Draymond Green tried to put Kevin Durant back in his place, and the Warriors flipped the script

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/teams/gsw" data-ylk="slk:Golden State Warriors">Golden State Warriors</a> teammates <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4244/" data-ylk="slk:Kevin Durant">Kevin Durant</a> and <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/5069/" data-ylk="slk:Draymond Green">Draymond Green</a> don’t always agree on everything. (Getty Images)
Golden State Warriors teammates Kevin Durant and Draymond Green don’t always agree on everything. (Getty Images)

The Golden State Warriors brass felt that Monday night’s confrontation between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green rose to the level that they had to choose sides, and they chose the impending free agent superstar over the All-Star whose versatility revolutionized small-ball, helping deliver the first of three titles in four years and a record-setting 73-win campaign before said superstar ever arrived.

The Warriors suspended Green for one game without pay, a decision that will cost the three-time All-Star $120,480 and may cost the organization even more. No matter how Warriors general manager Bob Myers and coach Steve Kerr couched the suspension as no more than a rebuke of Green’s language toward Durant — namely, that the former repeatedly called the latter a “bitch” — it was clear that they prioritized protecting Durant’s feelings over whether or not Green was actually right to call out KD.

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The vulgarity directed at Durant reportedly escalated well beyond “bitch,” which isn’t the best way to broach a sensitive subject. In the huddle between regulation and overtime and in the locker room after the loss also wasn’t the best time to address the issue, either. Green acknowledged as much to Stephen Curry in a conversation at his house on Tuesday, per The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson II, but neither error in judgment warrants neutering Green, nor does it mask the underlying points he made.

Those bullets, again according to Thompson:

Green took exception to how Durant addressed him. The exact dialogue couldn’t be recounted as it was said, but it began with Green immediately firing back.

Who the f— you talking to?

According to multiple sources, Green then went on to make it clear he’s been making plays for years. He reminded Durant the Warriors were winning before Durant showed up so he wouldn’t stand for Durant talking to him as if he were a scrub. Green accused Durant of making the whole season about him even though he was going to leave after this season. Green let out his frustrations about how Durant has handled free agency — keeping his options open and keeping the story alive, consuming the Warriors and their season with talk of what Durant will do next.

Find anything in there that isn’t true.

None of that addresses the event that actually ignited the argument. In retrospect, Green undoubtedly made a mistake, dribbling into traffic and losing the ball after grabbing a rebound in the final seconds of a tie game against the Los Angeles Clippers. But Green has earned the right to make such a mistake.

The Warriors brass is apparently comfortable excusing Durant’s behavior as a result. KD lagged behind the play, clapping for the ball, and then lambasted Green for not kowtowing afterwards. With Stephen Curry sidelined, Green is Golden State’s best playmaker, and there’s a chance, had Durant and Klay Thompson ran the wings, that the traffic jam in the middle might have opened enough for Green to make a play. Giving Durant the ball at that point was still probably the most efficient way to win, but it’s not like Green going for the gusto at the end of a mid-November game is equivalent to Quinn Cook choosing his own open look over one for Stephen Curry at the end of a Game 5 loss in the Western Conference finals (a choice, by the way, that the Warriors brass fully supported in the aftermath).

At media day, Durant conceded that signing another one-plus-one deal was designed “to keep my options open” in 2019 — a far cry from how Green (“Confident that I’ll be here for a long time“) and Thompson (“I couldn’t imagine myself being somewhere else“) have handled questions about their 2020 free agencies. And by choosing Durant on Tuesday, the Warriors signaled that they’re more OK with losing Green, who has been no less vital to the team’s success over the past four years.

That front-office decision could have far greater implications down the line. If whispers are to be believed, there are those around the organization who believe KD is already out. One player said as much on Tuesday, anonymously telling The Athletic, “There is already no way Durant is coming back.” Internet lip readers are even suggesting that Durant confirmed the same in the immediate aftermath of Monday’s exchange with Green on the bench, possibly muttering to himself, “That’s why I’m out.”

Then what? Green can leave in free agency the following summer, potentially having lost faith in a franchise that had previously stood by him and quietly fined him behind closed doors when he similarly lost his cool in the past. The organization showed its hand, revealing that when the deck is stacked against them, they would rather Green silence his emotions than risk hurting Durant’s.

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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