Warriors Suspend Draymond Green One Game for Spat With Kevin Durant

Less than a week ago, the Golden State Warriors were 10-1, Stephen Curry seemed to have regained his mantle as the league’s presumed most valuable player, and a fourth N.B.A. championship in five years seemed like a formality.

Those sentiments suddenly felt like ancient history on Tuesday. The Warriors have lost two of three games, Curry has been sidelined indefinitely with a groin injury, and an argument between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green during Monday’s 121-116 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers has led to a one-game suspension for Green, a three-time All-Star and the 2017 defensive player of the year.

The suspension, which the team said was for “conduct detrimental to the team,” will cost Green an estimated $120,480, but the ramifications could run far deeper. On its face, the punishment seemed to indicate that the happiness of Durant, who is widely expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent this off-season, is the team’s top priority.

In a news conference before Tuesday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks, General Manager Bob Myers declined to share specifics about the team’s decision to suspend Green, but he denied that it had anything to do with Durant’s contract status. He then acknowledged that tensions rose on occasion, even for a team amid a dynasty.

“People think we’re a perfect place — we’re not,” he said.

The latest argument between Green and Durant seemed relatively innocuous as it unfolded.

In the closing seconds of regulation on Monday night, Green grabbed a defensive rebound and dribbled the ball up the court with the score tied. Durant, the winner of the last two Finals M.V.P. awards, clapped aggressively at Green, hoping for a pass and an opportunity to put up a game-winning shot. But Green held onto it and stumbled to the floor as time expired, sending the game to overtime.

In the huddle, Durant appeared to confront Green about the decision, and the two argued. The Warriors were outscored by 15-10 in overtime and fell to 11-3.

Shaun Livingston, a veteran Golden State guard, seemed to back Green’s handling of the situation, saying the arguments were simply “team spirit” and dismissing the notion that Green had an obligation to pass to Durant.

“Obviously, Dray had the turnover; guys might have thought they were open or wanted the basketball, didn’t get it,” Livingston said. “Things happen like that in sports. But it was good to see some fire, some emotion.”

Emotional flare-ups between Durant and Green are nothing new. Green recruited Durant to come to Golden State after the Warriors lost Game 7 of the 2016 N.B.A. finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but Green has occasionally rebuffed Durant’s attempts to revert to his own style of play — more insolation and reducing ball movement — over that of the Warriors.

Tension between the two stars has long been assumed to be what inspired David West’s comments about drama in the locker room after last year’s finals, in which he told ESPN: “Y’all got no clue. No clue. That tells you about this team that nothing came out.”

Livingston was asked about West’s comments at the time, and he did not deny there were issues. “Shoutout to Steve Kerr for dealing with all our B.S. this year,” he said of the Warriors’ coach.

For his part, Kerr also chose not to get into the specifics of the suspension when talking with reporters on Tuesday. When asked to compare the episode to a rumored fight between him and Michael Jordan when both were players for the Chicago Bulls, he brushed both off as typical occurrences for good teams.

“When you play at a really high level and you’re competitive, things happen,” he said. “Every team I’ve been on, things have happened.”

He then offered a moment of levity, using an expletive to insinuate that he had won the fight with Jordan.

While Myers and Kerr insisted that no amount of drama, nor any player’s pending free agency, could affect their team’s approach, the perceived negative vibe around the Warriors could quickly blow over once Curry returns, as soon as Thursday. The superstar point guard seems to be a steadying force on the court, where his deadly 3-pointers space out the floor, and off it, where he deals well with Green and Durant and avoids becoming involved in their spats.

Kerr said after Monday’s loss that getting Curry back is all the team needs to put its offense back in order.

“Everything changes without Steph,” Kerr said. “He’s one of the best offensive players in the history of the game, so you take him out and they don’t have to worry about as much.”

For things to return to normal on the court seems inevitable. But with a player like Green, who is known as much for his long memory as he is for his rim protection, the team’s decision to punish him could come up when negotiations begin to keep the two-way star in Golden State beyond next season. There is a chance that it will help them keep Durant in July, but it could be a factor in their talks with Green 12 months later.

Myers said Green and Durant had yet to talk to each other about the suspension, but he said he felt their shared love of the game could get them beyond it, at least in the short term.

“It’s really about winning,” he said. “They both love to win and they both love to play basketball. Those are powerful things to have in common.”

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