Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green‘s one-game suspension without pay was the culmination of hours of organizational conversations Tuesday in which senior leadership expressed concern over the fallout from a combustible Monday night in Los Angeles that pitted All-Star teammates, league sources told ESPN.
Witnesses to the locker-room scene in the aftermath of an on-the-court confrontation between Green and Kevin Durant at Staples Center called it one of the most volatile episodes of the Warriors’ dynastic run.
The Warriors’ hierarchy was unwilling to dismiss it as an ordinary NBA dust-up, and ultimately decided that Green’s verbiage, especially toward Durant, rose to the level of significant discipline.
“We just felt like this rose to the level of acting the way that we did,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said at a news conference before Tuesday night’s game in Oakland. “That’s a decision that we have to make. I’m certainly involved in it, so is Steve [Kerr, the Warriors’ coach]. … This was something that required the action that we decided upon.”
Green’s suspension, which will cost him $120,480, comes at the risk of further affecting a Warriors locker room in which he has been the dominant voice during the team’s three championships in four seasons.
One of the inescapable questions already being asked about Green’s suspension centered on Durant’s looming free agency and how choosing to punish Green could escalate tensions between the star players.
Green can be a free agent in 2020, but Durant’s sensitivity is well-documented, and it is clear that he was unhappy with how events played out Monday night.
Myers said he was confident that Green and the team could move past the matter.
“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 of Green. “We felt that this action merited the decision we made, but I have every confidence that he can move forward with it, our team can move forward with it, our organization, our players. Because again, this is part of the NBA, this is part of what happens.”
Kerr echoed Myers’ sentiments on Green.
“Draymond is always going to be who he is,” Kerr said. “Draymond is a powerful force. You guys know that. He’s a huge reason why we’ve had so much success here, and Draymond is going to continue playing the way he plays, and I don’t see him operating any other way.”
An angry late-game exchange on the bench between Durant and Green carried into Staples Center’s visiting locker room, with several of Green’s teammates challenging him on his decision-making on the final play of regulation, sources said.
Green gathered a defensive rebound in the final moments of a tie game and dribbled the ball up the court before losing control without taking a shot. Durant had been slapping his hands, calling for the ball. The Clippers beat the Warriors 121-116 in overtime.
Kevin Durant and Draymond Green exchange words after the Warriors fail to get a shot off at the end of regulation in an OT loss vs. the Clippers.
Green was forceful in his defense of himself, which helped to escalate the volume and intensity within the room after the game, sources said.
Durant left the locker room abruptly, marching directly toward the team bus. His summer free agency, along with teammate Klay Thompson‘s, hangs over the franchise as it pursues a third straight NBA title. Green was one of the primary Warriors players responsible for recruiting Durant to Golden State three years ago from Oklahoma City.
Kerr said he didn’t think Durant’s pending free agency has bothered the Warriors.
“Not the slightest bit,” he said. “Nobody ever talks about Kevin’s free agency. It doesn’t bother any of us.
“This is the NBA. There’s guys either under contract, they’re upcoming coming 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.”