This is an unassailable fact about the 2016 NBA Finals: Draymond Green’s suspension in the NBA Finals cost the Warriors a title. Up 3-1, they lost Green, then Andrew Bogut got hurt, and it snowballed. LeBron went bananas for 40+ points twice in a row – he hadn’t scored 40 in a game all season – and the Warriors lost in Game 7.
This is also an unassailable fact about Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals: Draymond Green was the best player on the floor for the Warriors. He finished with 32 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists, and made 6-of-8 three-pointers. If the Warriors can score in the final 4:39, Green’s probably the MVP of the Finals, though LeBron could have still won it in defeat.
And here we are, less than a week before the season, and ESPN has dropped a large piece on the enigma that is Draymond Green. It’s a nuanced piece, but ultimately, it skews as if certain folks in the organization wanted the story out in hopes of reeling in Green before this season begins.
Let’s start with this, from Steve Kerr:
“You have to find the edge, you find the balance. About two years ago, [Draymond] was good. This last year, a couple of times he went over the brink. That’s the challenge.”
Feels like a 100% true statement. But how much of a challenge, coach? When he’s a driving force behind 73 wins, and the 3-1 lead in the Finals, and there’s only one player like him in the NBA who can dominate passing, shooting 3-pointers, and is a menace defensively, it seems difficult to criticize a guy that harshly. Unless you ran out of ways to get through to him, so you had the media do it.
Then there’s this from former teammate, Marreese Speights:
“Draymond f—ed up practice and s—,” then-Warriors center Marreese Speights says. “Draymond’s a good guy, but I think at the end of the day, it hurt the whole chemistry of the year.” One player in particular, he says, took much of the heat: “Draymond and Klay got into it a lot.” (Thompson declined to comment for this story.)
I wouldn’t say Speights had an ax to grind, but Green ushered in the small-ball lineups in Golden State, making big men expendable. Speights was a nice backup in spurts, but barely played in the Finals. Could Speights see it this way: Man, if Green doesn’t get suspended, we win the title, Durant doesn’t want to come, and I’m still in Golden State. Let me take my shots now.
As for the rest of it, the punch in a bar this summer is brought up numerous times. So is the snapchat of his junk. Embarrassing to the franchise? Maybe a little. Does he have to be smarter? Absolutely. Is there a fear that success and a huge contract has gone to his head? Perhaps.
I wonder if the Warriors wanted this story out because they secretly fear an absolute worst-case scenario, a potential nuclear option that probably has less than a 1% chance of happening: Draymond Green doesn’t responsd well to this story (they’re out to get me!), doesn’t fit well with the addition of Durant (where are my shots?), the alleged beef with Klay Thompson escalates, and you’re left with this: KD wonders what he got himself into, and then Stephen Curry is bitter at how they fall short of a title again, and the 2-time MVP goes to management – he’s a free agent, remember – and says y’all want to keep me, you have to get rid of Draymond.
I understand why the Warriors may have pushed for this story, but I also kind of hate them for it.