Now that the dust has settled, we know that Draymond Green will be missing a business week’s worth of games. This is the aftermath after his rare naked choke of Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert. Many in the sports world have deemed this move as protection of Green’s teammate Klay Thompson. I’m inclined to agree. But I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that Green isn’t a fan of Gobert anyway. So, there is a personal element to this behavior as well. I’ll even go as far as to say that maybe Green was caught up in the moment. The problem is that he is seemingly always caught up in the moment.
This week’s altercation marked Green’s 18th career ejection. The five games he has been suspended for were levied in part due to his history of offenses. Most of the conversation about this current scenario stems from people saying that his role on the Warriors is to be an enforcer. Kanye West has a bar that goes “Every Jordan needs a Rodman.” It pretty much means that every crew, every team, has someone who has more of an edge than the rest. And in the world of team sports, they can be useful in imposing your will on another team.
But my issue in this instance is that people continue spending so much time validating Green’s actions. It’s done in the majority of cases that don’t involve Green striking guys below the belt. This most current suspension is a reminder that there are real consequences to these actions. Your bravado means nil in a league with rules. There are sports analysts like Keyshawn Johnson who don’t even deem Green’s chokehold as a chokehold. Furthermore, he almost equates Gobert’s arm around Klay’s shoulder as a choke as well. It’s further proof that we can all be watching the same thing, and see things differently.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the sentiment that in an altercation, you try and pull your teammate out of it. And it’s true that Gobert should’ve looked to restrain his own teammate. But I also think that there wasn’t any intent that he had to escalate things. His history doesn’t dictate that. In Green’s case, I feel like he saw that as an avenue to once again lose control.
In years past, such behavior has helped aid the Warriors in their quest for championships. To them, the ends justified these means. Steve Kerr wouldn’t admonish Green if you paid him to. And with the Warriors being a juggernaut at the time, it didn’t necessarily hurt the NBA either. But what I think we’ve accumulated over the years is an ignorance from Green. He is now penalized more harshly after altercations. But the other side of that is that referees also allow him to get away with more yelling toward them than any player in the league.
The NBA has stomached this long enough. For this week’s altercation to take place during the NBA’s in-season tournament showcase was the result of dumb luck. And with so many eyes on the product, it just wasn’t a good look to see one player effectively choke another. In a perfect world, I’m sure Adam Silver would appreciate players keeping the league image top of mind. That’s not always practical in the heat of moments, but it seems to be something most players are capable of doing. After this event, it’s evident that the NBA will see to it that Green understands this sentiment unequivocally. And although he may feel these outbursts are what makes him who he is on the floor, it is no longer conducive.
With Steph Curry and Chris Paul being the only Warriors players who are playing well currently, it’s clear that their time may have passed as a unit. Green is touted as one of the Warriors’ top playmakers. He is no stranger to igniting their fast break opportunities. But his own offensive skills have declined steadily over the last few seasons. That’s just a symptom of father time, no fault of his own.
But this results in teams across the NBA no longer being intimidated by the Warriors’ talent. This makes Green’s “tactics” almost useless currently because it doesn’t result in wins. So maybe being an enforcer is still beneficial to Green’s ego. But if you ask me, it’s been a little while since it has been beneficial to the Warriors’ success. Now once Green returns from suspension and gives his remarks, you’d be hard-pressed if he were to be contrite. I don’t expect it. But I also don’t expect this behavior to ignite this team’s play.
It’s wild to think, but this suspension is the least of the Warriors’ worries. Their guys still need to play better. We’ll reconvene in the post-season to see if my ideas hold up. But I think it would behoove Green to worry less about being an enforcer and focus on making winning plays whether Steph plays or not.