Strength In Numbers? Not So Much

When the marketing department of the Golden State Warriors came up with the slogan Strength In Numbers it was a seamless fit. The Warriors synergy was a socialist’s fantasy, each man as valuable as the next. Absent an upper or lower class, as a whole the Warriors were no greater than the sum of their parts. The team, as they say, is the team. Collective sharing is what made them unique, not to mention egos outside the room. They were, in a sense, what we all wish we could be but often fall short. Less me. More you. For three years, it has been the dominant theme to the Warriors success, their system of he’s not heavy, he is my brother.

When Draymond Green cost the Warriors a NBA title to cap off their perfect season because inexplicably Green couldn’t keep his emotions in check and was suspended, the Warriors GM Bob Myers had exit interviews once their heartbreak was on record and the Cavs were celebrating. As every GM in the league does, Myers exit interviews was to give the players a chance to reflect. He asked each one of them about Draymond Green and what happened in the Finals and what did they think of Draymond now. Every single Warriors player agreed in principle without blinking. They accepted Draymond as their teammate, did not hold a grudge, did not blame him.  They won as a team. They lost as a team. They were expecting and happy to begin the next season (2016-17) with Green as a treasured member.

It was Mike Tyson wisdom put to the grandest of all tests: Everyone has a plan until they get punched. The Warriors were punched and the often-volatile Green was still part of the brotherhood.

It feels oddly peculiar that Draymond Green would be suspended, two years after he cost the Warriors the NBA title, and all because he said a bunch of offensive and over the line comments to a teammate. It is a NBA precedent.

Teams suspend their players for things like choking the coach or being overly defiant and almost never is it an All-Star punished like Draymond Green was. NBA culture demands that stars have a different set of rules. Michael Jordan slapped Steve Kerr and life went on; it was barely a story. If it happened today with Jordan and Kerr not much would have changed from the original outcome except a public apology on social media. Jordan’s star power is too extreme. So the Green suspension feels awkward and particularly out of left field, unless he had been previously warned.

We had been previously warned.

In Oklahoma City, Draymond Green lost his mind in 2016, threatening anyone and everyone in his way. ESPN reporter Lisa Salter was so nervous she had arena police check up on everyone in the Warriors locker room. Then, after the Warriors won the title in 2018, David West told reporters he was shocked the Warriors were last man standing considering what happened in the locker room that season (2017-18). KD vs. Draymond was the natural conclusion.

Kevin Durant has signed minimum length deals during his Oakland stay. Draymond is in it for the long haul. Durant is the Warriors best player. Draymond is their heart player. Commitment is a Draymond Green thing. He stayed at Michigan State for all four years. Durant stayed at Texas for one year. Durant and Green are oil and water; they do things differently. The blowup wasn’t a surprise when so much is riding on this three-peat season. The Warriors are trying to be iconic.

The Warriors front office in trying to side with the best player of the team and not the soul of the team are walking a slippery slope. Klay Thompson told the team after the Green temper tantrum that the only way they could lose is if they beat themselves.

The Warriors will beat themselves by letting this wound turn into a scar with tissue that can’t be cut. It’s dangerous while at the same time not a big deal. It doesn’t take much for team chemistry to fracture and for sides to be drawn and everyone resolute in their corners. It doesn’t mean the Warriors won’t make the playoffs, just that they won’t win the Finals. There is the big picture and this small little thing and how they play off of each other will tell us how much oxygen is left in this Warriors dynasty.

Kevin Durant is back to back Finals MVP, an unguardable talent who changes the Warriors. Green may have told Durant in his tirade that the Warriors won without him but his problem with KD is that KD is treating the Warriors like his personal fling. He’s not really into them. When he’s tired of them, he’ll just move on.

Social media has blown it all up because what other drama befalls Golden State other than a Steph Curry injury? This is the best the Warriors can do, this messy dysfunction drain and it will be a storyline all year, not just Durant’s fickleness and his brother’s penchant to narrate the disaster that may be coming, nor Green’s passionate outbursts, but this is what happens to a team that is supposed to be perfect. They are human and for a moment we are all stunned. Eventually, they get on each other’s nerves. Without a true contender to fight, the Warriors fight themselves.

One more thing. Strength In Numbers is a slogan for fans. It has zilch to do with basketball. Strength has nothing to do with numbers. Strength has to do with pride, accountability, acceptance and respect. It’s like that Tyson line about taking a punch and then having a new plan. The Warriors new plan is to mend fences. And quick.