevin Durant, who was clamouring for a pass, and instead brought the ball up the court himself, losing it in traffic as the clock expired.

No crime there. Green has long been one of the Warriors’ primary playmakers, and although conventional logic says get the ball to Durant, who has a history of clutch shot-making, Green made a decision he’s earned the right to make with the game on the line.

Naturally, Durant wanted the ball and he didn’t hesitate to let Green know.

Here’s what Warriors reporter Marcus Thompson II’s
sources said went down
after the game:

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 f— 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.

The Warriors wound up losing the game in overtime – just their third loss of the season. After some reportedly strongly worded insults hurled at Durant, the team ended up suspending Green for their next game the following night, a win against the Atlanta Hawks.

The in-fighting itself isn’t a death toll for the Warriors, but even if the Durant-Green beef is promptly squashed there could be lingering effects that slowly chip away at Golden State’s previously impenetrable armour.

This could all prove to be water under the bridge, or we could look back on Monday night as a boiling point. Regardless of what lasting effects this drama has on the Warriors this season, the situation illustrates just how short — and utterly fragile — the window to compete for a championship can be. Teams that hope to one day soon compete for titles, like the Toronto Raptors, understand.

On the court, no team can match Golden State. They’re a walking cheat code. Like any dynasty, the only thing that can derail the Warriors is the Warriors.

For those with championship aspirations, chemistry is a crucial ingredient in basketball. It’s also probably the hardest to measure.

Sustaining that chemistry is even harder. Going from plucky underdogs to superstardom and iconic status brings upon changes that make it hard to regain that original formula for success. There are countless examples.

The most obvious one might be The Beatles. The band was a powerhouse that produced seemingly hundreds of iconic songs, and, not unlike the Warriors in basketball, went on to shape their industry and were an influential group that transcended the role of musicians and celebrities in popular culture.

But guess what? The Beatles only lasted SEVEN YEARS before they broke up. As astronomic success continued, new issues arose, dynamics changed and, despite years of unrivalled dominance, it became impossible to maintain the status quo and keep churning out the classics.

It’s no different in sports. It’s extremely hard to keep these runs going once you reach the kind of success the Warriors have in recent years.

Their chemistry has helped them reach four straight Finals and collect three titles in that span.

Steve Kerr has maintained the secret to good chemistry simply comes down to having the right personnel — players who are willing to be a team above themselves and embrace their given role. That’s certainly been true amid the Warriors’ run.

Last June, Steph Curry seemed genuinely happy — or at the very least unbothered — by Kevin Durant hoisting the Finals MVP trophy, even though Curry would have been the most likely candidate to be lifting the trophy himself had Durant never showed up. Klay Thompson is one of the NBA’s elite two-way talents and could have said he wanted to go star on his own team like so many others in his position have in the past — but has maintained the opposite. Andre Iguodala happily came off the bench for the betterment of his team when he was still a starting-quality player.

These aren’t coincidences on the way to the Warriors’ dynasty run. They’re essential components. But no matter what ingredients you bake with, if you leave the cake out in the rain it still melts like MacArthur’s Park.

In a sense we could have seen this coming, and the one-year deals that superstars like Durant and LeBron James have opted for in recent years opens this will-they-won’t-they umbrella that lasts all season. Just ask the Cavaliers, who played this game with James seemingly every season since his return from Miami.

So when a player like Durant signs a one-year deal, tensions are bound to mount as he leaves the door wide open to leave via free agency. Green is never going to be shy about speaking his mind, and he’s right that Durant’s pending free agency lingers over the team, an unwelcomed distraction.

But by airing the issue, mid-game no less, any festering drama is going to surface. The only hope is that the team’s coaches and veterans can stop the internal bleeding before it’s too late.

It’s troubling that it took less than one month for this to surface to the forefront. But the Warriors are so talented, and, more importantly, have the championship experience to know how important chemistry is, and how easily incidents like this can derail a club. You’d expect this to be sorted out.

Klay Thompson — normally reserved, but reportedly one of the more prominent voices in the Warriors locker room after the scuffle, calling out Green for creating an unwelcomed distraction — was asked what it would take for his team to move on and get back on track.

“A win on Thursday, and a win on Saturday and Sunday,” he said. “Once we go on a little win streak … this will be in the past like a ponytail.”

Until then, it’s a reminder for the NBA’s hopeful contenders of how precious and delicate that window can be — and the factors that have nothing to do with getting a stop, or putting the ball in the basket, establish the league’s winners and losers.

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