Friday, May 24, 2024

He wouldn’t stop talking about the carry. This was Draymond Green’s first game back from his five-game suspension, with the Golden State Warriors forward having completed his league-mandated discipline for dragging Rudy Gobert all over the court as if he were playing hoops on a WWE stage. He was 13 months removed from the infamous Jordan Poole punch, six months removed from the Domantas Sabonis foot-stomp and two weeks away from the Jusuf Nurkić swinging punch against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night that led to the NBA suspending him indefinitely a day later. And Green, whose struggling Warriors had led the Sacramento Kings for nearly all of this Nov. 28 rematch of playoff opponents, was being consumed by his own intensity — again.
No matter what was transpiring around him, Green just went on and on about how Malik Monk had palmed the ball while coming down the floor and — like so many thousands of NBA players who came before him — wasn’t penalized. He re-enacted Monk’s carry in dramatic form for the officials — the same ones he’d spent nearly a minute before jawing at when a Trey Lyles elbow went uncalled and compelled Green to flop — and drew a technical foul from Mitchell Ervin that flipped the energy in the building. But that didn’t stop Green from, well, carrying on.
After Green was pulled from the game seconds later, he told Warriors coach Steve Kerr all about what Monk had done. He continued his anti-carrying crusade on the bench, where Green engaged in a spirited shouting match with player development coach Anthony Vereen that involved actual finger pointing in Green’s direction and was tense enough that Jonathan Kuminga and several others decided to play the part of peacemakers. Meanwhile, a Kings comeback from a 24-point deficit unfolded on the floor. The frustration on several nearby Warriors’ faces, among them Klay Thompson, was quite visible. And with good reason.
Yet again, as has been the case so many times of late, Green was seemingly obsessed with the micro instead of the macro. With the game, the season and the back end of their storied dynasty on the line, here was Green getting so emotionally twisted in the moment that he forgot to consider the long-term ramifications of his actions. The more surprising part, and the thing that seemed to leave the door wide open for incidents yet to come, was that Green was so comfortable being this level of extra, as the kids say, even after the two ejections and five-game suspension that had already made life so unnecessarily hard on his team this season. “The Warriors … need to keep their poise and play basketball,” TNT announcer Stan Van Gundy had said on the telecast during that stretch, which led to the Kings’ 124-123 win.
By “Warriors,” of course, he meant Green. And what they really need, with the Feb. 8 trade deadline looming, is to finally start answering the hard questions that everyone inside the Chase Center seems to want to ignore.
Where is this all going? And with that league-record $400 million payroll (including luxury taxes) hanging over their heads, when might Warriors owner Joe Lacob decide that it’s time for a significant change?
As one front-office executive put it in the wake of Green’s leveling of Nurkić, “I’d imagine some reassessments (are happening now).”
But if winning titles is the end goal for them all — and it is — then the uncomfortable truth is that this revered group of future Hall of Famers doesn’t look capable of coming anywhere close. They’re getting beaten on most nights, having lost 12 of their last 17 after a 5-1 start. They look broken in ways that go well beyond the box score, with a litany of late-game situations having gone south during this brutal start. They look … cooked. Everyone except for Chef Curry, of course. And that’s just not enough.
Steph is still Steph, 35 years of age and all. But the 33-year-old Thompson, whose looming free agency has added another stress point after he and the Warriors failed to come to terms on an extension, is having his worst year in more than a decade on both ends of the floor. The 33-year-old Green, who was given a four-year, $100 million deal in the summer, can still play at a high level but is still an issue because (see above).
The production of Andrew Wiggins, whose renaissance was such a key factor in their 2022 title run, is down drastically across the board. And how’s this for added uncertainty: You have a coach in Kerr whose contract is up after this season and a general manager in Mike Dunleavy Jr. who is in his first season of filling those massive shoes left by the departed Bob Myers. Everywhere I go these days, there are human reminders of how much the Warriors’ world has changed. You see Myers on the media side now as an ESPN analyst, the retired Andre Iguodala heading up the players union as executive director and former Warriors player/front-office executive Shaun Livingston joining his old teammate on the NBPA.
These are all people who used to get through to Green, men whose credibility came in handy during those many times when a Green-inspired crisis would inevitably arrive. That matters, of course, because it’s the absence of a calming effect that might force these Warriors to make hard decisions sooner than they might have hoped. It’s tough to keep trudging forward when the coals beneath your feet are this hot. You could see that dynamic play out in real time in the game in Sacramento, where it was so clear there was no one on this team — including Steph — who could persuade Green to shift his energy in a more positive direction for the sake of the greater good. We’ll never know what might have happened if the Warriors took a harder line with Green in these recent years, most notably after the Poole punch two Octobers ago. He was never suspended for that ugly act, as the Warriors decided instead to fine him while greenlighting a short sabbatical that ended just in time for the start of the regular season. The league, which showed deference to the Warriors’ celebrated culture in that instance and chose to let the organization handle the situation, stayed on the sideline.
In hindsight, that was clearly a mistake. A soft precedent was set, and the Warriors would later reconfirm their loyalty to Green by re-upping him last summer not long before trading Poole to the Washington Wizards (in the three-team deal that brought them Chris Paul). But it doesn’t matter how they got here anymore. The frequency of the incidents involving Green, and the near-constant strain for all involved that comes with it, makes it hard to imagine this group riding off into the retirement sunset together anymore.
Not at this price. Not with these goals. And not, most of all, with Green single-handedly sabotaging their twilight years like this.

 The Warriors should consider exiting the Draymond-vs.-NBA drama
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(Photo: Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

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