Photo credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty

Draymond Green is the straw that stirs the Golden State Warriors’ drink, and that is precisely the problem, posits an ESPN deep dive into Green and the Warriors. All last season, small instances of Green simmering—chasing triple-doubles, yelling at his teammates—were reported, but mostly filed away under “Draymond being Draymond” as the Warriors marched to the NBA record for regular-season wins. In the playoffs it all boiled over, with an intense locker room screaming match, repeated attacks on opponents’ testicles and a subsequent suspension, the NBA Finals loss, and a summer punctuated by an arrest for assault and a mis-sent dick pic.

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As author Ethan Sherwood Strauss tells it, though, behind the scenes of these public outbursts was an immense amount of friction. With coach Steve Kerr missing the first half of the season with complications from back surgery, there was a power vacuum filled mostly by Green’s brashness. He big-timed interim coach Luke Walton and repeatedly got after teammates, especially mild-mannered Klay Thompson. There are also hints of excessive partying.

The tension that runs through the entire piece is that the Warriors won 140 of 164 regular season games the past two seasons, were minutes away from back-to-back NBA championships, and added the second-best player in the NBA to their team this offseason. Whatever bullshit Green is up to can’t really be negatively affecting the team, unless you think the Warriors would’ve won 80 games. Maybe you think he lost them the NBA Finals, but that doesn’t quite follow as it took many people failing to blow a 3-1 lead, and Green played a sublime Game 7 while his teammates shat the bed.

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Perhaps more consequential than the gossip in the story—and man is it chock full of fascinating anecdotes, like Marreese Speights asking “If somebody put they balls on your head, what are you supposed to do?” and a cop with a hand on his gun ready to bust into the Warriors’ locker room after overhearing Green screaming at his teammates—is how that gossip exposes fault lines within the Warriors organization.

The Warriors are frequently described as having a wonderfully egalitarian culture, in which everybody is valued and put in a position to contribute to the organization. This framing is used to explain their smooth and unselfish offense, how a little-known assistant’s suggestion was implemented and helped turn around the 2015 NBA Finals, and how the front office came to be “light-years ahead” of the rest of the NBA. But on the subject of Draymond Green—who, destructive tendencies aside, is an utterly unique player who is absolutely integral to everything the Warriors do—the organization is less unified.

Owner Joe Lacob after Green’s suspension:

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Owner Joe Lacob, who due to his brashness is often internally referred to as the Draymond of his operation, sported a Green jersey at Game 5.

And GM Bob Myers:

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Myers, for his part, says he’s the wrong person to ask. “I have some blind spots for Draymond,” he says. “I know that’s probably not the right answer.

Contrasted with coach Steve Kerr:

And so it was that an hour before a win over the Lakers on Nov. 24, almost two months prior to his return to the sideline, Kerr visited with the team to deliver a speech on his four core values: joy, mindfulness, competition and compassion. According to team sources, the emphasis on compassion was meant as a message to Green.

And should Kerr attempt to counter Green’s excesses, there’s seemingly little organizational support. “He’s on an island,” one Warriors official says of Kerr.

In the grand scheme of things, everything is fine. Kevin Durant is still a Warrior, and they’re still going to win sixty-something games, and 28 other teams in the league would love it if their worst problem was managing an incredibly good and incredibly intense player. But if the Warriors’ march towards a couple more titles is derailed by anything other than injuries or LeBron James, the turmoil surrounding Draymond Green is a pretty good bet.

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[ESPN]