Free speech Warrior: Draymond Green wants to talk – and protect players

Warriors forward Draymond Green
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA has championed players advocating for social justice. The NBA has pushed the idea of players vouching for coronavirus vaccines.

The NBA also fined Anthony Davis for publicly requesting a trade then scolded him for speaking further publicly about his situation.

“We’re all in support of everybody running and yelling Black Lives Matter. We’re all in support of everyone promoting vaccines and all of these things,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “But we’re not in support of you saying where you want to be. Why?”

“We don’t muzzle players on situations that are big in the world, because we can’t, because we know the backlash that that comes with. But we muzzle players with situations that are not huge with the world because we know we can get away with it.”

Green has become the NBA’s most outspoken advocate on behalf of players, particularly their right to speak out. Stirred by Andre Drummond‘s situation with the Cavaliers, Green recently attacked the double standards he saw within the league. LeBron James echoed him.

In a recent interview, Green elaborated on his stances.

I told Green the NBA seems to fine players for trade requests only when the trade request is made publicly on the record. If a player’s trade request is merely reported in the media with anonymous sourcing – even if it’s abundantly obvious the information is coming from the player’s camp – the league hasn’t levied penalties. That’s why James Harden avoided a fine.

The Cavs haven’t gone on the record with their Drummond plans. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN attributed the key details of his report to “sources.” Theoretically, the Cavaliers weren’t involved in revealing Drummond’s status.

“Don’t give me implausible deniability,” Green said. “Because that’s ridiculous.”

Green brought up a fine he received in 2019. Several Golden State players demonstrated their umbrage with the officiating during a game refereed by Marat Kogut. Afterward, Green tweeted “TD” and “MK.” People inferred he was conflating disgraced referee Tim Donaghy with Kogut. But Green never admitted that publicly. Still, the NBA docked him $35,000 for “making statements on social media which impugned the integrity of NBA officiating.”

So, no, Green is not willing let the Cavs skate just because they haven’t said anything on the record.

“If that’s implausible deniability – where we see a guy get sat down, not suited up, extremely healthy, having a great season, but it didn’t come from the team and it came from sources that they’re looking to trade Andre Drummond,” Green said, “if that’s implausible deniability, I’d love my fine money back.”

I’m with Green on his fundamental issue: Let players speak.

Whether a trade request by a player/trade plan implemented by the team is made on the record or under the cloak of anonymity is a silly distinction for the league to make. If people can get their messages out anyway, let them use their names without fear of fine.

Not only is this forced quasi-silence unfair to the players who want to speak publicly about their own situations, it’s a disservice to fans who want an accurate understanding of what’s happening in the league they follow and spend money on.

Drummond remaining in limbo also bothers Green.

A short time after Cleveland began sitting Drummond, Blake Griffin and the Pistons reached a similar impasse. He and Detroit already agreed to a buyout, and Griffin signed with the Nets.

Two more situations have emerged even since I talked to Green on Wednesday. LaMarcus Aldridge isn’t playing for the Spurs, and P.J. Tucker isn’t playing for the Rockets. It’s unclear exactly how the players feel about their situations (maybe in part, because the league prohibits them from saying certain things).

In fairness, when the Pelicans wanted to sit Anthony Davis – a superstar – the NBA threatened to fine them. NBA commissioner Adam Silver argued sitting a healthy Davis would undermine the entertainment product.

But there are gray areas.

Drummond isn’t quite having the “great season” Green said. Jarrett Allen is Cleveland’s best center and usurped Drummond’s starting role. At that point, Drummond – in a contract year – might have preferred sitting out rather than becoming viewed as a backup entering free agency. The Cavaliers have JaVale McGee as fine backup center. Wojnarowski’s report gave the impression sitting Drummond was at least a somewhat mutual decision between the team and player.

Likewise, Aldridge and Tucker are having down years and might prefer sitting while awaiting a resolution.

Besides, the Collective Bargaining Agreement – ratified by the players’ union – allows teams to trade or not trade players. Teams pay players for, among other things, the right to trade them.

In theory, the system could be reimagined. The union could push for greater player control, making concessions elsewhere (like salary).

But Green is not some hardliner on that.

“We’ve got to keep some balance here,” Green said. “I’m not arguing that at all. I don’t think just because a guy said ‘I want to be traded’ that you have to trade him. At the end of the day, if you sign a contract, you signed that contract. Whether that team decides that they want to honor your request or not, it’s on that on that team because you signed a contract. Now, when you sign that contract, yes, it does suck that you can’t determine whether you’re going to be traded or not but the team can. But, hey, it is what is because you decided to sign that contract. So, you have to live with that. Those are the rules. I have no complaints with that.”

These situations will tend to work themselves out, anyway.

Even Green acknowledged Harden was “dogging it his last days in Houston.” That probably contributed to the Rockets honoring his trade request. But that doesn’t bother Green.

“One thing about this game people don’t really take into consideration is your heart has got to be in it,” Green said. “If your heart’s not in it, it’s hard to go in night in and night out and produce at the level we’re expected to produce at if your heart’s not in it.

“His heart wasn’t there. Who am I to judge and say James Harden is dead wrong how he was playing if his heart wasn’t in it?”

Some of Green’s complaints are deeply personal.

He again brought up his tampering fine for saying Devin Booker should leave the Suns. “They said I was tampering,” Green said. “What am I tampering with?! My opinion?”

But this doesn’t fit neatly into Green’s pro-player campaign. The NBA’s arbitrary tampering enforcement leaves everyone – owners, management, coaches, players – unsatisfied. If anything, the league has been especially lenient toward players.

Green also said: “You see conduct detrimental to the team. You see conduct detriment to the league. But you never see conduct detrimental to the player.” I thought he was referring to poorly run organizations failing to develop young players then the players getting blamed, a complaint he has lodged in the past. Instead, Green’s example was having his reputation tarnished for getting ejected yet again – even though it was for yelling at his own teammate.

This isn’t just some personal vendetta, though.

Green has spent his entire career with the Warriors. He hasn’t even really been involved in trade rumors.

But he’s highly sympathetic to players who get dealt in less than ideal circumstances.

In his initial comments, Green criticized the Mavericks for letting Harrison Barnes learn he was traded during a game and the Kings for telling DeMarcus Cousins during his All-Star post-game press conference they traded him. Green expanded the complaint to include “guys finding out an hour before the game that they’re going to be in trade talks and won’t suit up until they’re traded or bought out.”

So, players shouldn’t get traded too close to a game starting, during a game or too soon after a game?

That’s infeasible. Trades involve too many people to always keep a deal under wraps until each player involved can be told simultaneously.

I wish I could have challenged Green more on the areas where I think he’s too clouded by personal experience or missing the mark for other reasons. Perhaps, he would have persuaded me. But even further discussion would have been illuminating. People disagreeing and discussing it is a great way to gain understanding and make progress. That’s why I was so pleased Green raised these issues in the first place, even the parts I disagreed with.

Unfortunately, Green – who was promoting using the #MySubwaySub hashtag and the promo code BOGO50 on the Subway app – had limited time for the interview.

But you can be certain he won’t let the conversation end here.

“My mom was very adamant to me as a young kid, when you have something that you want to say, when you have something that you believe in,” Green said, “don’t ever be afraid to speak on it.”

LeBron James begins on court work, shoots down report of return before season’s end


Lakers fans’ dreams of their retooled roster — one that was impressive for the three games everyone was together just after the trade deadline — getting healthy and making a surprise run through the Western Conference start with one simple premise:

LeBron James getting back on the court.

There was good news on that front Thursday following his evaluation. The Lakers announced that LeBron started “on-court activity” and a “gradual basketball movement program” to return from a foot tendon issue that has sidelined him for 12 games. However, no official timeline was given for LeBron to return to the court.

At almost the same time that news broke, it was leaked to multiple reporters that LeBron was targeting a return for the final week of the season. ESPN’s Dave McMenamin summed it up well on SportsCenter:

“A league source familiar with LeBron James’ thinking told me that he believes LeBron will push for sometime over the final three games the Lakers play in Los Angeles — April 5 against the Clippers, April 7 against the Suns, April 9 against the Jazz — to target that range so long as there are no setbacks in his rehab to make his comeback. Get back onto the court, get a little bit of a dress rehearsal before either the play-in tournament or a playoff berth for the Lakers.”

Within an hour after the reports of a LeBron return timeline broke, he shot them down on Twitter.

There is zero chance word of LeBron targeting the final week of the season was leaked to at least four well-sourced NBA and Lakers’ reporters randomly or by someone that all of these people did not trust. Choose to read between the lines what you will, or who you think is pressuring whom, but this did not get out on accident. There is unquestionably a desire to get LeBron back on the court in Los Angeles before the end of the season. The Lakers need LeBron for any kind of playoff run and they don’t want to just throw him in the mix for a play-in game.

The Lakers are currently tied for 9/10 in the West with Dallas, just half a game back of the Thunder and Timberwolves for the 7/8 seeds, and 1.5 games back of the Warriors as the No. 6 seed (although they will be difficult to catch, especially with Golden State having now won two in a row on the road — the Lakers would need a record two games better than the Warriors the rest of the way). Los Angeles is also half a game up on the Pelicans and Jazz for falling out of even the play-in. The Lakers need wins.

LeBron would help with that, but he says there still is no timeline for his return.

Jaylen Brown on future with Celtics: ‘I will stay where I’m needed and treated correct’


Jaylen Brown may have one more year on his contract after this one — a fully guaranteed $28.5 million — but in today’s NBA, it’s already time to talk about his next contract.

That next deal will not be a simple extension with the Celtics (unless the extension rules change dramatically under the new CBA being negotiated). Under the current rules, Boston can offer an extension starting at around $36 million a season, however, if he goes to free agency his max contract would start at $44 million. It’s an easy call for Brown.

That means Brown would be a free agent. While Boston could offer larger raises and a fifth year other teams cannot, Brown would have the option of going anywhere he wants. Would he want to stay in Boston, playing with Jayson Tatum? Logan Murdoch of The Ringer asked him, and Brown’s answers raised eyebrows.

“I don’t know. As long as I’m needed. It’s not up to me,” he says. “We’ll see how they feel about me over time and I feel about them over time. Hopefully, whatever it is, it makes sense. But I will stay where I’m wanted. I will stay where I’m needed and treated correct…

“I just enjoy the time that you have now,” he says. “If it’s your whole career, it’s your whole career. If it’s not, it’s not. Some of the greatest players of all time haven’t finished with their organization. Michael Jordan retired a Wizard. As much as we like it here and enjoy being here, you see where life takes you. You see how the process goes. All you do is really focus on what’s in front of you right now, to be honest. But I don’t really know or want to answer that question because that type of stuff makes Celtics fans speculate and go crazy. Especially right now, I’ll just say we’ll get there when we get there.”

Some have tried to spin those comments as “Brown is not fully committed to Boston.” To my eyes, it reads more like a message to the Celtics that if they don’t want to pay him the max another team will. Brown is an All-NBA level player on the court and a smart, independent mind off it — one not bound to convention. He wasn’t going to play the “this is the only place I ever want to play” game that placates fans, even when the players don’t mean it. Brown was honest.

If Brad Steven and the Celtics toy around with trying to get Brown for less than the max, he’s got options. For example, the Hawks are watching the Atlanta area native, a source told Sean Deveney of

“One reason the Hawks are trying to unload (John) Collins is to get that cap space and be in position to add someone, another star, with Trae,” one Eastern Conference executive said. “It is not easy to get free agents to Atlanta but Jaylen Brown would be different—they want to be in position, at least, to make a move if he wants to be there. I think there is not question they are watching the situation with him. Closely.”

Most likely, the Celtics will re-sign Brown out in the summer of 2024 and this is all moot. But if the Celtics have a couple of rough playoffs, things could feel different. Whatever happens, Brown is open to it.

Three things to Know: Towns hits game-winning free throws in night of stars returning


Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Karl-Anthony Towns returns and hits game-winning free throws

Karl-Anthony Towns could not have been happier.

“This is what movies is made of,” Towns said postgame (via Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic). “You come back, 51 games missing, sellout crowd, Target Center and you get the ball with seven seconds left, no timeouts. You’ve got to make it. I mean, it doesn’t get better than that. It doesn’t get better than that.”

Towns did make it, well the free throws, anyway. The Hawks’ John Collins fouled Towns on his final shot — something upheld by a review — then KAT sank both free throws to give Minnesota the 125-124 win.

Towns finished with 22 points and showed a little rust shooting 8-of-18 (but hitting 2-of-3 from beyond the arc), which is to be expected after being out since Nov. 28 with a calf strain. The Timberwolves got a needed win in the tight West playoff chase, and did it without Anthony Edwards (still out with a sprained ankle).

The Hawks got hosed on what would have been their chance on game-winning free throws.

There were 3.6 seconds left on the clock after Towns’ free throws and the Hawks called time out to set up an inbounds play. That ended up being a Collins 3-pointer that did not hit the rim, but Atlanta’s Saddiq Bey was in position for the offensive board and appeared to be fouled by Taurean Prince. After the game, referee crew chief Ben Taylor told a pool reporter his crew missed the call.

“On postgame review we see it. It appears that Prince moves back into Bey’s space, and we should have assessed a foul on the play.”

Trey Young finished with 29 points and eight assists to lead Atlanta. The Hawks remain the No.8 seed in the East, one game up on Raptors (they are now three back in the loss column from the No.7 seed Heat, who will be next to impossible to catch).

2) Ja Morant comes off bench in return from suspension, scores 17

Ja Morant was welcomed back with a standing ovation and a roar from the Grizzlies faithful Wednesday night.

“Obviously, I’m thankful and grateful for everybody who has been supporting me during this time,” Morant said, via the Associated Press. “It definitely helped me a lot. Definitely made me feel a little better. Eased everything that’s been going on. Felt good to be back. Super excited and glad we were able to get the win.”

Morant had missed nine games (eight due to a league suspension) following an incident where he flashed a gun in a club and broadcast it on social media. Morant took time away and got counseling in Florida on how to better manage the stress in his life.

He didn’t play hoop or workout much during that time, so he came off the bench and had a minutes limit in his return while he plays himself back into shape. Time away or not, the explosive hops are still there.

Morant finished with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting in a 130-125 Grizzlies win over the Rockets. Jaren Jackson Jr. continued his hot play with 37 to lead Memphis.

The win put the Grizzlies two full games up on the Kings for the No.2 seed in the West.

3) Luka Dončić scores 30 in return, it’s not enough to beat Warriors

Luka Dončić returned after missing five games with a left thigh strain and it didn’t look like he missed a day — 30 points,17 rebounds, and a couple of ridiculously good assists.

It just wasn’t enough, not with Kyrie Irving out (foot soreness).

In a defense-free game — the losing Mavericks had a 127.6 offensive rating— Stephen Curry and the Warriors had a couple more buckets and picked up the 127-125 win. Curry finished with 20 points, while Jonathan Kuminga led the Warriors with 22.

That’s not what anyone is talking about out of this game. Instead, it’s the bizarre inbounds play that gave the Warriors two easy points.

Toward the end of the third quarter, Golden State’s Anthony Lamb missed a straight-on 3-pointer and the rebound caromed out of bounds. The baseline referee points it would remain the Warriors’ ball, but then instantly transitions into pointing the other direction to call a Mavericks timeout. That confused the Mavericks, who thought he signaled their ball. After the timeout came the inbounds play.

The Mavericks thought it was their ball (although why nobody came down to take the ball out is confusing), and after the game owner Mark Cuban sent out this angry Tweet and said he would file a protest over the game.

Referee crew chief Sean Wright explained the call postgame.

Initially on the floor the original signal was in fact Golden State ball as this can be seen on video. There is a second signal but that signal is for a mandatory timeout that was due to the Mavs.

The Mavericks’ loss drops them a game below .500 and tied with the Lakers for the 9/10 seeds in the West play-in. The Warriors remain the No.6 seed.

Mavericks to protest loss to Warriors after bizarre inbounds play


It was the easiest — and strangest — bucket of Kevon Looney‘s career.

It started late in the third quarter when the Warriors’ Anthony Lamb missed a straight-on 3-pointer and in a scramble for the rebound the ball fumbled out of bounds. The baseline official points that it went off the Mavericks and would remain the Warriors’ ball, but then instantly transitions into pointing the other direction to call a Mavericks timeout. Looney goes over to complain that it should be Warriors ball, then walks away satisfied that it is.

Then came the inbounds play.

The Mavericks were confused, they thought it was their ball, and after the game owner Mark Cuban sent out this angry Tweet and later said he would file a protest over the game — an eventual Warriors two-point win (127-125):

After the game, referee crew chief Sean Wright explained the situation this way to a pool reporter.

Initially on the floor the original signal was in fact Golden State ball as this can be seen on video. There is a second signal but that signal is for a mandatory timeout that was due to the Mavs.

Two thoughts here. First, the video of the incident backs up the referee’s account. Still, clearly, there was a communication breakdown about what was happening (especially if it was announced in the arena as Mavericks’ ball, as Cuban said).

Second, why were all the Mavericks at the other end of the court — if it was their ball they still had to inbound it on the baseline. Cuban says two Mavs players were headed down to inbound the ball, although that is not clearly evident on the video. (This is not case of the ball being advanced to mid-court. The ball can only be advanced after a timeout in the final two minutes of the game and overtime.) It’s difficult to understand what they were doing.

It is odd the referee did not check with the Mavs or clarify the situation when the players were about to concede two points for no reason. The communication from the referee crew was poor.

Cuban can protest, but he’s going to lose this one. And this loss stings, it drops the Mavericks (playing without Kyrie Irving due to foot soreness) one game below .500 and tied with the Lakers for the final two play-in spots in the West, 1.5 games back of the Warriors who remain the No. 6 seed. The game was Luka Doncic’s return to the court after missing five games and he finished with 30 points and 17 assists.