SAN FRANCISCO – A five-game suspension behind him, Draymond Green sat at the podium Sunday and said he’ll play basketball as he always has. That’s all the Warriors and their fans have ever wanted.
Rarely is Green’s basketball performance a liability. He’s a superb defender and effective communicator. He can orchestrate the offense. His hoops intellect is savant-level.
“I’m going to play basketball the way I play basketball,” Green said. “The way I play basketball has gotten me here. The way I play basketball has brought me a tremendous amount of success, individually and from a team standpoint. So, I’m going to always be myself. I’m not changing that.”
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Fair statements all – except it’s not his game that is in question.
It’s Green’s conduct that has hurt the Warriors. It’s the source of six games lost to suspensions over a 24-game span dating back to the 2023 NBA playoffs. It’s also why he has been ejected three other times during that same span. The Warriors were 3-3 in games during which Green was suspended, 0-3 in games in which he was ejected. Teams that eat six losses for every three wins turn all eyes toward the lottery by February.
It’s Green’s non-basketball actions that must change to avoid such dips. No more opponents in headlocks or with his footprint on their chests. No more teammates feeling his fist, either. It’s an emotional adjustment, yes, but he understands it is necessary.
“I have to be on the court for my teammates,” Green said. “Our chances of winning drop dramatically if I’m not out there. So, I have to be better at being there as one of the leaders of this group. I’ve just got to find different ways. That’s the biggest lesson in it. You’ve got to be there for your teammates.”
Golden State Warriors
You’ve got to be there for your teammates. Green would be more available if he can adopt that tenet for the rest of the season – and for the duration of his contract. The Warriors might benefit from posting signage with these eight words all over Chase Center, from the practice court and weight room to the locker room and lounge.
Considering the timing and circumstances, and their 8-9 record, could there be a more appropriate rallying cry?
Green’s return Tuesday in Sacramento is, on paper, an opportunity for the Warriors to reset. They’ve lost seven of nine, and he either was ejected early or completely unavailable for five of those losses.
While during Green’s suspension, Klay Thompson’s shooting efficiency took an appreciable leap and Andrew Wiggins put up his first 30-point game, Golden State’s 118.7 defensive rating during those five games ranked 21st among the 30 teams over that span.
“Our defense instantly gets dramatically better with Draymond,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We know that.
“And then it’s a matter of finding the right combinations within the game. Finding combinations that are in rhythm and clicking. We’re searching for the best two-way version of our team.”
Though the Warriors can uncover successful combinations without Green, there is no doubt he is included in the best two-way version they can assemble. The Warriors don’t know their potential without Green, but they realize it’s limited. The potential with him, assuming good health throughout the roster, is the only way to determine their ceiling.
Which brings us back to behavior modification. The Warriors have no desire for Green to become a languid drone – as if! – but that he confines his prodigious energy to basketball matters. Grab the rebound and go. Yell after a great defensive play. Defend all five opponents in one 24-second possession. Bark, if he must, at a questionable whistle.
But don’t let another outburst force the NBA office to pull him apart from the team that needs him.
“Draymond has to find a way to not cross the line,” Kerr said. “I’m not talking about getting an ejection or getting a technical [foul]. I’m talking about a physical act of violence. That’s inexcusable.”
Green has had enough conversations with his longtime friend Joe Dumars, who also is the league’s chief disciplinarian, to know that further misbehavior will result in stiffer penalties.
His mission is to understand the distinction between the intensely competitive behavior that that makes him a great player and that which qualifies him as a ruffian and, therefore, unavailable.
“They’ve made it clear that they’re going to hold everything against me that I’ve done before,” Green said of the NBA. “That’s OK. I need to adjust where I see fit, where my teammates see fit, where my coaches see fit, where our front office sees fit – the people that I care about, that I trust. When I hear them say something, it means something to me. And that’s all the people [at Chase] in this grind every day.”
The Warriors, players and coaches and executives, have had their say. They want Green back. They’ll get him Tuesday. And this time, realizing they are a fringe playoff team without him, they’d like to keep him.