Draymond Green

Love him or not, irresistible Draymond is winning at game called life

NBC Universal, Inc.

He is charming, belligerent, discerning, unhinged and one of the most polarizing athletes of the 21st century. He’s irresistible to those who get to know him.

So, when Draymond Green appeared on my TV screen this week, I couldn’t help but laugh. Out loud.

He’s doing it again. Winning. The man whose primary occupation is listed as forward/center for the Golden State Warriors continues to beat the snot out of a game that’s supposed to be complicated.

The game of life.

Has anyone so prone to verbal and physical outbursts in public ever been given so much license, liberty and love?

The world can’t get enough of Green. His popular podcast, “The Draymond Green Show,” is an award-winner. If he’s not promoting Subway sandwiches, he’s pitching Kia automobiles. Eight months after he punched a teammate, the NBA reached out offering a role in a jocular video skit promoting the inaugural Play-In Tournament. He, of course, accepted.

“They called me and at first I wasn’t sure,” Green told me last November. “But as I thought about it, about what it would mean to the In-Season Tournament and the league – which we’re all a part of – I was like, ‘Let’s do it.’ I’m glad I did it, too, because it’s dope.”

And now here we are. Four months after Green was suspended indefinitely for an escalating pattern of violence, he is on the set of TNT’s typically whimsical and sometimes informative “Inside the NBA.”

Green over the last two days offered many insights, some more trenchant than others. There was his critical analysis of Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert’s futile efforts to defend Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokić. Calling out the poor defensive effort of Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton. The firm belief that the Dallas Mavericks will win its Western Conference semifinal series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The reaction of the TNT audience, at least those opining on social media, has been predictable. Some insist Green makes them sick. Others enjoy the effervescence he brings to the proceedings.

If this seems familiar – and it certainly is to the Warriors – you’ve been observing the wild ride that has been Green's 11 seasons with Golden State.

It was four weeks ago that coach Steve Kerr, reminded that he considered Green’s quick ejection in the March 27 regular-season game at Orlando to be “unforgivable,” acknowledged his change of heart.

“And yet I forgave him,” Kerr said, his face registering resignation.

The unforgivable was, in this instance, forgiven in about 24 hours. Sometimes it takes longer.

The Warriors have forgiven Green six or seven times that we know of and probably a few occasions that never reached the eyes and ears of the public. It might seem twisted, but this can happen with real love.

“The number one thing I would say is, if we decided he wasn't worth it, you know, then we would have moved off him years ago,” Kerr said last month. “But he's worth it and he's worth it not only because of the banners that are hanging out there, because he really is a wonderful human being.

“He is somebody who I love deeply. Who I care for, and in some ways, I love him because of his flaws. Because he's so human.”

Golden State general manager Mike Dunleavy, asked last month about Green's future with the Warriors, conceded that he “can’t imagine a scenario where he’s not back.” 

That is because each time the Warriors have pondered the idea of closing the door on Green, they hold it open.

They know why. He is a proven winner. Golden State was 11 games over .500 (33-22) with Green this season, 13-14 without him. And it’s reasonable to believe the team wouldn’t have four championships without the most versatile defender of his generation.

“We won over 60 percent of the games he played in this year,” Dunleavy said. “So, you know how meaningful he is to winning. And he'll continue to do so.

“As far as the other stuff, part of it I think is managing him, Steph and Klay (Thompson) as they age. These are long seasons. These guys have been through a lot. We've got to manage the emotional, the mental, the physical stress, and the fatigue these guys take on. And that will be a part of the process moving forward.

“But I think Draymond, I think he's in a great place mentally, just evaluating him, observing him over the season, after the suspension. I think he's learned from it, I think he's better, and we'll continue to work on that stuff and have it on top of mind.”

Green has the innate ability to connect on various levels with a disparate collection of people. His collection of friends span every stripe. He can disarm as quickly as he can alienate.

He entered the NBA as a second-round draft pick and has taken that status into orbit by being an essential element of the winningest team in the NBA over the last 10 years. He created a pulpit, above which sits a neon marquee.

It is a masterclass in exploiting his athletic performance and his generally provocative persona.

There are those who love to hate Green. And those who at times hate that they love him. Those who matter most always want him.

Thus, there is Green on TNT giggling alongside Charles Barkley, debating fellow panelist Kenny Smith, trying to box in Celtics star Jayson Tatum in a postgame interview.

What Green has is a gift. Don’t hate him because he’s so good at the game.

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