The Golden State Warriors were likely going to be favorites to win the 2016-17 NBA title championship before adding Kevin Durant this summer, but that acquisition has added a whole other level of expectations and scrutiny. Players, coaches, and analysts are all looking for potential cracks in a squad that looks pretty close to unbeatable. As of now, the consensus is that the biggest issue with the team could come in the often uneasy meshing of so many superstar talents. The Warriors are known for their camaraderie, but this is a challenge they’ve never had to face before.
This week saw the publication of the most convincing argument for the Warriors’ imperfection so far. Ethan Sherwood Strauss’s lengthy feature for ESPN The Magazine focuses on Draymond Green, Golden State’s hyper-versatile and outburst-prone heart. While the article’s headline goes a little far in naming Green a “problem” — 29 other teams would love to have the problem of an All-NBA talent who was the team’s best player in Game 7 of the NBA Finals — Strauss makes a solid case that the same qualities that make Green such a dominant force on the court also create problems for the Warriors as an organization attempting to move light years ahead of the rest of the league. The feature includes several instances of Green acting out, including regular dust-ups with All-Star guard Klay Thompson.
Thompson said at Warriors’ practice Friday that those stories did not bother him. However, he had strong words for one leaked comment from a team official about the Warriors playing like “cowards” once Green was suspended for Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Here’s the video:
Klay Thompson's biggest gripe is the anonymity with the "coward" quote directed at how GSW played in the Finals. pic.twitter.com/VUvkwETUKE
— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) October 21, 2016
Sam Amick of USA Today has the full quotes:
In the piece, which detailed the sometimes-difficult dynamic between Green and his Warriors’ teammates and coaches, an anonymous team official was quoted as saying, “The guys might be frustrated by his antics, but they had an opportunity to prove themselves without him in Game 5 (against the Cavs when Green was suspended) and they played like a bunch of (cowards).”
Thompson, his voice rising and his arms animated, clearly took exception to it.
“How are you not going to put your name to that quote?” he began. “It’s easy to point at someone and call them a coward, behind a shade or a shield you know? But why don’t you put your name to it, and then you can call us cowards. That’s fine. You can tell us that.
“But to say we played like cowards, and you’re not going to quote the guy who said it? That’s weak to me…That actually got under my skin, because I’m like, ‘You call us cowards but you’re not going to put your name to the (quote)?’ You know what I mean? You’re not going to quote who said it, just going to say ‘Oh, some executive said we’re cowards?’ Get out of here. That made me mad.” […]
“We played our hearts out that whole playoffs, the whole season, and then you’re going to call us cowards and not put your name on it,” Thompson said. “Get out of here.”
Thompson is known as a calm, borderline comatose presence, enough so that Durant joked about his lack of personality at his introductory press conference in July. So his animated response turned some heads.
It’s not hard to see why he was upset. We don’t know who made this comment, but any team employee calling players “cowards” is of note. The Warriors certainly didn’t cover themselves in laurels in their last three games vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers, but they should be able to assume that the people they work with have their backs.
Nevertheless, it’s fair to look at Thompson here and wonder if the reaction was stronger because the comments were in reference to an extremely embarrassing moment for the Warriors. Blowing a 3-1 lead continues to inspire jokes, memes, and criticism that aren’t going away any time soon. It’s understandable if he is a little tired of talking and thinking about it.
The Warriors are going to have to figure out plenty on the court, including how to protect the rim and their best lineups that involve the bench. But their biggest challenge this season is probably going to be dealing with the emotional toll of bouncing back from a tough end to last season and handling the immense pressure that comes with Durant’s arrival. The NBA season is long, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a few Warriors react like Thompson one or two more times before the season is done. It’s only natural to vent.
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