Accountability is apparently a one-way street for Draymond Green.
The 12th-year big man and four-time All-Star is nearly as synonymous with the Golden State Warriors' success as Stephen Curry is. He has been a key player on four NBA title teams, something very few players can claim in the modern NBA.
Something else very few players can claim? Being suspended five different times in 12 seasons. Green has missed the Warriors' last five games after he was suspended for putting Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert in a chokehold.
Green addressed the media for the first time since the suspension on Sunday. That would have been the opportunity for Green to take some accountability for his actions, to apologize, to speak to a better path forward that involved things like restraint and wisdom.
Instead, Green doubled down. Speaking after practice on Sunday, he said "I don't live my life with regrets" and "I'll come to a teammate's defense any time that I'm in a position to come to a teammate's defense. ... What matters to me is how the people that I care about feel, first and foremost. How are the people that I care about affected? How are the people I care about, what do they have to deal with? That's it for me."
Who is it that Green cares about? It's obviously not Gobert, who got the business end of Green's bicep. It's presumably not the multitude of fans, media and players calling for a stiffer punishment. Is it head coach Steve Kerr, who said Green's actions were inexcusable? Green's friend and mentor Joe Dumars, who in his role as NBA executive vice president levied the five-game suspension on Green?
Draymond Green is returning....for now
Green is set to return on Tuesday night for the Warriors' final In-Season Tournament Group Stage game, a must-win contest with the Sacramento Kings. The Warriors have been struggling in his absence, going 2-4 if you count the Timberwolves game where he was ejected before a single point was scored.
What will Green bring to the Warriors upon returning? He thinks it's accountability, telling media "what I can do is come back and hold more people accountable."
Apparently, Green gets to hold others accountable but doesn't allow anyone to hold him accountable. Kerr may say his actions are inexcusable, but he's also going to inject Green right back into the rotation without any real consequences. Stephen Curry may be one of the all-time teammates in NBA history, but he also isn't speaking up that Green has to find a way to control himself. The Warriors' broadcast crew wouldn't even call Draymond out as he attacked Gobert; the entire organization appears reluctant to truly admonish him.
There are plenty of NBA players who get fired up during a game, who have a white-hot internal flame that drives their success and can occasionally spill out. There are not plenty of NBA players pulling out wrestling moves on the court, or taking swings at teammates, or stomping on chests, or kicking at groins. Green is out of control.
This isn't simply a matter of decorum, or even a matter of Green individually being available to play in games. He is injecting a toxic culture into the Warriors, that he can act however he wants and get away with it. The argument "this is just how Green is" doesn't cut it; he has to find a way to maturity before it sinks another Warriors season.
Draymond Green has cost the Warriors before
That's ultimately the cost here. In 2016, Green built up flagrant foul points in the playoffs on needless attacks on opponents during the Western Conference Finals, leaving no margin for when he punched LeBron James in the groin. Green was suspended for Game 5, a game the Warriors lost at home with a chance to close out the series. The Cleveland Cavaliers took advantage and roared back to win the series and make history.
Fast forward to the summer of 2022, and Green lost his cool on a jawing Jordan Poole and punched his younger teammate during training camp. He was "not suspended" by the team, everyone talked around it, and Green came back with no official penalty. It was clear that the team was fractured and distracted, however, and multiple players and staff members have pointed to that punch and the resulting tension as a key reason they weren't able to successfully defend their title last year.
Were there any consequences for Green? There don't appear to have been. This summer proved that; Poole was sent packing to the tanking Washington Wizards, and Green got a four-year contract from the Warriors. Yet again, the team declared that they will put up with immature behavior from Green because of what he brings them on the court.
What Green needs is obvious: it's accountability. He is crossing the line with increasing frequency; before being suspended he was kicked out of a game with the Cleveland Cavaliers for getting into it with Donovan Mitchell. He missed a playoff game in April for stomping on Domantas Sabonis. As his physical gifts begin to wane, Green is trying to compensate by playing closer to the line, and it's leading to horrible results.
The Warriors may not have won the 2016 title if Green had been available, but they probably find a way to finish it off if he plays. Last year's team had a shot to repeat as champions in a weaker Western Conference but was doomed from the start. It's not unreasonable to say that the Warriors may have another trophy or even two if Green knew how to control himself.
This season is still young, but the Warriors are not the dominant favorites they once were. This is a team that needs to maximize every player on the roster to have a shot at winning one more title. The Warriors need Green on the court, of course, and his availability is a piece of the puzzle here. More so, however, they need Green to stop acting like a child.
If he can't find a way to grow up, then the Warriors' shots at another title are doomed. They aren't a dynasty without Green, but he's quickly moving from asset to liability if he isn't there already. The more this organization enables him, the more out of control he grows. That's only going to lead to one place: disappointment.
Green's leash with the league is as short as it has ever been, perhaps for any player. His next infraction will keep him off the court for an even longer stretch. The Warriors built an elite team culture during the peak of their dynasty, but with those vets moved on, Green has few, if any, guardrails against his behavior. Even if he starts a game he is a risk to pop off at any moment, bringing distractions, ejections and suspensions down on their heads.
We don't allow employees to repeatedly lose their cool in other industries. We don't accept when a person crosses the line just because that's "who they are." It's reasonable to ask professional athletes to both play with passion and resist choking out other players. Green should know better; at some point, he has to be better.
"What I can do is come back and hold more people accountable." Why don't you start with yourself, Draymond?
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