This may be an unpopular take, but I’m still sticking with Draymond Green.
Too many good things have happened with Draymond over the past 10 years. Too many championships won, too many defensive plays made, too many years of alliance with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Steve Kerr to give up now.
Too much at stake in this upcoming year — the chance at a magical 5th NBA championship — to let this destroy the Warriors.
I know, I know. It’s a low moment. Hauling off and decking Jordan Poole — with malicious intent, by all appearances — is not acceptable. It shows a lack of leadership, a lack of maturity in the moment and, even if Draymond doesn’t want to admit it, an anger management problem.
Detractors will say the same flaws took down the Warriors’ chances for a 2016 title, when he got suspended for flagrant fouls and tarnished the 73-win season. Detractors will say he pushed Kevin Durant out the door, too. And now, detractors will say, his over-the-line physical attack on one of the core pieces of the Warriors’ future has disrupted and derailed any momentum building for a repeat run in 2023, and cost Draymond credibility.
I can’t deny any of that.
But what I can say is, I’m not going to judge Draymond by his lowest moment. I’m going to judge him by the years and years of sweat and toil to become one of the premier defensive players in the game’s history. I’m going to judge him by his role as the “heartbeat” of the team, said by Kerr himself. I’m going to judge him by a career of actions, not by a small handful of actions.
And his words, too, matter.
Apologies these days have become a cliched joke. “IF I offended anybody . . . “ is the trite line dusted off by those who transgress, preemptively qualifying their apologies.
Draymond’s 40-minute session on Saturday was not qualified. Yes, he expressed concern that the video was leaked. That was a legitimate concern, too. Someone wanted Draymond to look as bad as he did, and it raises questions about the organization pulling on the same rope.
But Draymond’s objection to the leak wasn’t at the core of his apology. The core of his apology was remorse, and self-awareness. The core of his apology was a sincere look at his own culpability. He didn’t make his apology on a podcast, because he wanted to face questions. He didn’t read from a prepared statement.
If, as the old saying goes, “it takes a big person to admit when he or she is wrong”, then Draymond was acting like a big person. That was important.
Now, mind — I’m not nominating the guy for sainthood. I’ve gone through a transition of my own as a youth basketball coach, from urging kids to always watch how Draymond plays the game, to now making sure they don’t always do the things Draymond does — technical fouls, flagrant fouls, et cetera. He’s gone from a role model on the court to a “sometimes” role model on the court.
But when the Warriors needed him most, to play the best basketball of his season in the clinching Game 6 in Boston, Draymond delivered: 12 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, two blocks, two steals, only one foul. He played 42 minutes. He played with the heart of a champion — and became a champion for the fourth time, with his trusted mates alongside.
I don’t know how this will all play out. Stephen A. Smith is already talking about Draymond leaving the Warriors. Contract and money is the most real part of all this, and there is a serious financial problem keeping Draymond past next season.
That’s not for now. What’s for now is what’s at stake for the Warriors. They can win another championship, and they need Draymond Green to do it. I trust his instincts to repair matters. I trust Steph Curry to lead the team. I trust Steve Kerr, a veteran of all this, to forge something beautiful from the storm.
It may be unpopular, but I’m riding with Draymond Green.