Warriors no longer can enable Draymond, with stakes never higher

Warriors no longer can enable Draymond, with stakes never higher originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO — Draymond Green seemed serious this time. Unlike so many previous instances when misconduct led to an apology that segued into an excuse, he made no attempt to rationalize his behavior.

Draymond, having received counseling during his three weeks away from the Warriors, sat at a podium Tuesday speaking like a man ready to hold himself accountable for his actions.

“I’ve cost my team enough,” he said at his first news conference since the NBA’s suspension was lifted Saturday. “I’ve cost this organization enough. … You caused this yourself. So, you don’t get the grace.”

The best chance of Draymond’s transformation succeeding is that Golden State, for the general health of the franchise, does the same. Even a modicum of self-reflection on the Warriors’ part should result in them sharing some of the blame for what has unfolded since their 2022 NBA Finals triumph.

They’ve enabled their star forward to such a degree that his descent into violence — which was evident when he punched then-teammate Jordan Poole in October 2022, just four months after The Finals — has escalated rather than diminished.

Five months later came Green’s first one-game suspension, based on accumulated technical fouls in the regular season. He’d flirted with being assessed a 16th technical several times in previous years but reached it last March.

“He always comes right up to the edge, and then he stops,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after Green’s technical-foul count reached 15. “He knows how valuable he is. I don’t have to say anything to him. He knows that he can’t get that next tech. We need him.”

One month later, in Game 2 of the first-round playoff series in Sacramento, Green stomped on Kings center Domantas Sabonis’ chest, resulting in the NBA levying another one-game suspension.

In the first week of July, the Warriors presented for Green’s signing a contract extension worth $100 million over the next four years.

And four months later — and four days after being ejected for shoving Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donavan Mitchell — Draymond wrapped his arm around Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert’s neck. After meeting with Green, the league decided to bump up the suspension to five games.

Less than one month later, Green whirled around and slapped Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic’s face.

The NBA believed the consistency of this unwanted and unwarranted behavior necessitated an invention. Finally realizing the severity of the matter, the league swung a much heavier hammer: Indefinite suspension.

Which Draymond did not contest.

“There’s a responsibility that comes with the position we’re in,” he said. “I’ve always been one to say, ‘Eh, that’s your business. It ain’t really my business.’ But the reality is, there is a responsibility. And to whom much is given, much is required.”

Over the course of his 12-year NBA career, Green has been punished numerous times with fines and suspensions. The Warriors accepted that as the cost of having such a uniquely impactful player. They did not officially suspend Draymond after punching his teammate. They generally have responded with a phrase that officials have been known to utter in the heat of a game: “Play on.” They had a championship to chase.

This can’t continue. Not anymore. At the slightest inkling of Draymond veering toward violence —squabbling with an official does not qualify — the organization must be prepared to call on every available resource to provide whatever support and discipline is needed.

“I’m open-minded,” Kerr said Tuesday. “[Green] just came back to practice, so this next week will be a time when he’s integrating himself back into the group. This is so different from an injury. He was away from the group for three weeks. That’s a long period of time to be gone.

“There needs to be this period where he is practicing and communicating with the guys. Once he’s ready to play, we’ll figure out what we’re going to do. He’s been here for 12 years. He’s been here longer than I have. He’s still a huge part of this thing. A huge part of our leadership. And he’s going to reassume that mantle.”

Which should come with guidelines. With more engaged coaching and managing. More direct counseling. These are things that can benefit Draymond, the team and everyone in their orbit.

For there is no way anyone can follow Draymond’s career — particularly the past 15 months — and conclude that an indefinite suspension that lasted 22 days guarantees all is well.

“You don’t know what you’re doing until you’re in the moment,” Green conceded. “You can only prepare yourself. And then you’ll be put to the test.”

Draymond seems confident that he’s better equipped to cope with frustrations that have led to physical overreactions. He probably is. But he’s also realistic. He’s in wait-and-see mode with himself to see how he handles the future.

The Warriors would be wise to do the same. The internal belief seems to be that one more outburst will lead to divorce. And in those instances, there usually is enough blame to share.

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