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'Brother needs help': Jusuf Nurkic responds to Draymond Green punch, ejection in Suns win

Maya Angelou famously wrote in her memoir "I Know Where The Caged Bird Sings" that "when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."

Draymond Green keeps showing who he is again and again.

The latest came with his ejection Tuesday for randomly landing a haymaker on Phoenix Suns' big Jusuf Nurkic's face, sending him to the floor during the Golden State Warriors' Tuesday loss. It was the third time he's been tossed for a Flagrant 2 foul within a month.

On Wednesday, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the NBA suspended Green indefinitely for the incident with Nurkic.

And this type of stuff has happened from Green over his 12 NBA seasons as a top defender, versatile four-time All-Star who has built a reputation as a cheap-shot artist.

Green battled Nurkic for position during a Golden State possession early in the third quarter. Green claimed he spun to free himself, then literally wound up flailing his arms, spun and socked Nurkic in the face, which sent him to the ground at 8:23 left in the period.

Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic reacts after Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green was ejected from the game after receiving a Flagrant Foul, Penalty 2 for hitting Nurkic in the face at Footprint Center on Dec 12, 2023.
Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic reacts after Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green was ejected from the game after receiving a Flagrant Foul, Penalty 2 for hitting Nurkic in the face at Footprint Center on Dec 12, 2023.

Green left the game on just two points scored, two rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes.

“I didn’t see a replay of it, but it just looked like a reckless, dangerous play. I’m sensitive to our guys getting hit on plays like that," Phoenix coach Frank Vogel said in the postgame.

Even if Green knows he's wrong in hindsight and is contrite about his unwarranted blows, his ejections cost Golden State.

The Warriors had led for most of the game from late in the first quarter until that moment in the third when they had a 65-60 lead. Then Phoenix outscored Golden State 20-10 over the next five minutes after Green was tossed from the game.

Then Phoenix gained its largest lead of 13 in the fourth quarter as Devin Booker scored 12 of his 32 points down the stretch, and staved off Golden State's comeback in the closing minutes.

Golden State fell to a 10-13 record this season and Phoenix improved to 13-10.

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green runs off the court after being ejected from the game after receiving a Flagrant Foul, Penalty 2 for hitting Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic in the face in the second half at Footprint Center on Dec 12, 2023.
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green runs off the court after being ejected from the game after receiving a Flagrant Foul, Penalty 2 for hitting Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic in the face in the second half at Footprint Center on Dec 12, 2023.

"Yeah, I am aware. Like I said, if I intended to do that then I feel awful about not being there," Green said. "My intentions were to just sell the foul. As you can see, as he is pulling up, I am moving forward. As I am moving back, he is still coming forward. Like I said, it is unfortunate. Again, I apologize to (Jusuf) Nurkić because I hit him. So, I do apologize to him. I didn’t intend to hit him. So, I think you guys have known me long enough. If I intended to do something, I am not apologizing for it. But I did make contact with him, so I apologize because it wasn’t my intention.''

Green said Nurkic ''was pulling my hip, and I was swinging away to sell a call, made contact with him.''

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Green's ejection was a significant factor in the momentum shift. He's a four-time All-Star, one of the NBA's top defenders throughout his career and one of Golden State's cornerstones with Stephen Curry (24 points) and Klay Thompson (7 points) that built the team's four-title dynasty since 2015.

“Huge, huge swing. We kind of felt good having him at the five, spreading the floor, having shooters out there," Kerr said. "It obviously changed the lineup around, we thought that could really get Steph (Curry) some space and Draymond (Green) could use his speed. You saw that he got that layup on the first play of the second half. So, I felt good about having him out there and he lost his poise.”

Read Moore: Sooner or later, somebody is going to hit Draymond Green back if NBA doesn't step in

Green continues to add to his notoriety that has stemmed from a string of incidents, including thrusting a TKO punch on former teammate Jordan Poole two preseasons ago, stomping on Sacramento All-Star Domantas Sabonis in last postseason’s West first round series, pushing players from behind like he did to Cleveland All-Star Donovan Mitchell during that team's breakaway layup in Golden State's road loss on Nov. 11, and putting Minnesota All-Star big Rudy Gobert in a chokehold during a fracas in Golden State's home loss three days later. Green served a five-game suspension for the latter incident, and the league cited his "history of unsportsmanlike conduct.''

Phoenix's Chimezie Metu (14 points) had some words for Green after the hit on Nurkic. Metu called Green's past actions "ridiculous" and spoke about his reputation after the game.

"I feel like he picks and chooses who he wants to go at,' Metu said. "It's a situation where we're in the middle of a game. You can't really, nobody can really confront him as you would if you were outside the court. Like I said, it's ridiculous at this point the stuff that he does. ... He's not really getting away with it anymore, but to full-on swing on somebody during the game, that's crazy. You got to stay on your toes with him because you never really know what he's going to do."

Nurkic didn't retaliate, but offered his own assessment of Green.

“I do not know, man. I was behind the play. What is going on with him, I do not know," Nurkic said. "Personally, I feel like brother needs help. I am glad that he did not try and choke me. At the same time, he is not doing basketball. I am just out here trying to play basketball and he is out there swinging. I think we saw that often. I hope that whatever he has in his life, it gets better.”

Nurkic (17 points, game-high 13 rebounds, tied for a team-best seven assists) spoke about knowing his own importance in helping Phoenix get the win.

“It has happened before. I have learned in this league when you respond ... you are getting fined, or you are getting a penalty, which is not fair," Nurkic said. "But at the same time, I am too valuable to this team to get in foul trouble, getting techs, or getting kicked out. So, I have to stay mentally OK because it is better for the team to stay on the team.”

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Suns regained control of Warriors after Draymond Green's ejection