The Divisive Legacy of Draymond Green
There are few players in the NBA today who are as vocal and volcanic as Draymond Green. Every night on the court, fans from all over the NBA witness him running his mouth and letting his emotions get the better of him, often costing his team penalties and opportunities at gaining an edge on the scoreboard. But that's just the downside of his legacy.
Deep down, he is a terrific player who vacuums up rebounds like a dust buster against the grain of a wooden shelf. In virtually every respect, he represents the ying and the yang of an NBA dynasty. But as the wins pile up, one thing is predominantly clear, Steve Kerr knows what he is doing.
Back when he was a player, Kerr witnessed how vital it can be to have a unique spark within the locker room. He saw how the unique nature of Dennis Rodman often rallied the players. Sure, he had his moments, such as the time that he was ejected from a game and promptly ripped off his jersey, tossing it to a fan as he sulked to the locker room. But his actions night after night spoke many more volumes. Like Draymond Green decades later, Rodman was a rebound vacuum, often flying through the air at preposterous angles to snag a loose ball.
No, Dennis Rodman was not the "original" Draymond Green. He wasn't the volcanic voice in the locker room that often drives his team to victory which Green plays so well; the Bulls had Michael Jordan for that role. What Rodman provided was a true genius for snagging rebounds in unique spots on the court. He would constantly disregard his physical well-being just to give his teammates another scoring opportunity.
Still, his antics could be a bit distracting. After all, it was in Chicago that Dennis Rodman truly embraced his individuality and began to dye his hair all sorts of elaborate colors every day. While he was looking at his hair, he decided to get a few more piercings and soon he was sporting nose and lip piercings, making him look, appropriately, like a bull.
But his antics were never too much for his Bulls teammates to overcome as they finished off their dynasty winning three more NBA championships. Not even a mid-season trip to Las Vegas could distract the team from their ultimate goal. All they did was fly down, pick him up and bring him back to Chicago. They knew that Rodman would be in game shape at tipoff. He just needed a break from the daily grind.
While Draymond Green never had any of the problems that Rodman was known to have, he's had his share of run-ins. In 2016, the Warriors were playing a contentious game in Oklahoma City. Tension filled the Warriors' locker room and both Draymond Green and Steve Kerr nearly came to blows. Everything turned out just fine though as the Warriors pulled off an incredible win. It was that kind of locker room moment that Kerr had hoped for when he inserted Green into the starting lineup the year before. He needed that edge and fighting spirit on the floor at all times. But deep inside, he knew that eventually, his team would pay a heavy price.
Indeed it did and at the worst possible time too. Up 3-1 versus the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, Green kicked at LeBron James' nether region drawing a foul. A day later, the NBA suspended Green for a game and the Cavaliers used that one-game absence to come back and defeat the 73-win Warriors.
More often than not, basketball is very similar to a boxing match. If you constantly beat the other man to the punch, more often than not you will win the bout. While basketball disdains fighting of any kind, the mental edge in the locker room and on the floor can beat the other team to the punch just as much. When Green was suspended in Game Five of the 2016 NBA Finals, they lacked the urgency and hunger that had won them so many games just enough for the championship-starved Cavs to pounce.
For much of his career, Draymond Green has been known as a good teammate, never attacking one of his own. But that changed early in the 2018-2019 season. Late in a loss to the Clippers, he and star forward Kevin Durant began to bicker. The bickering escalated in the locker room and words that can never be taken back were said. Everyone in the building knew that Durant was probably going to be a free agent after that season and Green used that as an opportunity to tell him that he was never truly one of them.
From then on, there was a foreboding aura in the Warriors' locker room, like they knew an impending doom was upon them. It didn't matter that they earned the top seed in West, it didn't matter that they found a way to reach the NBA Finals for a fifth straight year, the damage had already been done months earlier.
While the Warriors ultimately lost to the Raptors in the Finals, change was in the air for the Warriors. Over the next few years, the roster would see much turnover and they needed Draymond Green to be his usual disruptive self for them to compete night after night. He did just that, having seemed to live down the whole "locker room cancer" saga of 2019.
While he has yet to be invited to an All-Star Game since 2019, Draymond Green has provided the Golden State Warriors the drive and the hustle on the defensive side that they need to win championships. The 2021-2022 season was a special year for the Warriors. From Steph Curry breaking the NBA's all-time three-point record to Klay Thompson's much-anticipated return, Draymond Green proved to everyone that he wasn't a cancer in the locker room. He was just one of the guys who happened to serve as the catalyst on the defense. He brought a certain energy with him wherever he went and the Warriors rode that energy all the way to the NBA Finals where they defeated the Celtics, in Boston of all places.
Things were looking good for Green but there was still a darkness that lurked within his soul. Jordan Poole had emerged as a star in the past couple of years and after winning the title the previous year was awarded a large contract. During training camp, the media reported that Draymond Green had slugged Poole in the middle of practice. Within days, a video leaked of the event. While to some observers it looked like Poole was giving Green attitude, what was abundantly clear to all was that Draymond Green was completely at fault. He was subsequently suspended from the team and came back days later with a better attitude, ready to resolve the conflict and move on.
Once again, that word appeared: locker room cancer. Was this the time for the Warriors to part ways with their embattled defensive star? They elected to keep him and from all accounts, he's never had another dispute within the locker room.
This brings us to today. In Game Two of the first round of the NBA playoffs, Kings power forward Domatas Sabonis was knocked to the ground and appeared to hold Draymond Green's leg for just a moment. Green responded by stomping on his chest before running off, instantly sparking fury from the media and players throughout the NBA. Draymond Green was suspended for the next game in the series, instantly dampening his team's chances of going further in the playoffs.
So what is he? Does Draymond Green still bring the right kind of swagger for victory? Or are his antics becoming too much for the Golden State Warriors to handle anymore?