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Warriors’ top challenge may be their own locker room

November 15, 2018

The dustup between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green might or might not have a negative effect on Golden State’s quest for a three-peat.

But there’s no question how Monday night’s incident will affect our interest in another title run by the NBA champs:

We’re going to need more popcorn. Nothing like a little drama or a lot to grab our attention and maintain hold as developments unfold.

The Warriors’ standing as the league’s most popular and most polarizing team was well-established before Durant and Green’s verbal altercation that carried from the sideline to the locker room. The latter’s one-game suspension is like manna from heaven for those weary of the Warriors’ dominance and cockiness. For those who enjoy the well-oiled offense and smooth-running operation, dissension between the two All-Stars is like hitting a huge pothole and wondering if the tire will go flat.

Internal combustion is perhaps the only thing that can derail Golden State’s machine. Now that it has surfaced, the extent of the damage is anyone’s guess.

“They’re grown; they’ll be fine,” guard Klay Thompson told reporters Tuesday after Golden State beat Atlanta without Green. “I love both of those guys and at the end of the day, we’re on the same team, with the same goal, and that’s the three-peat. I don’t think either of them will lose sight of that, whether it’s a personal agenda or whatever. I think we’ll get far past it, and we’ll get to that goal eventually, hopefully.”

Green was suspended without pay for “conduct detrimental to the team” after an overtime road loss to the LA Clippers. Instead of passing to a wide-open Durant in the closing seconds of regulation, Green raced upcourt and into traffic before committing a turnover. Durant and Green were visibly upset on the bench and reportedly exchanged profanities in the locker room.

“We just felt this rose to the level of acting the way we did,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said Tuesday at a news conference. “That’s a decision that we have to make. ... This was something that required the action that we decided on.”

The possible ramifications are clearer than a kick in the groin. Team chemistry could be thrown off and sink Golden State’s chase. Durant, a free agent next summer, could be more inclined to move on. Green reportedly ticked him off angering several teammates in the process by mentioning the upcoming free agency.

That would qualify as a Flagrant Foul 2, unnecessary and excessive commentary on another player’s money. No matter what Durant does at the end of the season, now is not the time for teammates to talk about it.

“This is the NBA,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters Tuesday. “There’s guys either under contract, and there’s upcoming free agents. It’s the business. 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.”

Both players own a slice of the blame. Green messed up at the end of regulation, but it’s not like he pulled a J.R. Smith in the NBA Finals. It was game No. 14 in a regular-season slog that’s become meaningless to the Warriors. Durant didn’t have to light into Green like he did, especially considering Green’s stature on the team and in the NBA.

Conversely, Green didn’t have to repeatedly call Durant a female dog according to reports while issuing a loud reminder that the Warriors were champs before Durant arrived. Green also wasn’t pleased that Durant has allowed free agency to be a story this season instead of killing it with some boilerplate quotes early on.

Publicly humiliated by a front office that previously fined him quietly behind closed doors, Green must feel like the organization chose to support the Johnny-come-lately over one of the original cornerstones. That decision has the potential to dim his passion and cause ruptures within the team, which still might lose Durant.

Internet lip readers suggest that Durant muttered “That’s why I’m out,” after the exchange on the bench. Despite Thompson’s optimism, there’s no guarantee the two players will patch things up. Asked after Tuesday’s game if the incident could have a positive effect, Durant said, “Who knows? We’ll see.”

Indeed, we will.

Now there’s no chance of another ho-hum regular season for the defending champs. That’s great for fan interest and NBA business.

⦁ Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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