“Exhaustive” was head coach Steve Kerr’s description of the process that led to the Warriors’ decision to fine and not suspend starting forward Draymond Green for throwing — and, more importantly, landing — a punch during practice last week. Given how the bench tactician looked yesterday, and how much of the intervening time was spent “in deep discussions with all of our key figures in the organization,” including acknowledged leader Stephen Curry and haymaker recipient Jordan Poole, he might as well have used “exhausting.” And, indeed, the adjective would also have fit the instigator to a T.
Perhaps no one should have been surprised that Green got away without being banned from the court. After all, the Warriors need him if they truly want to go deep in the playoffs, let alone defend the title. For all their individual talent and capacity to squeeze even more out of themselves collectively, they’re up against unprecedented depth in the National Basketball Association; pundits have them winning just a tad over 50 games for the season, and that’s without taking into consideration the internal strife that could yet prove to be their biggest obstacle to continued success.
In short, Green is the one double-edged sword the Warriors will have to keep relying on for the foreseeable future. He makes them hum on the court when he’s on, as he often is. That said, there will be times when he’s not, and the impetus is on Kerr to ensure that he’s contained whenever he becomes a liability. It’s a constant dance that compels them to ignore its tiring nature and keep focused on the ultimate goal.
Green may have escaped a harsh penalty, with his immediate display of contrition no doubt deemed a mitigating factor. Nonetheless, all signs point to him wearing out his welcome, and not simply because he’s angling for a maximum contract despite his advancing age and waning skill set. The Warriors are hard-pressed to shed salary, what with the repeater tax threatening to make them carry a whopping $600-million payroll. And with the likes of Poole and 2020 second overall pick James Wiseman on board, they’re equipped to handle his prospective absence. No one plays quite like him, but, if nothing else, his latest implosion has them angling for addition by subtraction.
It’s fair to project Green being at his best behavior following his transgression. If he’s looking to cut cleanly, he would do well to show that he can play nice with a modicum of consistency. Else, he’ll be left with limited options, not to mention needing to restore the luster to his name.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.