In the age of self-quarantine, ESPN’s 10-part magnum opus, The Last Dance, has provided sports fanatics with a much-needed escape from the chaos and uncertainty that consumes our everyday lives. But for three-time NBA champion Draymond Green, the docuseries—which chronicles Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls—hits a little too close to home.
After losing to the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors completely unraveled. To the surprise of no one, Kevin Durant defected to the Brooklyn Nets, Andre Iguodala was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, Shaun Livingston retired and Splash Brothers Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry have spent the entire season attempting to rebound from significant injuries; leaving Green as the last man standing on a team full of castoffs and vagabonds.
So with The Last Dance reopening wounds that haven’t quite healed yet, the three-time NBA All-Star had some shit to get off his chest on the latest edition of Uninterrupted’s “WRTS: The After Party.”
“[The Last Dance] definitely hit close to home,” Green admitted “Ironically, our season was the 20-year anniversary of that season. And we have a very important piece of our season, who was a piece of that season, which was [our head coach] Steve Kerr. I think [Bulls coach] Phil [Jackson] did what was great, which is acknowledge the elephant in the room. Because all year, if Phil doesn’t do that, all year everyone else is dealing with that somewhere. And whether it’s coming in questions [from the media], so now once you get these questions from the media, we’ve already addressed that as a team. We really don’t need to talk about that. And our season was a little different from the standpoint of it was contracts, but it was on players. It wasn’t necessarily the organization.”
Was that a thinly veiled shot at Kerr? It sounds like one to me.
Green also discussed how the weight of Durant’s pending free agency last season derailed team chemistry.
“So, for instance, Kevin took the one-year deal on his own. So that was kind of the elephant in the room,” he said. “And although Steve’s approach was like, ‘Hey, guys, let’s approach this year because we don’t know what next year brings,’ you’ve got Kevin’s contract, you’ve got [Klay Thompson]’s contract, and I kind of got thrown in that contract thing, although I had another year after that year, which was this year. And so that was kind of the elephant in the room, and although Steve would kind of hit on it, [saying] ‘Let’s just enjoy this year for what it is because we don’t know what next year holds,’ it didn’t necessarily carry the same weight because what should have happened was Kevin come out and say, ‘Hey, man, this is it, so let’s do this,’ or, ‘This isn’t it.’”
So is Dray basically calling Durant a coward for refusing to address the matter—to either the team or the media—and leaving that responsibility to his teammates? After months of navigating that contentious dynamic, it makes a lot more sense now why Green and Durant got into a heated confrontation in the middle of their final season together that would spell the team’s doom.
“You can’t just leave the elephant in the room, because what happened was the question came to us every day, like every time we spoke to the media, Klay and myself was asked about our contract,” Green said. “It was strictly due to Kevin, because while that was going on, Klay was saying, ‘I want to be a Warrior forever. I want to be here. We started this thing. This is where I want to be.’ I’m saying, ‘Yo, I want to be here for my career. We started this, we built this, I want to finish my career here with the guys I started it with.’ And then you kind of had Kevin, [saying] like, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do next year, and it don’t matter’; but it does matter, because you’re not the only person that has to answer that question.”
Green then proceeded to address Durant directly.
“To be quite frank with you, you’re honestly the last person that has to answer the question because you don’t really say shit. Like, you don’t say much to the media. If anything, you tell them to shut the fuck up. Well, I don’t tell them to shut the fuck up. I kind of have a conversation, and so I’m stuck answering that question all the time. And due to that, there was always an elephant in the room amongst us, as opposed to with [the Bulls], they didn’t have that elephant. [General manager Jerry Krause] had said it was Phil’s last year. Phil had told them this was the last dance. Mike already said, ‘Well, if Phil ain’t coming back next year, I’m not either.’ So everybody knew it was Mike’s last year.”
He continued, “They didn’t have that elephant. Whereas I think we had a huge elephant sitting in the room, and Steve was trying to address it as best as he could, but it was kind of out of his hands.”
I completely understand how frustrated the Warriors must’ve been while trying to remain focused despite such a huge distraction, but Durant was well within his right to dip for greener pastures if he felt inclined to do so. That’s the beauty of free agency, especially in the modern era. But had Durant said from jump that he was dipping out after the season, I find it hard to believe that it wouldn’t have created even more problems within the team. There would’ve been trade rumors and other nonsense all year, as the Warriors would likely attempt to cash in on Durant’s value instead of letting him walk for free.
How soon we forget about Anthony Davis’ ugly departure from the New Orleans Pelicans last summer, in which the seven-time NBA All-Star essentially quit on his team and was put on a minutes restriction in order to retain his trade value for the second half of the season. Is that the type of thing you’re really trying to be bothered with during a championship run?
Between Durant and his burner accounts, it’s only a matter of time before he either claps back or explains himself, but in the interim, you can watch Green’s interview in its entirety below.