“He blew His winds, and they were scattered”

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Perhaps you’ve heard of the Spanish Armada, that enduring example of royalist hubris in which King Philip II of Spain attempted to brandish the world’s greatest navy in 1588 before his ex-sister-in-law, England’s Queen Elizabeth I, in an invasion of her country but wound up embarrassing himself when that navy failed to defeat its opponents as it wound a curious route around the British Isles. England readily disposed of Spain, and a family feud had turned into an international conflict. Habsburgs, amirite?

Except, well, that’s not quite how that went. More central to the collapse of the Spanish navy seems to have been the weather, especially in the Bay of Biscay. It had essentially dilly-dallied its way into misfortune, the Grande y Felicísima Armada[1], and England had been prepared enough to take advantage of a weakened fleet at that time.

What you don’t often hear about is the English counter-Armada of 1589, a more catastrophic defeat for the aggressors. The original Armada, while a shocking defeat and failure for Spain, did not noticeably loosen Philip’s grasp on the Spanish crown, nor did the counter-Armada force Elizabeth into ceding control of the English Channel or her advantageous trade relations with the Netherlands. Eventually, there was a peace treaty, and that was that.

I know not against what weapons the Golden State Warriors could conceivably fall in this NBA season’s playoffs. After three championships in four years, a fourth in five continues to seem inevitable. All season, the only possibilities that the Warriors could lose rested on two questions: whether they could remain healthy, and whether they could remain out of their own way.

Enter Draymond Green[2]. And, well, also Kevin Durant, but he’s playing at an MVP-level, and that is currently central to the biggest question the Warriors have faced since this run of titles began. Draymond, of course, earned himself a suspension earlier this season for inciting a massive argument between himself and Durant over the latter’s forthcoming free agency next summer. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, he is also having his worst season since 2014[3], when he was merely the shadow of the Dancing Bear, playing under a head coach who did not know how best to deploy or temper him.

All of this comes just as Green himself is inching toward free agency, in 2020. Depending on your particular choice of noun, Draymond is the heart, the engine, the lungs, the allspice, the good tie or the rotten apple of the Warriors and has been since Steve Kerr slotted him into the starting lineup in their first championship season together.

He is also going to turn 29 in March and has shown distinct flashes of losing physicality. Being that he is what enables various iterations of the Death Lineup to roll, and being that Draymond Green does not seem like the kind of guy to leave any money on the table, this is a problem.

Between Durant’s and Klay Thompson’s free agencies, as well as the massive tax hit the Warriors expect to incur as they move into their new stadium across the San Francisco Bay, plenty of people are already writing off Draymond as the odd man out. Wild Trade Machine propositions began popping up the day after Green and Durant got into it on the bench over, it seemed at the time, Green’s choice of shot selection.

Green’s performance in a primetime game against, of all people, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers placed a spotlight on him; he was thoroughly outplayed by James, Kyle Kuzma and, ahem, Ivica Zubac. After playing himself to respectability as a shooter, defenses are sagging way off of him, not taking him or his 22% stroke from distance seriously.

At some point, despite Joe Lacob’s best efforts at creating a traveling basketball TED Talk, this was going to end, and the Warriors were going to return to this planet. Some combination of contracts, age, ego and bad luck was always eventually going to converge, just as a similar combination, with good in bad’s place next to luck, allowed this team to happen in the first place.

Whether Kevin Durant decides he doesn’t want to stick around for another year of collective indifference, or Klay Thompson suddenly decides he’d like to be THE MAN in Atlanta or wherever, or either of them just don’t want to see Draymond Green’s face on a daily basis anymore, something has already started to crack, and it’s only a matter of time before the burst.

We’re not there yet, but it took the Spanish Armada shooting themselves in the foot for other navies to convince themselves they had a chance. It would still take a massive series of follies for the Warriors not to emerge as champions – they don’t even have DeMarcus Cousins back yet. Still, the end of this reign of dominance appears to be in sight, however dimly in the distance. It would serve Golden State’s best interests to ask the weatherman about which way the wind might blow.

*     *     *

[1] Literally: the “Great and Most Fortunate Navy” coming up unlucky

[2] Which is the primary historic takeaway from the Armada, the liberation of the Netherlands from Spanish rule, but that tends to get lost in the discussion of the Armada itself; we’re all watching what effect the intra-conflicts of the Warriors have on, for instance, Anthony Davis’ future, but we’ll remember Draymond’s and KD’s beef as being about Durant’s free agency more than anything else

[3] As is Klay Thompson, also with facing impending free agency, but: his slump is probably just that, because a career 42% three-point shooter doesn’t just suddenly forget how to shoot, and he has never given any indication he’d like to leave Golden State. Then again: hi, Kevin!

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