Draymond Green: Kevin Durant’s discontent with Warriors stems from LeBron praise, not our incident

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Warriors coach Steve Kerr endorsed the idea that Kevin Durant became restless because he didn’t get enough credit for besting LeBron James in the 2017 NBA Finals.

Draymond Green also subscribes to that theory.

Which, to Green, means too much stock is put into his infamous blowup at Durant nearly a year-and-a-half later. (You’re a b—, and you know you’re a b—. We don’t need you. We won without you. Leave.) Durant said the incident contributed to him leaving Golden State for the Nets last summer.

Green gave his fascinating perspective on “All The Smoke” (video warning: profanity).

Durant joined the Warriors in 2016, forming a rare MVP tandem with Stephen Curry. Initially, each superstar overly deferred to the other, throwing off Golden State’s rhythm. Durant told Curry to take the lead, and the Warriors surged. In Golden State’s victory over LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the 2017 NBA Finals, Durant asserted himself and won Finals MVP.

Green:

Kevin is happy as hell, not complaining about nothing, just enjoy playing good basketball.

You turn on the TV the next day, and the f—ing headline is “LeBron James still the best player in the world, question mark.” You’ve got Stephen A. You’ve got all these people debating it. And everybody still said LeBron James is the best player in the world. That’s when I kind of felt like it took a turn. And then we came back 2017-2018 season, and Kevin just wasn’t as happy.

Durant has given contradictory statements about his happiness in the aftermath of his first title. But he did say he felt LeBron passed the torch to him in 2017.

Green said Durant complained more about shot distribution between himself, Curry and Klay Thompson. Durant expressing misgivings about the Warriors’ offense would become a running theme

Green:

It wasn’t a problem in 2017. But now in 2018, it’s always an issue. And so that was a challenge, just trying to figure out, how is Kevin going to react to certain s— that would happen with the team or that Steve Kerr would do. Steve Kerr would call a play for him, and he’d be like, “I don’t f—ing want you to call a play. I want you to f—ing make them play the right way.” And it’s like, yo, what are you talking about? You you say you need the ball, and you want the ball. But then when I call the play for you. It ain’t that. So what is it? It’s obviously a much bigger problem than just you getting the ball.

I’m talking to Bob Myers. I’m like, “Yo, I don’t think Kevin coming back here.” And, you know, Kevin has said to me once before like, “They keep this bulls— up, I’ll get out of here.” And me and K was real close. So, I’m always in between everybody talking him off the ledge, f—ing telling Steph like, “Yo, we need to get K a touch.”

Remember David West’s cryptic comments about about how much Golden State went through internally en route to the 2018 championship? Green said it referred to this drama with Durant (not just a meningitis scare).

Green even thought Durant might leave during the 2018 offseason. But Green believes the lure of a three-peat brought Durant back. Green later said he wanted Durant to declare his plan – leave or stay in 2019 – before the season.

Green:

His heart wasn’t here no more. He was kind of one foot in and one foot out from the very beginning of the season.

But the one thing about Kevin is he loves the game of basketball. And he’s going to give it 100 percent every f—ing time he step on the floor. I don’t give a f— if it’s a game, if it’s a workout.

If you watch this dude work out, every rep he do, it’s f—ing game speed.

To watch him f—ing work out is like mesmerizing. Like the f—ing heart.

To go every rep game speed in a f—ing workout, it’s just not realistic. It’s not realistic. But he does.

The one thing you could always depend on is, no matter what, once he stepped on the court he’s going bust his ass, because that’s just who he is, that he worked his ass off.

But it was kind of always commotion all year. And so beginning of the year, I told Bob and Steve, I’m like, “Yo, I’m struggling with Kevin right now. He kind of not here. I need some help. I’m trying, and it’s frustrating. I need some help.” And everybody’s like, “Yeah, OK. We understand. We get it. Alright, cool.” But nobody did s—. And so I’m kind of stuck in this position.

Was Durant fully committed to the Warriors last season? Probably not.

But, as Green said, that didn’t affect Durant’s effort level. Durant played hard and played well. He even rushed back from injury – and suffered a ruptured Achilles – to help Golden State in the NBA Finals.

The issues came primarily with team chemistry. Especially in hindsight, Myers and Kerr should have heeded Green’s plea for help. But Green is the Warriors’ emotional leader. He embraces that responsibility.

And he made the situation even worse.

Green berated Durant before overtime of a game against the Clippers in November 2018. At the end of the fourth quarter, Green grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled up court and then committed a turnover. Durant said he was stunned Green didn’t pass to him.

Green:

When I get the rebound, what do I do? I get the rebound. I push the ball. I find one of them. So, I get the rebound. I take off. He clapped loudest s—. I’m like, “Yo, come on.” I’m taking off. I’m going. I start to cross over and go across court. And in my mind, I’m already thinking like, “Oh, he trailing. I’m about to cross over and take this guy standing here, and I’m going to just flip it back. He going to step into a 3. He step into a 3, it’s game over, and we out of here.

He stood back there clapping and kind of moseying up. So, when I go across, I’m waiting to flip. He kind of not there, and I turned it over.

It’s amazing how both big and small this argument was.

Durant wanted the ball in the backcourt. Green wanted to pass it to Durant in the frontcourt. That’s such a tiny dispute! It’s the type of thing to discuss briefly and get on the same page the next time. Green is a willing passer, and Durant is a lethal scorer. Both know their roles. It’s an issue of only when to throw the pass.

But it was also so much more. Durant’s looming free agency was always going to cause tension. It was unavoidable. The question was whether the Warriors could properly manage it. This incident revealed a clear no.

Afterward, Green met with Myers and Kerr.

Green:

They’re pretty much telling me, “You were wrong. You apologize.” And my thing for them was, “I told y’all this. So, yeah, it boiled over. But this shouldn’t be no surprise to nobody. I told y’all what it was, and nobody did nothing. I told y’all this was coming.” And so when that happened, they kept telling me like, “Yo, you need to apologize.” And I’m like, “I’m not f—ing apologizing. He one foot in and one foot out. I meant what I said. I’m not f—ing apologizing for something I meant to say. I’m not apologizing.”

After an hour and 45 minutes, they’re like, “You go home. You meet us in the morning. You sleep on it, and maybe you feel different.”

And we meet and they’re like, “So are you going to apologize?” I’m like, “I’m not apologizing!”

Myers told Green he’d be suspended one game.

Green:

I started laughing. And he’s like, “Well, that’s not the response I expected you to have.” I’m like, “Well, I feel like you’re suspending me to try to save Kevin, to try to make him feel good. Because that’s bulls—. I never seen no player get suspended for arguing with another player. So, you’re really trying to save him. It is funny to me.”

On this, Green and Durant agree: The Warriors mishandled the aftermath of the incident.

Green:

At this point, it just had gone from bad to worse. But we were so talented, that the outside world couldn’t tell that there was problems.

Durant said he decided midway through last season to leave Golden State. Durant said the argument with Green contributed to his decision, though Durant never pinned his exit solely on that.

Green:

You ain’t leave because of me. You’re f—ing Kevin Durant. You wanted to be here? I would have been out if I was the issue. I would have been long gone. And guess who would’ve understood that? I understand that. I understand the business of basketball. I understand how this s— works. If Kevin Durant wants to be somewhere and he don’t want me here, I’m out.

He was one foot in and one foot out. And he left because he wanted to leave. Because he wanted to be here and me being here was an issue, I would have been out. And that’s just the real.

Yes, Golden State would’ve traded Green if that meant Durant would’ve returned. But that’s an oversimplification.

Durant joined the Warriors in the first place because he liked their ball movement. Green was a big part of that.

On the other hand, Durant also chafed at Golden State’s offensive scheme. It’s difficult to tell what he really wanted. I’m not sure even he knew other than he wasn’t finding it with the Warriors.

Again, Durant never said Green was the sole reason for leaving. There were clearly other issues, too. Durant merely said Green’s blowup contributed. Even if Durant planned to leave, he still had time to change his mind. In fact, there’s evidence Durant’s opinion of the Warriors turned more favorable as they advanced through the playoffs.

But they had more ground to make up because of Green. Green has owned that.

Green also owns this:

I still love KD. His feelings about me may not be the same. But I’ll ride for him for the rest of my life. I got that type of love for that brother.

I obviously don’t agree with every way Green framed Durant’s experience with Golden State. But I appreciate Green’s ability to explore the nuance of a complex situation. That advanced understanding of interpersonal dynamics gives Green even more credibility. I highly value his perspective here and am glad he provided it.