FOX Sports NBA Writer
You knew this was coming.
You heard it when Draymond Green said on his podcast in January, “I’m not myself.”
It’s been seen every time Steph Curry has walked the court dejectedly and chewed on his mouthpiece this postseason.
You really believed it when Klay Thompson collapsed in Game 6, where he usually shines.
This time the Golden State Warriors couldn’t make it. This time the three boys, who always found a way to persevere, didn’t succeed. Everything was different this time.
The Warriors were eliminated from the playoffs Friday at Crypto.com Arena with a 122-101 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals. It was the first time since 2014 that Curry, Green and Thompson lost a series to a western conference team.
Now, many questions arise for the franchise that has dominated the NBA for the past decade, reaching the Finals in six of the past nine years and winning four championships.
What will Green do with his player option? Will this be Bob Myers’ last season as general manager? Will Thompson get a contract extension? Have Jordan Poole’s issues this postseason cornered him?
Warriors coach Steve Kerr acknowledged that this variant of the Warriors “maximized their potential”.
However, when asked to consider what could happen in the future, he stressed that he still firmly believes in the key elements of his incredible past.
“I think it’s probably too tenuous for me to think about right now,” Kerr said of the team’s upcoming decisions. “The only thing I want to say is that Draymond, Klay and Steph, our core people, still have a lot to offer. There’s still a lot in the tank. I thought they all had great seasons.”
“It might not end with a good result. But all three guys are still high level players and I still feel like this team has championship potential. We didn’t make it this year. But it’s not the end of the rope.”
Green has a $27.5 million player option to remain with the Warriors for the 2023-24 season. If he refuses, he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
When asked about his future plans, Green didn’t mince his words.
“I want to be a warrior for the rest of my life,” said Green, who had nine points, nine rebounds and three assists on Friday. “I want to go out with the same guys I went in with.”
Green however said Andscape that he hasn’t made a decision yet and will be evaluating his options with his agent, Rich Paul.
If Green left, it would be the end of an era. He’s been the heart and soul of the team since the Warriors picked him as their 35th overall pick in the 2012 draft, the guy who used his words, brave play and unbridled determination to lead the Warriors to championships.
What defines Green is his fire.
But he put himself in an incredibly difficult position earlier this season. He beat Poole at practice. The video was leaked to the world. Since then he has had to walk the incredibly fine line of being fiery but not being too fiery.
“I think a lot of our shortcomings this year are my fault,” Green said on his podcast in January. “Why is it my fault? Because I wasn’t the leader that I am and need to be for this team. And the reason I wasn’t that leader is also my fault.”
But of course Green managed to turn things around. After being eliminated in Game 5, he had 20 points and 10 rebounds.
And after Game 6, Green said he’s grown a lot this season. He’s learned to be patient, pick his spots and act when things don’t go his way.
“This year has helped me as a person as much as it has helped me as a basketball player,” Green said.
In addition to the very public incident between Green and Poole, the Warriors have had many troubles this season. It’s actually impressive that they made it to the second round of the playoffs considering everything that went wrong. There were injuries. Andrew Wiggins was absent for more than two months for family reasons. They were out between the ages of 11 and 30.
But they fought their way into the playoffs. And then, in the first round, they became the first defending champion to come back from a 2-0 deficit and defeat Sacramento.
As far as the second round goes, the Lakers were simply the better team. And ultimately there were too many problems for them to handle.
Poole averaged just 10.6 points on 34.4 percent shots from the field and 26.7 percent from distance this postseason, a precipitous drop from 20.4 points on 43 percent shots and 33.6 percent from deep , which he averaged this season.
Not to mention, Wiggins suffered a fractured rib cartilage in Game 5 after colliding with LeBron James on a rebound. According to Kerr, he endured “a lot” of pain in Game 6 – not a good recipe for success for a two-way player tasked with protecting James this series.
Then there was the fact that both Thompson and Curry struggled with their shots in Game 6, with Klay scoring 3 for 19 from field and 2 for 12 from distance. And Curry finished with 32 points, double all of his teammates but needed 28 shots to pick them up.
You were tired. They lacked depth. There were no last-second heroics that could pull them out of the 3-1 series deficit they were falling into. The boys, who always seemed to find a way to persevere when it mattered, ended up empty-handed.
For a team so used to winning, staying so short in the postseason was breathtaking. The Big Three were all completely shocked. There will clearly be some changes.
But this much is certain: Curry, Thompson and Green each said they still firmly believe they could still become champions together.
Curry pointed out that they have a deep trust in each other and that they will “compete until the wheels fall off.” And when asked if they still had what it takes to go all the way, Thompson said, “I totally believe that.”
But ultimately the choice is now in Green’s hands.
Together, these guys created the NBA’s youngest dynasty. Together, they were the perfect ingredients for a recipe that wowed. Together they were unstoppable.
And even though their run has finally stopped, they have no doubt that together they could do it again.
“They said we couldn’t do it again last year, we did it,” Green said. “They said we were going to miss the playoffs this year, we did it. But guess what? We don’t win moral victories. So we lost. It wasn’t a championship group in its current form. But we have masters. We” “We are made of champions.”
Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She has previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.
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