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  • Writer's pictureEvan Woods

The Fall of the Golden Dynasty

Ever since their Finals win in 2015, the Golden State Warriors have been a threat in the Western Conference, and a perennial title contender. The next season, led by two of the greatest 3-point shooters ever in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, they followed up with a record-breaking 73-9 regular season record. Unfortunately, an untimely suspension of Draymond Green in the Finals ultimately led to Golden State falling to LeBron and the Cavs. Going into the offseason, spirits remained high around the Bay Area, as many expected the Warriors to be right back in the mix the following season. What they didn't expect, however, was how they were going to do it. During the next off season, ¹ the Warriors astonishingly signed Kevin Durant to a 2yr/$54.3M deal that would end up punching their ticket to the Finals for the next 3 years. While this acquisition led to 2 more Finals victories for the Warriors, it would eventually lead to their downfall. Let me explain.


When the news of the signing of Kevin Durant first broke, the basketball world erupted as a former MVP and one of the top 2 players in the league was set to join the best team in the league. In a recent interview with Draymond Green, Durant expressed that he knew his decision to leave Oklahoma City would be heavily scrutinized. ² However his explanation for the move seemed to make sense, as he reasoned, "My game was growing so fast, I need[ed] to be in a different environment to see how far my game could go." He knew he would be cast as a villain, but he explained it was a basketball decision, and he felt that he fit in perfectly with what the Warriors were trying to do. As for all of the media back lash, he was also encouraged by his ability to, "... [not give] a f**k." He went on to say, "I would do that s**t a millions times. I didn't second guess myself at all, and I knew that's what I wanted to do." Over the next 3 seasons, the Warriors were able to win the next two Finals. It wasn't until KD's 3rd season in Golden State when we first started to notice their pedestal beginning to crack.


During the 2018-19 season, Kevin Durant claims to have become hyper-focused on his game - even more so than he usually is. ² In the aforementioned interview, he acknowledged that he felt more closed off from his teammates in year 3, however he did like that he was locked in on his work. Despite the potential good intentions of KD's recluse-ism, it caused a lot of tension in the locker room. Known to be moody and blunt, KD's personality clashed with those of his fellow Warriors. Ironically, he clashed with his interviewer, Draymond Green, the most. ³ The constant strain between teammates boiled over in a game against the Clippers, when Draymond didn't hit KD for a potential game winning shot. KD was wide open and wanted the moment, but instead Draymond dribbled the ball off his foot, sending the game into overtime. Prior to the extra period beginning, a fight between the two players had broken out in the Warrior's huddle. Heated words were exchanged when a frustrated Green questioned whether KD's commitment to the team was greater than his search for personal glory. The two had to be restrained by their teammates, and it was clear that there was something brewing on the sideline. Ultimately, we all know what happened next; Draymond was suspended and the team carried on. Last year, ⁴ he recounted that his sentiments toward Durant were, "This is it or this isn't it... [he] can't just leave the elephant in the room," meaning that Durant needed to show that he's 100% committed to the team rather than being out there for himself. KD did not respond kindly, and you could sense the immense grudge he began to hold against his team. Despite the turmoil, the Warriors still reached the Finals, although it came at the cost of KD's Achilles tendon. They would eventually lose to the Raptors, and Kevin Durant demanded to be traded. When he was traded to Brooklyn, the NBA scene again bursted with criticism. ² During the interview, KD again backed up his decision by saying, "I don't have any regrets, we did exactly what we were supposed to do," and later he expressed that they would have pulled off the three-peat if he hadn't had gotten injured. As time healed KD's Achilles tendon, it also healed his friendship with Draymond - otherwise he would never had agreed to the interview. What was most interesting about the interview was that they both agreed that it was not the fight itself that caused him to leave, but the way the management handled the situation.


According to both Draymond and KD, the management of this situation led to Durant's departure. ² Both Head Coach Steve Kerr and General Manager Bob Myers instructed Draymond to apologize for his harshness, and they made the head-scratching decision to isolate Durant from the rest of the team. What were they trying to do? Protect him from the bullies at recess? Draymond did intended on apologizing, however he was not going to be told what to say. ² Looking back on it, he added that he told his superiors, "Y'all about to f**k this up, the only [people] who can make this right are me and 'K'." He later went on to say, "I think they f****d it up," to which Durant retorted, "I think so too." The Warriors' Front Office and Draymond were not able to come to an agreement about the apology, so Green was suspended and the organization carried on like nothing had happened. As if a slap on the wrist and no real solution would actually rectify the schism. When an argument breaks out amongst amongst a team, it is best to defuse the situation as quickly as possible and keep it internal. With the altercation being caught on live television and the media taking the story and running with it, this was impossible for the Warriors. It also didn't help that KD was publicly alienated by his team, and at this point Draymond had not apologized. By now, the sports world began to realize that everything that glitters isn't gold, and the Warriors' pedestal had begun to crumble.


Although the Warriors were successful during Durant's last season with the team, they unfortunately fell short of their Championship aspirations, and by the end of the season, KD was ready to leave and not look back. ⁵ Psychiatrist Ben Goldacre once said, "You cannot reason people out of positions that they have reasoned themselves into." Durant had come to the reasoning that he was going to leave the Warriors that offseason, and there was nothing the team could do to convince him to stay. Despite the remaining year on his two-year extended contract, he had lost faith in the Warriors' Front Office, and there was no changing his mind. A monumental conflict had occurred, and the matter had just been swept under the rug, dissolving Durant's desire to be a Warrior. Continuing the modern NBA trend of superstars forcing their way off teams, Durant swapped coasts - leaving the Bay Area for Brooklyn and effectively ending the empire the Warriors had built over the past half-decade. Since Durant's exit, it has been a disappointing fall from grace for the Warriors. Over these past two years, the Warriors have failed to reach the playoffs; however much of that can be attributed to injury. Steph missed most of the '19-20 season with a broken hand, and Klay hasn't laced them up for the past two years due to consecutive ACL and Achilles Tendon tears. The Warriors should have a chance to make the playoffs next year with a healthy squad, and they could potentially package Andrew Wiggins and others in a trade to bring in reinforcements. It should also be interesting how the Warriors' Front Office responds to Draymond's candidness in the interview, as he didn't paint them in the best light. Perhaps Draymond's days with the team are numbered as well, and perhaps he deserves it for instigating the altercation that caused the end of their dynasty. One thing is for certain though; if the players had been left to solve the issue man to man, rather than the Front Office interfering, the Warriors Dynasty may have lasted longer and could have been amongst the greatest of history. And now we'll never know.


 

Sources:


¹ ESPN Internet Ventures. (2016, July 4). Kevin Durant to sign with warriors. ESPN. https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/16759826/kevin-durant-announces-sign-golden-state-warriors.


² B/R: Chips. (2021). Draymond and Kd Reveal What Really Happened with Warriors Fallout | Full Interview. YouTube. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3x6DjeJNd64.


³ Pawar, D. (2021, April 9). What happened between Kevin Durant Draymond Green? NBA stars Recall Infamous fight. Republic World. https://www.republicworld.com/sports-news/basketball-news/what-happened-between-kevin-durant-draymond-green-nba-stars-recall-infamous-fight.html.


⁴ Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) "'Dray wanted KD to say during the final season "this is it or this isn't it...you can't just leave the elephant in the room.'" 4/20/2020, 9:52pm. Tweet.


⁵ Goodreads. (n.d.). Ben Goldacre (author of bad science). Goodreads. https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1387272.Ben_Goldacre.










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