Since before training camp opened, the Warriors — players and management — have been mentally prepared for this being Kevin Durant‘s last season with the team (Durant is expected to opt out next summer and become a free agent).
That doesn’t mean they want it to end. The front office, in particular, will do whatever it can to keep him. It’s just that everyone senses the reality.
That reality was pushed into the spotlight after the end of regulation in an eventual loss to the Clippers when Draymond Green chose not to defer to Durant and pass him the ball, instead trying to do it all himself (Green fumbled the ball away and the Warriors didn’t get a shot off). Durant called out Green for the decision (as did other teammates later), Green stood his ground and called Durant a “b****” and said he was making the season about himself with how he has handled his pending free agency.
Where does that leave the Warriors? Not in a good space, one veteran told Marcus Thompson II in a must-read piece at The Athletic.
“With what was said, there is already no way Durant is coming back,” one player said. “The only hope is that they can say this summer, ‘See, KD. We’ve got your back. We protected you from Draymond.’ ”
Hence the suspension, rather than just a fine for Green. The Warriors wanted the punishment to be public, not just internal. Just to show Durant they have his back.
It’s very likely not enough — and it very likely would not have mattered anyway. Whatever you may think Durant is saying on the court, the stage has already been set for next July. It feels like Durant wants to win one more title, then to go try to pad his legacy with his “own team” somewhere else.
The Warriors players, including Green and Durant, are professional enough to put all this aside to win. None of this means the Warriors are not still the heavy title favorites.
The challenge now for Steve Kerr and everyone else is to just keep focused, keep their eye on the Larry O’Brien trophy and not all the distractions. So, they will keep playing what happened down.
Source: Kurt Helin