Less than a week ago, the Golden State Warriors had 10-1, Stephen Curry seemed to have regained his mantle as the league's most valuable player, and the fourth N.B.A. championship in five years seemed like a formality.
These feelings suddenly looked like ancient history on Tuesday. The Warriors have lost two of three games, Curry has been removed indefinitely with a groin injury, and a discussion between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green during the second loss to 121-116 for the Los Angeles Clippers led to a suspension of a game by Green . , three-time All-Star and the 2017 champion of the year.
The suspension, which the team said was for "harmful conduct to the team," will cost Green about $ 120,480, but the ramifications can be much deeper. In his face, the suspension seemed to indicate that Durant's happiness, which is widely expected to leave the contract and become a free agent in this low season period, is the team's highest priority.
At a news conference prior to Tuesday's game against the Atlanta Hawks, General Manager Bob Myers declined to share details about the team's decision to suspend Green, but he denied it had anything to do with the status of the contract. Durant. He then acknowledged that tensions increased from time to time, even for a team in the midst of a dynasty.
"People think we're a perfect place – we're not," he said.
The last argument between Green and Durant seemed relatively innocuous as it unfolded.
In the final seconds of the regulation on Monday night, Green took a defensive rebound and dribbled the ball to the court with the score tied. Durant, the winner of the last two finals M.V.P. prizes, hit aggressively at Green, hoping for a pass and an opportunity to put a winning shot of the game. But Green held on and stumbled on the floor over time, sending the game to overtime.
In the huddle, Durant seemed to confront Green about the decision, and the two argued. The Warriors were outscored 15-10 in overtime and dropped to 11-3.
Shaun Livingston, a veteran Golden State guard, seemed to support the way Green handled the situation, saying the arguments were simply "team spirit" and dismissing the notion that Green had an obligation to move to Durant.
"Obviously, Dray had the turnover; guys might have thought they were open or they wanted basketball, I did not get it, "Livingston said." Things happen like that in sports, but it was nice to see a little fire, some excitement.
The emotional outbursts between Durant and Green are nothing new. Green recruited Durant to reach Golden State after the Warriors lost Game 7 of the 2016 N.B.A. finals for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but Green occasionally rejected Durant's attempts to return to his own style of play – more sunstroke and reduce ball movement – over that of the Warriors.
The tension between the two stars has been seen as inspiring David West's comments about the locker room drama after last year's finale, in which he told ESPN: "You have no idea. No clue This tells you about this team that nothing came out. "
Livingston was asked about West's comments at the time, and he did not deny that there were any problems. "Shoutout for Steve Kerr for dealing with all of our B.S. this year," he said of the Warriors coach.
For his part, Kerr also chose not to go into the details of the suspension by talking to reporters on Tuesday. When asked to compare the episode to a supposed fight between him and Michael Jordan, when they were both players of the Chicago Bulls, he eliminated both as typical occurrences for good teams.
"When you play at a very high level and it's competitive, things happen," he said. "Every team that I attended, things happened."
He then offered a moment of lightness, using a curse to insinuate that he had won the fight with Jordan.
While Myers and Kerr insisted no amount of drama, or any pending free agency from any player, could affect his team's approach, the perceived negative vibration surrounding the Warriors could end quickly as soon as Curry returned on Thursday. The point guard superstars seems to be a firm force on the court where his mortals 3 points spread out on the ground and out of him, where he deals well with Green and Durant and avoids getting involved in their fights.
Kerr said that after Monday's loss, recovering Curry is that the whole team needs to put their offense in order.
"Everything changes without Steph," Kerr said. "He's one of the best offensive players in the game's history, so you take him out and they do not have to worry about that."
To make things back to normal on the court seems inevitable. But with a player like Green, who is known both for his long memory and for his protection, the team's decision to punish him may come as negotiations begin to hold the two-way star at Golden State beyond next season. There is a chance that this will help them keep Durant in July, but that may be a factor in their conversations with Green 12 months later.
Myers said that Green and Durant have not yet talked about suspension, but he said he thinks their shared love for the game could take them beyond, at least in the short term.
"It's really about winning," he said. "Both love to win and both love to play basketball. These are powerful things to have in common. "