Draymond Green could tell he had truly messed up this time. This wasn't a brash crooning after stomping Domantas Sabonis. It wasn't a proud stalk off the court after defending Klay Thompson by putting Rudy Gobert into a headlock. Green knew he had to do something to get out in front of this one.
It was December 12th, and the Golden State Warriors had lost to the Phoenix Suns 119-116 in a game where Green played just 17 minutes after he was ejected for backhanding Jusuf Nurkic across the face. It was just his sixth game back from a five-game suspension he received for the Gobert chokehold. It was his third ejection of the year as he also got into it with Donovan Mitchell a few weeks prior.
Green chose to address the media after the Suns game, surely seeing the need to insert his own narrative into the conversation before the hammer came down. His version of the story: "As you know, I'm not one to apologize for things I meant to do, but I do apologize to Jusuf. Because I didn’t intend to hit him. I sell calls with my arms."
Then he said: "I don't fall to sell a call. I'm not a flopper. I was just selling the call."
On some level, Draymond was lying.
Draymond Green is lying
The idea that Draymond could sit in front of a room of reporters, many of whom cover the Warriors and have seen hundreds of Green's games, and state that he is not a flopper is ludicrous. Even if Green thinks there is a distinction between flopping by falling and flailing without falling, Green routinely falls to the ground in the midst of selling calls. This was just two weeks before the Suns game:
A couple of games before the Phoenix game, the Warriors hosted the Portland Trail Blazers. After that game, Green told ESPN, "you don't become what I've become if you can't control your emotions." That's another lie. Green is working back from a hypothesis - successful basketball players, championship basketball players, must be able to control their emotions - that is disproven by his personal behavior.
Could Green possibly think that he can control his emotions? Not if he's looking at the evidence. He told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne in that same interview that when he put Rudy Gobert in that chokehold, that he was surprised to see how long he held him. That "in those moments, you don't know what time is. You don't have a sense of time."
That's not the language of someone who is in control of his emotions. Whether he saw someone putting their hands on Klay Thompson, his teammate of over a decade, or whether he saw Gobert, a player he has often feuded with, Green's vision went red and he lost control. To look at a video of choking someone and maintain those were the actions of someone who can control themselves is utter lunacy.
Just discussing his actions this season, of course, skips over that Green essentially blew up last season before it began, reacting to Jordan Poole's words with his fist. He seems to have derailed Poole's entire career, shattered the Warriors' chemistry last season and hamstrung them from defending their title. Controlling his emotions? Not so much.
Perhaps Green is lying blatantly to try and get out of trouble. Perhaps he is lying to himself. The result, however, is that he is harming his team.
Green's behavior and deception is hurting the Golden State Warriors
“He can’t do what he’s been doing,” Stephen Curry said to The Athletic's Anthony Slater. “He knows that. We know that. Everybody knows that. What that means to change, I think that’s the search.”
Green has said that he recognizes that his absences due to ejections and suspensions are harming the Warriors. He told Shelburne "when I'm not on the floor it hurts my team." Implicit in that statement is a promise to his teammates: I value you enough to stay on the court.
Six days after making that statement, he backhanded Jusuf Nurkic to "sell a call."
Think about how many players on the Warriors that Green has called out for not pulling in the same direction. Whether they were seeking their own shots, drying over playing time or not digging in on defense, Green was the vocal leader telling them to sacrifice for the sake of the team. While Curry led by example, Green led with his words.
Now there is no one to tell Green he needs to sacrifice for his team. That he needs to give up these convoluted deceptions that help him sleep at night while still using every single limb of his body to take out the emotional inferno inside. He wants to do whatever he wants, call it something else, and escape the consequences. Perhaps he has been able to do that for a long time; the Warriors certainly haven't come down hard on him. But the rope has run out, and he needs to stop with the lies.
Curry told Draymond that he isn't going to tell Green to change who he is. Green replied that he wouldn't tell Curry to stop shooting. Those are very different things. Curry's shooting doesn't seem to come hand-in-hand with a loss of control, of harming others around him and removing himself from games. Curry isn't at risk of being suspended every time he pulls from 30 feet.
For Green, he continues to link the two. That his ability to play with an edge, to be as fast and strong and forceful as he is, depends on toeing the line. Sometimes he has to cross it. That it's not a moral failing or a lack of self-control; it's simply a part of the package.
Draymond is wrong. Whether he knows that and is spinning a narrative, or whether he truly has deceived himself, he has to come to grips that his behavior can't continue. Perhaps counseling will help that; perhaps the Warriors finally holding him accountable will. Perhaps Curry will need to take that step, to stop enabling Green and force him to change.
Change isn't bad. Green can change and not lose his defensive versatility, his intensity, his competitive fire. He doesn't even have to stop selling calls; Chris Paul certainly does that as much as anyone, and he isn't being suspended for uncorking wrestling moves on his opponents.
The first step to change, however, is admitting that you have a problem. Green has paid lip service to that idea, but in the end he continues to act out, and he continues to spin this tale of deception. Draymond Green needs to stop lying, or he may just find he is responsible for the death of a dynasty.