As the Warriors went staggering down a road to nowhere last season, Draymond Green was blaming himself. His ugly outburst in training camp short-circuited their fabled joie de vivre, and they were hoping a new season with fresh faces would somehow expunge the 2022-23 NBA season from their minds.
And already, the goal of using this season to rinse away the bad vibes and recreate the joy of winning basketball is imperiled.
The Warriors have lost four consecutive games, dropping their record to 6-6, and Green will miss the next five games.
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The NBA on Wednesday suspended Green five games for his conduct during an altercation in a 104-101 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday at Chase Center. Draymond “escalated” an incident between teammate Klay Thompson and Minnesota forward Jaden McDaniels by rushing into the scuffle and wrapping his arm around the neck of Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert.
It was a modified chokehold, with no real threat to life, but the NBA described Green’s action as “an unsportsmanlike and dangerous manner.”
Even the “NBA hates Draymond” crowd will have a hard time justifying this, even while wondering if it’s possible that Draymond thought Gobert was unsportsmanlike and dangerous with his actions toward Klay.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are, nonetheless, facing another impediment directly related to Draymond’s conduct.
They had to know, after the veteran forward punched Jordan Poole in the face 13 months ago, that Draymond being Draymond, there would be more outbursts. Followed by more occasions of Draymond raising his personal “My Bad” sign, made in 2016.
There will, once again, be more such occasions as this season plays out. It feels inevitable, not only because of Draymond’s hair-trigger emotions but because opponents see that as an opening.
Four days before this Warriors-Timberwolves incident, which resulted in his fifth suspension, he was baited by Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell -- but only after Draymond gave the guard a gratuitous shove a few seconds earlier. Mitchell’s retaliation led to Green’s ejection.
His response on social media, essentially that he is being true to himself, cannot be encouraging to the Warriors, who understand his value better than any team in the league.
Green will be baited, and history says he will bite.
The Warriors are in a difference phase than that which existed a few years ago. The veterans are older and slower and fiercely devoted to proving they still have what it takes to win in the NBA. But the Warriors mystique, once a real thing, is gone. They are profoundly beatable, as their .500 record indicates. Younger and longer and more athletic squads – a description appropriate for most of the league – are sizing up the Warriors and seeing them as vulnerable.
They’re seeing Draymond miss layups and find tasks that once came easily suddenly more difficult. They’re seeing Klay Thompson struggling to stay in front of his defensive assignments. They’re seeing Chris Paul trying to find his way, and his shot. They’re seeing Andrew Wiggins producing at half his normal clip.
They’re seeing Stephen Curry somehow continue his brilliance and then giggling before asking themselves a question:
“Is that all y’all got?”
Twelve games in, Golden State’s answer is, “Well, pretty much.”
And now Green will join Curry on the sideline, where he will be Thursday night when the Warriors face the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chase. Curry is dealing with soreness in his right knee, which could keep him out until next week.
Draymond is dealing with a lighter bank account and some heavy emotions.
He’s also confronting the harsh reality of what his absence means to their chances of regaining the camaraderie that made the Warriors the envy of the league. Their chances to experiencing the joy of winning take a precipitous dip without his contributions.
The Warriors have 70 games remaining on their schedule. There are no easy wins. Not in today’s NBA. Not for them. Not with this roster.
But having a healthy and happy and available Draymond for, oh, 60 of those games would make a difference. It’s a lot to ask, but neither he nor the Warriors are going very far unless he finds a way.