Steve Kerr is choosing Draymond Green the person before Draymond Green the basketball player.
The Warriors coach spoke to reporters Thursday night at Crypto.com Arena ahead of his team’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers for the first time since the NBA suspended Green indefinitely following him striking Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkić in the face Tuesday night during Golden State’s 119-116 loss and is fully on board with the length of the league’s punishment.
Multiple parties, including the NBA, the Warriors, Green and his agent Rich Paul, believe the best course of action is keeping an open window for Green’s suspension, as well as his return, instead of placing a concrete number on how many games he will miss. Set suspensions, including this season, haven’t served their purpose.
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At the end of the day, Kerr’s focus is on making sure Green can utilize time and tools to be the best version of himself – in every facet.
“To me, this is about more than basketball,” Kerr said. “It's about helping Draymond. I think it's an opportunity for Draymond to step away and to make a change in his approach and his life, and that's not an easy thing to do. That's not something you say, ‘OK, we're going to do five games, and then he's going to be fine.’ The league did that. They did five games after the incident with Rudy [Gobert]. That's not the answer, to pick a number.
“The answer is to help Draymond, to give him the help he needs, to give him an opportunity to make a change that will not only help him, help our team, but help him for the rest of his life. It's not just about an outburst on the court. It's about his life. This is about someone who I believe in, someone who I have known for a decade, who I love for his loyalty, his commitment, his passion, his love for his teammates, friends and his family.”
Kerr is in his 10th season coaching Green. In the past decade, he has witnessed the unique greatness of his veteran forward. Kerr has seen firsthand the defensive dominance of Draymond, all eight of his All-Defensive honors, his four trips to the All-Star Game and the many ways he has contributed to the Warriors’ four championships.
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Without him, Kerr knows there’s a good chance the Warriors’ four most recent championship banners aren’t hanging from the Chase Center rafters. Green’s fiery passion has played a huge part in him having four rings. But there also has been a negative side to it all, especially recently.
Green has played 15 games this season and has been ejected three times, all for physical altercations. Over the last 14 months, he has punched his former teammate Jordan Poole in the face, stomped on Domantas Sabonis’ chest, shoved Donovan Mitchell in retaliation, put Gobert in a chokehold and smacked Nurkic across the face.
That’s not the version of a 33-year-old in his 12th NBA season that Kerr knows best, and loves at the bottom of his heart.
“We're trying to help that guy, because the one who grabbed Rudy – choked Rudy – the one who took a wild flail at Jusuf, the one who punched Jordan last year, that's the guy who has to change. And he knows that.
“Everything before that, over a decade of play, what are we really talking about? Right? We're talking about getting ejected for yelling at the ref or throwing a ball. But you look at the past year and what's happened, it's clear he needs the opportunity to change and that's what an indefinite suspension gives him the opportunity for.”
Less than a calendar month after grabbing Gobert by the neck, Green was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul for hitting Nurkic. Green’s latest incident occurred in just his sixth game after a five-game suspension for his actions in the multi-player skirmish between the Warriors and Timberwolves.
Kerr’s main objective right now is support, however that might look. Labels are easy to have placed upon someone, but not as easy to shed. The last thing Kerr wants for Green is for this to be how he’s ultimately remembered.
Whenever Green’s career does come to a close, Kerr’s hope is that this past year of frustrations are placed behind his player’s accolades, commitment to excellence, competitiveness and a legacy of being an all-time winner.
And Kerr feels Green will return from these troubling times on top, no matter how long he needs, but knows the reality of the current situation more than anything else.
“I’m confident that he can come out on a better side,” Kerr said. “I know him. He’s an incredible human being. He’s a very complex human being. In a lot of ways he’s incredibly loyal and passionate and competitive, and sometimes that same thing hurts him.
“Can he find that space to be on the floor and compete and bring it like he does and not cross that line? That’s what he has to do, and I believe in him. I think he’s going to be able to do it, but I’m not sitting here saying, ‘In a couple weeks he’ll be fine.’ That’s not how this works. He’s got a lot of work ahead.”