The last team expected to argue about passing the damn ball is Golden State. Passing the damn ball is what it does best—no other team turns more of its passes into assists. No other team averages as many assists. And no other team scores as many points off assists. The Warriors share. The Warriors pass the damn ball. Usually.
In Monday’s Warriors-Clippers game, with the score tied 106-106 with three seconds to go in regulation, Draymond Green did what he does best. He grabbed the rebound off a failed long jumper from Lou Williams, outreaching anyone else hunting for the ball. In this case, that was his teammate, Kevin Durant, the only other player under the basket. Durant clapped frantically for the ball as the Clippers retreated and the seconds began to tick away, but Green sprinted down the court himself, driving through four defenders, teetering off balance, and eventually losing the ball at the top of the key. The buzzer sounded; overtime it was.
“Just pass the damn ball,” Durant said to Green in the huddle before OT. It’s something I imagine head coach Steve Kerr says often, though not with nearly as much firepower. Durant and Green had to be separated by teammates before taking the court together for the final clip. According to a report from The Athletic, Green then “challenged” KD about his upcoming free agency during the argument. Golden State ultimately lost 121-116, thanks in large part to Williams’s heroics, and both Durant and Green were quiet in the extra frame. Durant fouled out a minute and a half into OT. All Green did was catch the jump ball and commit a shooting foul.
Kevin Durant & Draymond Green get into a heated exchange after Draymond failed to get a shot off at the end of regulation during the Warriors loss to the Clippers. pic.twitter.com/uYROz4bld1— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) November 13, 2018
This isn’t the first public confrontation between the two. Following an overtime loss to the Kings in February 2017, Green and Durant yelled in each other’s faces. A couple of months before that, after yet another overtime loss, this time to the Grizzlies, Green shouted at Durant after a botched play. KD downplayed the events to reporters: “We’re grown men, ain’t nobody hollering at me,” he said when asked about the Kings incident the following November.
“Well, we motherfucked each other,” KD said when asked what word he would use if not hollering.
That Durant flipped the script this time and yelled in frustration at Green is worth reading into simply because everything related to Durant is worth reading into at this moment. The 30-year-old can become an unrestricted free agent again next summer, hasn’t confirmed he’ll be returning to the Bay Area, and is on every New Yorker’s vision board after being repeatedly linked to the Knicks. Before the season began, Durant said his focus was on the season, not the summer afterward. (My favorite free agent cop out). “I know the questions are going to come,” Durant said. “I know a lot of people are going to speculate and print rumors and sources, but nobody’s heard from me about anything, so it’s just all speculation at this point.”
Noncommittal quotes fund the speculation factory. We obsessed over LeBron James’s destination list two summers ago, and obsessed over it more when he denied having a destination list in March because he was focused on the rest of the season. (James decided not even a full month after Cleveland’s season ended that he was going to sign over the next four years of his career to one franchise. Seems like a short time to deliberate on where he’ll finalize his legacy.) There’s no chance Durant doesn’t at least have an inkling, and there’s no chance we won’t read into him yelling—excuse me, motherfucking—at Green.
Green is the only Warrior KD could argue with. Steph Curry is a charmer who winks at the crowd, the “I’m a dad who does Brita commercials” kind of leader. Klay Thompson is best known for his selfless 3-point shooting (the kind that once allowed him to drop 60 points in a game after only holding the ball for a whopping 90 total seconds), for looking stoned, and for dancing in China (not necessarily in that order). Green is the most ignitable. A bench argument is not necessarily a sign of a broken relationship, especially when Green is on one end of it. (As Minnesota and Washington have taught us, that can happen behind closed doors, like, say, in a practice, or a locker room.) However, ESPN reported Tuesday that the exchange continued in the locker room, with other Warriors teammates also confronting Green, describing it as “one of the most intense” moments this iteration of the Warriors has had. Even if this is something the team quickly moves past (Green’s done worse; for context, watch Game 4 of the 2016 Finals), Green confronting Durant about his upcoming free agency during a game will look terrible in hindsight if the latter leaves this summer.
This latest flare-up puts Green’s role with the Warriors into focus: He could be the player who ends the dynasty prematurely—or keeps it going. He’s reportedly eyeing a supermax when his contract is up in 2020, which Green would be eligible for if he is voted MVP or Defensive Player of the Year, or makes one of the three All-NBA teams next season. It would be the most lucrative contract in NBA history, and Green would be 30. Because Curry and Durant will always come first contractually, that makes Green, his relationship with KD, and whether he’s inclined to give up what he believes he’s owed for the better of the team, the central figure of all future plans in Golden State. The question is whether or not he’s willing to pass.
This piece was updated after publication with more information.