Draymond Green, Jordan Poole's chemistry Warriors' top offseason priority
Warriors' chemistry means real harmony for Draymond and JP originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN FRANCISCO – On the list of priorities for the Warriors to address during the offseason, the clear 1A priority, and it’s not the immediate future of general manager Bob Myers is the full and complete clearing of the air between Draymond Green and Jordan Poole.
Assuming both return next season, of course. Which is what coach Steve Kerr hopes. Though Myers’ status is exceedingly important, it’s 1B because it won’t matter nearly as much unless 1A isn’t properly put to rest.
If the Warriors recapture the intangible essence of their greatness, Draymond and JP absolutely must reach a point where they don’t merely coexist as teammates. That’s a bar too low to mend what was broken last season and what will be needed for harmony next season.
Put simply, the Warriors lost the fellowship that was at the base of their success under Kerr. It was compromised in 2018-19 when an on-court squabble between Kevin Durant and Draymond spilled unwanted acid into the team’s chemistry, and it was compromised once more last October when Draymond’s right fist landed on JP’s face in the preseason.
“There was some of that that was lost this year for sure,” Kerr conceded Tuesday. “There's no hiding from it, the incident with Draymond and Jordan at the beginning of the year played a role in that. It's hard for that not to impact a team.”
The Warriors mostly overcame the gripes involving Durant and, to a lesser extent, DeMarcus Cousins. They reached the NBA Finals and probably would have prevailed if not for injuries to Klay Thompson and KD.
This time around, matters are more delicate. The current Warriors do not have a deep roster of veterans with mature outlooks on the team. Cool heads such as Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, both tenured and respected voices in the rotation, were of immense benefit four years ago.
The cool heads this season were supposed to be Stephen Curry, Thompson and Green. Draymond lost his cool on several occasions, most notably when he unleashed a spasm of violence upon his younger teammate.
“We feel like we have a great group of people on the roster, on the coaching staff, in the front office,” Kerr said. “We have a way of doing things that we're very proud of, but those things were definitely challenged this year.
“Anytime some trust is lost, then it makes the process much more difficult, and there was some trust lost. That's as blunt as I can be.”
The Draymond-JP incident hung over the team all season. It didn’t dominate the conversation or even thoughts, but it never left the corners of the minds that matter most. The first clue came when Golden State’s first real road trip ended with a 0-5 record despite three opponents clearly destined for the lottery.
Though team chemistry slowly inched upward, it’s reasonable to believe the absence of kinship was a factor in the Warriors’ abysmal road record as they spent the entire season loitering at the corner of Mediocrity Street and Dissatisfaction Drive.
Escaping that dismal existence next requires Green and Poole getting their relationship to a better place.
“Look, if Draymond is not back, we're not a championship contender,” Kerr said. “We know that. He's that important to winning and to who we are. I absolutely want him back.”
Kerr also made it clear that he believes Poole is a “foundational” member of the team and crucial to its progress beyond the next couple of seasons.
“It's important to remember, Jordan did some really good things this year,” Kerr said. “He had a tough playoff stretch, but he averaged 20 (20.4) points a game for us. It's hard to average 20 points a game in the NBA.
“He helped us win a lot of games. He helped us win a championship a year ago. He would be the first to admit it wasn't his best season. But that's how these things go. That's how careers go. As his coach, it's my job to help him get better and help him really find his groove and find a good comfort zone next year.”
If that comfort zone includes the presence of Draymond, as Kerr desires, there needs to be considerable comforting between now and September.
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Draymond, being the elder, must be the bigger man. The mending begins with him not just apologizing – he has done that – but also taking a close personal approach to his outreach. If it means an offseason conference with Jordan and any family and friends he wants in attendance, so be it.
“The only way to try to correct course is to continue to communicate with players and coaches, and those relationships have to be built,” Kerr said. “The bonds have to be built. I think that's a focus for us this offseason. We have to get back to what has made us really successful, which is a really trusting environment and a group that relies on one another and makes each other better.”
Well, yes. If Draymond and Jordan are on the roster next season, that’s the only way to foster hope that it will be appreciably better than the season that ended last week in Los Angeles.
And if Myers decides to return and offers to broker such a meeting, all the better. Can’t think of a better person for the task.
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