OAKLAND -- Though the Warriors, understanding it is part of the package, have endured several emotional outbursts by Draymond Green, the latest left them no choice but to respond as emphatically as they did.
Their one-game suspension of Green -- “for conduct detrimental to the team” -- came after the Warriors reviewed the squabble that occurred between he and Kevin Durant in Monday night's 121-116 loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles.
The Warriors are trying to protect their culture of openness and inclusivity, which has been one of the key ingredients to their historical success.
Nobody tests the limits of that culture more than Green, whose passion can be as trying as it is necessary. His heart is in the right place, even when his tongue seems out of place. Even in those moments when the Warriors don’t like his demeanor, they still understand his importance. He’s an essential component to the team’s four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, with three titles to show for it.
Put another way: If Green wasn't a great player, there's no way he would have been tolerated for this long.
This time, however, there was too much evidence against him to dismiss. Green might have had the right idea, but he executed it poorly and compounded the problem by vehemently defending his questionable decision.
The Green-Durant dispute was touched off by the events of the final seconds of regulation against the Clippers.
When Green rebounded a Lou Williams miss with a little more than five seconds remaining, Durant clapped for the ball. Green instead raced up court, hoping to create something before the Clippers could set their defense.
There is no question that the Warriors' best option was to put the ball in Durant’s hands, to give him a chance for a winning shot.
He never got the ball. Clippers guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander poked away Green’s dribble with about two seconds left, and the horn sounded without the Warriors getting a shot.
Durant was furious. Green was defensive. They argued on the bench and continued to bicker as they took the court for OT. There are conflicting reports whether there was a confrontation in the locker room afterward.
“S--t happens,” one source said.
“Nothing more than conversation happened,” according to another.
Something happened, and suspending Green for Tuesday night's home game against the Hawks suggests it was enough for the Warriors to take significant action.
This is the first time the Warriors have taken such a strong stand. Why now? There are a number of possible explanations.
One, they wanted to send a message to Green.
Two, they didn't like the optics of two stars openly bickering.
Three, they felt Green’s defense was overheated to the point of disruptiveness.
Four, they felt Durant had a stronger and more rational case for being upset.
Five -- and it’s a big one -- is they want to do all they can to salvage their relationship with Durant, who's expected to exercise his right to become a free agent in July.
For the Warriors to be their best, having Durant and Green on board is crucial.
In the end, the suspension was the right call. I’d be surprised if Green doesn’t, at some point, perhaps after his blood stops boiling, reach the same conclusion.