From the outside it looked like basketball heaven — the team played fast and loose, they had fun, the ball flew around the court like no other team, and they won. A lot. The Golden State Warriors won 73 games and seemed to have a good time doing it. It was what drew Kevin Durant to the Warriors last summer.
But pull back the curtain and it was not exactly a fairytale.
Draymond Green‘s hard-charging, heart-on-his-sleeve emotional leadership was at times abrasive and wore on teammates. While team chemistry was not terrible, there were plenty of rough spots. It a well-researched story at ESPN Ethan Sherwood-Straus lays out how Green is irreplaceable to the Warriors on the court but rubs teammates the wrong way at times off it. This quote from now former Warrior Marreese Speights sums the article up best (but you should read the entire thing).
“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.
A code of conduct exists within the NBA. Some yelling is expected, but vets do not accept frequent Bobby Knight — style haranguings from younger players. Or, as Speights puts it, “Guys don’t respect you if you yell at them in front of all these fans. We’re not trying to lose the game. F — .”
If your thought is, “Maybe the Warriors would be better off without Green,” go back and watch Game 5 of the Finals last season (not that the return of Green changed Games 6 and 7, but the Warriors in Game 5 were not the same). The game where Green was suspended because he couldn’t stop from hitting LeBron James in the nuts, the Warriors lacked enough fight. The Warriors are not the same team without him — all those pretty shooters on the perimeter like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson need someone in the paint doing the dirty work. Someone who makes their defensive switching schemes work. Someone who brings grit and fire. Green does all of that and better than anyone in the league. They need him.
But that kind of fire and passion comes with a cost, both in the locker room and off the court. Remember this summer Green was involved in a bar fight in East Lansing, then sent out a picture of his, um, “privates” to the world. That was after he was in the middle of the Warriors historic blown Finals lead.
The most competitive guys in the league do rub teammates the wrong way sometimes — Kobe Bryant certainly did, Kevin Garnett did at times, Chris Paul can grate on teammates — but the best teams need that passion. What the Warriors would hope to see, however, what Kobe and Garnett and CP3 can do, is separate the on-the-court guy from the guy off the court. They have a level of maturity and control Green has yet to display consistently.
For Green, it’s a goal. Outside of injuries, only chemistry issues could keep these Warriors from at least a return to the NBA Finals. They are that talented. If there are going to be chemistry challenges, it could start with Green. He’s not the best player on the Warriors, but he’s important to what they do. They need him right, and right with the team.