Immediately after blowing a 3-1 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green made a pair of phone calls from the Oracle Arena parking lot following Game 7. He called Bob Myers, telling the Warriors general manager to sign Kevin Durant, and then he called Durant himself.
We know this, because Green told ESPN’s Zach Lowe this. “It’s on you,” the perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate told Myers, via Lowe. As for Durant, “That was my very next call,” he said.
Or maybe not. Durant was asked about Green’s phone call during practice on Sunday, and he insisted that his phone did not light up after the Warriors’ season-ending loss. From Kurt Helin for ProBasketballTalk:
“That’s false. A hundred percent false,” Durant said Sunday.
Pressed to explain the timeline then, Durant passed saying he wanted to stay in this moment, not the past.
“I’ve been talking about this all season,” Durant said. “Like, I’m tired of it. At this point I’m not mad or anything, but I’m just saying at this point in The Finals, I’m trying to stay where we are. I’m trying to stay locked in. And like it’s been the whole year now, so it’s over.”
It’s unclear if one of the teammates simply misremembers the phone call or if Green embellished the story to create a cleaner narrative for this Warriors season. For what it’s worth, Draymond responded to questions regarding his slights toward Cleveland by clarifying he meant every word of it and doesn’t say anything without a purpose, so it’s safe to say he won’t be issuing a retraction any time soon. (Or maybe he doesn’t want to admit that Durant didn’t pick up the phone.)
Regardless of if or when the conversation took place, Green also told Lowe that he remains “like 99 percent sure” the Warriors would not have lured Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder in free agency last summer if they had finished off the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 and become an immortal 73-win championship team unmatched by any other in NBA history.
Perhaps that’s why Green also told Lowe he didn’t regret his Game 5 suspension in last year’s Finals:
“That play?” Green said in a chat with ESPN.com, his voice rising. “I don’t regret it. Like, I just don’t. Some would say maybe I’m wrong for not regretting it. I don’t live my life with regrets. I move on. It was never like, ‘Oh man, I cost these guys a championship. Now, do I believe in my heart that I did cost us? Yeah, I do. Absolutely. But I still don’t regret that play.”
Green literally does not pull punches. When an All-NBA player says he doesn’t regret punching LeBron James’ groin, even though he thinks it cost his team a legacy-altering title, and that’s not the biggest takeaway from the discussion, well, you know you’ve got quite the eye-opening story on your hands.
Durant remained under contract with the Thunder until the clock struck midnight on June 30. The Warriors lost Game 7 to the Cavaliers on June 19. And NBA rules about tampering are fairly clear:
Any Player who, directly or indirectly, entices, induces, persuades or attempts to entice, induce, or persuade any Player, Coach, Trainer, General Manager or any other person who is under contract to any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiates or contracts for such services shall, on being charged with such tampering, be given an opportunity to answer such charges after due notice and the Commissioner shall have the power to decide whether or not the charges have been sustained; in the event his decision is that the charges have been sustained, then the Commissioner shall have the power to suspend such Player for a definite or indefinite period, or to impose a fine not exceeding $50,000, or inflict both such suspension and fine upon any such Player.
Now, we don’t know know the content of Green’s late-night postgame conversation with Durant after Game 7, so we’ll let you draw your own conclusions about what was said after he just talked to Myers about signing the 2014 NBA MVP. Let’s just say re-signing Harrison Barnes probably didn’t come up.
It’s long been believed the Warriors recruited Durant well before last year’s blown Finals lead. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on June 29, 2016, that Golden State’s players had been lobbying Durant to join them throughout the 2015-16 campaign, and “Draymond has been as adamant as anybody: ‘If we can get Kevin Durant, let’s get Kevin Durant, because you know why? We will win.'”
“Their players have been recruiting Kevin Durant all year,” Wojnarowski said on his podcast a little under a year ago, “and it goes back to early in the season when the Thunder were struggling. …
“And Kevin Durant, just like he was hearing from guys in Boston, Washington, different places, he was hearing from guys on the Warriors about, ‘Hey, you can come help come take the pressure off of Steph Curry. We need you.’ This is when they were running off win after win after win.
“They had him on their mind. He’s been on their mind, and it appealed to him a little. And some of it was text messages. It’s a lot of that, but the communication with some of the players in Golden State and Kevin, that’s not just starting now.”
Based solely on Wojnarowski’s report, the Celtics, Wizards and whichever other teams referenced above should be subject to the same tampering rules as the Warriors in this regard. The league has traditionally given players plenty of leeway on this issue, but few have been so willing to admit to it.
“I’m not allowed to call KD and recruit until July 1 or we get in trouble, it’s a big mess, and tampering and all this other stuff,” said Green. “So, did we talk? Of course you talk. We’re friends.I think everyone in the world talks to their friends … but it wasn’t like I was calling him every day recruiting him, because I couldn’t at that point.
“But once July 1 hit, I did. I had sent out so many texts to him over those last three days that I’m not sure the exact amount of number. I can’t even give you a ballpark. I just know it was probably too many. But it worked, so I’m all right with that.”
Green went on to tell DraftKings of a potential conversation with Durant prior to free agency, “If I was, can’t nobody do nothing about it,” and, “At the end of the day, I’m going to talk to who I want to talk to when I want to talk to them.” Which, if true, the NBA might as well not have rules against tampering.
On top of the threat of potential fines or suspensions for Green and the Warriors — neither of which is even likely, especially during the Finals — there is the public perception that comes with conceding to that phone call with Durant immediately after losing Game 7. You could sense a tweet like this coming:
"Draymond. Show us how far you went after the game before you begged KD to come help you beat LeBron"
— Boogie Bousins (@bansky) June 8, 2017
But, if we learned anything from Green’s conversation with Lowe, it’s that he really doesn’t care what anybody else thinks. The Warriors added Kevin Durant, and there’s nothing the NBA can do about it.
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