Draymond Green felt like he was having flashbacks.
When Green watched the first two parts of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary — focusing on the final season of the Bulls’ 1990s dynasty, during which the team knew coach Phil Jackson wouldn’t return, prompting the end in Chicago for Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and current Warriors coach Steve Kerr — he only wishes former superstar teammate Kevin Durant had been as upfront that last year was going to be his final year in Golden State.
“It definitely hit close to home,” Green said on Uninterrupted’s “WRTS: After Party” show. “I think what Phil did 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….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.”
Before leaving for the Nets last season, Durant never publicly hinted at where he’d play when his contract was up. His teammates were kept in the dark, too.
“That was kind of the elephant in the room,” Green said. “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.’”
The uncertainty triggered an infamous screaming bout between Green and Durant on the bench during an early 2018-19 game, in which Green questioned the future of the two-time Finals MVP, who was lambasted after leaving Oklahoma City to join the league’s best team in search of a ring.
Green claims if he knew Durant was leaving that the Warriors may have had a better chance to pull the NBA’s first three-peat since the Lakers (2000-02). But unlike Klay Thompson — who was also set to be a free agent — the media-averse Durant remained quiet.
“But 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.
“To be quite frank with you, you’re honestly the last person that has to answer the question because you don’t really say s–t. Like, you don’t say much to the media. If anything, you tell them to shut the f–k up. Well, I don’t tell them to shut the f–k 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. 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.”
Other than their dominance, the Warriors and Bulls don’t share much more in common. Unlike the Bulls, who were dismantled after winning their sixth title in eight years, Golden State still has Steph Curry, Thompson and Green. The Warriors dynasty may not even be dead yet, with Kerr still leading the core that brought Golden State its first title in 40 years.
However, with Curry and Thompson playing five games combined this season due to injuries, Golden State was a league-worst 15-50 when the NBA suspended play on March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s super dope seeing him in this documentary,” Green said of his coach. “Just kind of seeing the history, I remembered a lot of this stuff from growing up, and just to kind of see it replayed and know where he is today. And also to see the similarities in his coaching style and Phil’s or some of the things you could see, like, ‘Wow, he pulled some of that stuff from Phil and kind of added his own touch to it.’ Or to even hear his interview where he talked about ‘our rhythm isn’t the same.’ I’ve heard him say that a million times to us. And it sounded like he was just standing in our locker room coaching. That was super dope to me, just to kind of see him in that aspect.”
You could see Durant or Curry as Jordan, Thompson as Pippen, Green as Rodman.
“I think the one thing I got in watching this was some s–t just don’t change,” Green said. “I’m watching this, and it looked like you switched the head on some of the bodies, and you just switch the jersey. It’s the same s–t over again. In watching that, I learned more about Pip than I did necessarily about MJ. Obviously, MJ is the glorified one. We’ve kind of heard all of the MJ stories for years.
“But I learned more about Pip today than I did about MJ. Just that struggle, though, of trying to do it again and again and again. I’ve had all these conversations with our guys about keeping your foot on somebody’s neck, and you give someone that hope — you can even go to the series of us and the Cavs [in 2016], and all of a sudden, we’re up 3-1. All they need is a little bit of … Game 5, they was toast. They were toast coming into Game 5, but you get a little bit of hope, and that’s all you need to then move forward. So that’s kind of what that was reminiscent of is just giving somebody a little bit of hope. But I really learned a lot about Pip in these first couple episodes, more so than MJ.”
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