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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Durant's Choices Will Reveal His Real Priorities

The recent verbal confrontation between Golden State teammates Kevin Durant and Draymond Green--which resulted in a team-issued one game suspension of Green--brought some apparently long-simmering tensions to light. Tempers flared after Durant reacted harshly to a late-game turnover by Green, who was doing--as Shaquille O'Neal might call it on Shaqtin' a Fool--a "Tragic Bronson" imitation instead of passing the ball to Durant for a potential game-winning shot at the end of regulation in a tied game. Golden State lost in overtime to the L.A. Clippers, 121-116.

After Green's turnover, Durant angrily clapped his hands and barked at Green. According to multiple reports, Green told Durant to leave at the end of the season (Durant will be a free agent) because the team does not need him and can win without him. When the players returned to the court after a timeout, lip readers could discern Durant apparently saying that this (presumably referring to Green's behavior) is why he is going to leave. The war of words did not end on the court but spilled over into the locker room after the game, when Green allegedly called Durant a derogatory name multiple times.

It has been widely speculated that Durant is planning to leave Golden State after this season. The Warriors' front office and players have tried to act like this is not a major issue/distraction, but it obviously is a major issue/distraction. Green is surely not the only player on the team who is upset with Durant, even if Green is the only player who has been so publicly vocal about the situation.

If the reports of what Green said are accurate, it is ironic that the player who recruited Durant to Golden State after the Warriors' 2016 NBA Finals loss to Cleveland precisely because he told Durant that the team needed him is now asserting that the Warriors do not need Durant. The evidence on that score is mixed. The Warriors won the 2015 NBA title without Durant and then they won a record 73 regular season games in 2016 before being upset by the Cavaliers in the Finals. Clearly, the Warriors are a championship caliber team without Durant--but Durant's arrival took the team to another level, as they captured back to back titles while Durant won the Finals MVP in 2017 and 2018.

Durant's decision after this season will reveal a lot about his priorities. The narrative up to this point is that he left Oklahoma City either because he thought that he could not win a title with the Thunder or because he thought that he had a much better chance of winning a title with the Warriors. If winning is Durant's top priority, then it would be hard to justify leaving a historically great team that has advanced to the Finals for four straight years and has won three championships. Unless the Warriors completely fall apart this season, it would be hard to say with a straight face that leaving Golden State improves Durant's chances of adding to his ring collection.

Perhaps Durant is planning to help form a super team in L.A. with LeBron James. While it could be argued that a James-Durant duo surrounded by a competent supporting cast is at least as good of a team as the Warriors sans Durant, how would it add to Durant's legacy to jump from one super team to another? That would just reinforce the valid argument that Durant is a frontrunner who takes the easy way out as opposed to embracing competition.

The Durant-Green feud is not something that should just be brushed over. There are issues/problems with the Warriors internally and that could not only affect the Warriors this season but it could impact Durant's decision. That being said, at this point there is every reason to believe--based on the Warriors' body of work--that they will overcome these issues, win another championship and re-sign Durant. It would be an odd look if Durant sabotages this season to in some way justify leaving the Warriors, though some might suggest that LeBron James did just that--at least when he quit during the 2010 playoffs prior to the infamous "Decision."

The Warriors at their best play a beautiful brand of team basketball that is a joy to watch--but I would have much rather watched the Warriors battling the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook Oklahoma City Thunder for several years than have watched Durant jump to a great team to make that team even greater. Similarly, I would much rather watch Durant face James as opposed to joining forces with him. The All-Star Game and Team USA provide us with opportunities to see rival superstars on the same team but during the regular season and the playoffs I would prefer to see them battle each other as opposed to all being on the same squad. I suspect that many if not most NBA fans feel the same way.

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:56 PM



At Sunday, November 18, 2018 1:53:00 PM, Blogger jackson888 said...


Good analysis, as usual...

In terms of purely basketball play, I am with green on this one. Durant just missed a pull up 3 previously, and Thompson had a hot hand going for the last few minutes. Green rebounded the ball, with about less than 6 seconds on the clock left, and dribbled downcourt toward the middle. Durant and Thompson are supposed to fill the lanes. Did they do that? Will green be surrounded by 4 clippers and turned the ball over if both filled the lanes?

At Sunday, November 18, 2018 6:22:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Thank you.

Shaq made a good point: if Durant had approached Green differently (instead of screaming and clapping his hands) the situation probably would not have escalated. Whether or not the wings filled the lanes, Green should not dribble into a crowd and lose the ball.

At Monday, November 19, 2018 10:42:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, what exactly is GS players/front office's problem with KD? Or is this still a secret? Who else is upset with KD?

It's no secret Green acts like a spoiled brat and isn't exactly a model citizen. Sounds like he's jealous to me.

At Monday, November 19, 2018 1:58:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The problem is (1) the belief that Durant is going to leave after this season and (2) the belief that Durant is focused more on himself than on the team.

At Monday, November 19, 2018 4:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That shouldn't be a problem, especially if Green and others think they don't need him. Green is lacking focus. And I haven't seen KD focusing on himself more than his team, but it's possible.

I don't see a problem with KD being a frontrunner, regardless if we prefer it or not. And most of the all-time greats had super teams. KD's place in nba history has been greatly enhanced since 2 years ago solely because he joined the best team in the nba, along with taking best player on the team honors away from Curry, even with the team being Curry-oriented. Though much easier to win on GS than OKC, GS was only one half away 2 different times from not winning last season.


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