Friday, June 2 2023

You can debate whether Draymond Green’s actions warranted both an ejection and subsequent suspension, but what can’t be debated is the habitual line stepper would keep tempting fate until fate answered.

His suspension for a must-win Game 3 for the champions that could be the crossroads for the present and future of the Golden State Warriors somehow feels fitting. A raucous, desperate environment that Green played a part in developing and keeping hot won’t have him in it, and his teammates who’ve had his back through the years will have to answer the questions he created.

And if they don’t have the right ones, it could spell the end for this unexpected dynasty. It’s not hyperbolic, going down 0-3 spells extinction for every single NBA franchise — not just this year’s chance at a repeat but the Warriors as we’ve known them.

This year was as disjointed for the Western Conference as it was for the Warriors, which put them on equal ground with their competition. Green’s fire, intensity and individual motivation of using these playoffs to campaign for his next contract felt like an ace in the hole for those who believed the Warriors could emerge again.

And make no mistake, a Game 3 win could very well hit the reset button and bring Green right back in the cauldron for a pivotal Game 4 at Chase Center.

But why continue to keep playing a game of chicken — with the NBA, with your franchise and your teammates?

Because he’s Draymond Green, for better or worse.

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green reacts against the Sacramento Kings during their first-round NBA playoffs series at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on April 15, 2023. (Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports)Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green reacts against the Sacramento Kings during their first-round NBA playoffs series at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on April 15, 2023. (Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports)

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green reacts against the Sacramento Kings during their first-round NBA playoffs series at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on April 15, 2023. (Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports)

Green has been a great and unique figure for the NBA and even better for a four-time championship team that would not have any jewelry without him.

The league doesn’t have enough villains actually willing to embrace the role and carry the weight of being both a face and a heel. Walking that line has been part of the Green brand — it’s gotten him a podcast and a television deal with TNT. If he was homogeneous or bland, best believe neither would exist. And the Warriors as we know them wouldn’t be as compelling as they’ve been for nearly a decade.

They’d be boring. Steph Curry’s greatness is amplified playing next to someone like Green. Either Green is that figure on Curry’s shoulder telling him to unleash, or Curry is Green’s conscience on the rare occasion Green pulls himself back from the edge.

Green is a generational defender and the rings make his Hall of Fame case that much more secure. When he’s on, the Warriors are not only the greatest show on Earth, but also aesthetically pleasing to watch and unbeatable.

He defends at all levels, rebounds and directs, spraying the ball around for layups or transition 3s. To watch him in motion can sometimes be utterly breathtaking and inevitable.

But we’ve seen all these movies before, and like any great actor, there are a few films we’ve forgotten through the years. The Jordan Poole incident was an ugly black mark on the season and affected Green’s ability to be special on his own team, because of the trust that was seemingly fractured.

And the NBA has an unlimited dossier. Punching Poole wasn’t an official league matter, but you’d be a fool to think it wasn’t factored into the calculus. And even NBA executive vice president Joe Dumars, who’s been a mentor to Green since Green was a teenager, couldn’t use capital to give Green any extra grace because everybody has seen how close to the line Green plays.

It’s easy to point to Dumars playing on Detroit’s famed Bad Boys teams and view it through a line of hypocrisy or at least understanding of lines being crossed in intense situations, but like the great philosopher Slim Charles said, “The thing about the old days, they the old days.”

You can’t transport Green or the rest of us back to that great era, or wish this were a different league. And we’ve all known what this league has been about for some time, and how averse commissioner Adam Silver is to the appearance of another player-fan incident, no matter how intoxicating the environment is in this playoff series with Sacramento.

The Kings aren’t some friendly team willing to give the Warriors a good sweat. Just because their owner is a Warriors fan and coach Mike Brown was on the staff that helped bring three championships doesn’t mean they won’t be ruthless in their pursuit to beat them and advance to the next round.

It also means Brown knows this team in a way others don’t, even if the Warriors have been so visible through this run we all feel like we can dissect them better than most. So if the game plan was clearly to get under Green’s skin, to use the boisterous crowd in Sacramento to bring Green’s temper to a full boil, it came from a place knowing he would react.

“Why would someone try to bait him? Because he has a history of acting up,” a general manager told Yahoo Sports.

Hold his ankle, clutch, grab and hold — standard playoff basketball tactics from teams who are desperate to win. Yes, Green was grabbed by Domantas Sabonis and had been grabbed many other times.

But the defender who can be the master of locating that little strip of paint in the lane and keep his feet outside it without even looking down had a hard time extricating himself from Sabonis’ clutches — and not knowing how to free himself without landing on Sabonis’ full torso?

Green’s intelligence has made him great. Playing on that fine line has made him transformational. If we can all acknowledge his awareness at all times is among the best, then he can’t be given the excuse of “intensity” and “that’s just how he is” when this incident happens — followed by the display in front of the commissioner in attendance.

It was a confluence of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, yet again — and one has to assume his subsequent actions of inciting the crowd and postgame where he talked about the referees ignoring the tactics from the Kings didn’t help, either.

It wouldn’t be shocking to see the Warriors rebound and dust themselves off, go on a run and set up a great second-round playoff series against either the Lakers or Grizzlies.

But for Green and the Warriors, it could be one blow too many.

Source: Yahoo Sports


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