Draymond Green

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LeBron James forms organization to help grow, protect black voting rights

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LeBron James wants to grow the number of black voters and protect their rights.

He’s far from alone, which is why Trae Young, Jalen Rose, Draymond Green, and Skylar Diggins-Smith are among those teaming up with LeBron, building on the words and energy of the recent weeks of protests, and turning all that into action.

LeBron and his partners have formed an organization called “More Than A Vote” that will not only register black voters for the November election but also teach them how to counter voter suppression tactics. Plus, LeBron said he will use his social media presence, and the organization, to push back against restrictions on the right to vote (which often target minorities). From The New York Times:

“Yes, we want you to go out and vote, but we’re also going to give you the tutorial,” Mr. James said. “We’re going to give you the background of how to vote and what they’re trying to do, the other side, to stop you from voting.”

LeBron has never been shy about using his celebrity and social media presence to support a cause — or to criticize President Donald Trump. That has been especially true since George Floyd was killed at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

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However, forming “More Than A Vote” is taking the next step for LeBron into using his celebrity to build something that can spearhead real change. He is leading a generation of younger athletes willing to take a stand in a way that is reminiscent of legendary black athletes of the 1960s and ’70s but went out of style in the ’80s and until recently.

“I’m inspired by the likes of Muhammad Ali, I’m inspired by the Bill Russells and the Kareem Abdul-Jabbars, the Oscar Robertsons — those guys who stood when the times were even way worse than they are today,” Mr. James said. “Hopefully, someday down the line, people will recognize me not only for the way I approached the game of basketball, but the way I approached life as an African-American man.”

More Than A Vote will work with other voting rights organizations already doing similar work, but it brings some star power to the game. LeBron reached out to comedian Kevin Hart to do some speaking gigs, and included other NBA stars such as  Green and Udonis Haslem in the organization.

Protests spontaneously sprung up nationally in the wake of the Floyd being killed, protests that have evolved but continued for weeks. Out of those has come a national discussion of what’s next to change issues of systemic racism in our country, centered around Black Lives Matter and “defund the police,” among other topics.

LeBron has found his topic, one that can help make a real change in this nation by getting people to vote. It’s a powerful step and symbol — like building a charter school — and it will someday be a huge part of how we remember LeBron. He’s not going to be remembered simply as a basketball player.

Warriors’ Bob Myers says he would ‘consider’ trading draft pick

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Even if the NBA decides to play a handful more regular season games upon return, the Golden State Warriors are going to finish the season with the worst record in the NBA (they have a 4.5 game “lead” for the worst record). That means they have a 14% chance at the No. 1 pick, a 40.1% chance of a top-three pick, and a 47.9% chance of having the No. 5 pick.

Those same Warriors are returning next season with a healthy Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, a team with title aspirations.

That’s led to a lot of speculation the Warriors would try to trade down, something Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob confirmed. Warriors president Bob Myers, speaking to NBC Sports’ Bay Area’s Monte Poole, said as much as any executive in his shoes would: He’d consider trading the pick.

“Yeah, we’re going to consider all that,” the Warriors president of basketball operations told NBC Sports Bay Area over the phone, before pausing for a moment. “Now, I don’t know if the headline is going to be that we’re trading our pick. So, be clear that I said ‘consider.’”

On the ProBasketballTalk podcast, NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster said if he were in Myers’ shoes he would try to trade down, get a veteran, and land in picks four through six. There he can likely land a player such as Obi Toppin, Isaac Okoro, or Deni Avdija — players who should not go No. 1 but are better poised to help immediately. The problem for the Warriors, or whoever lands the top pick, is this is a weak draft at the top, depressing the value. Dauster described it this way: the top three picks in this draft would go 6-10 most years.

The 2020 NBA Draft Lottery and Draft Combine have been postponed, and the draft itself will get the same treatment soon (it has yet to be officially changed, but everyone expects it).

Until there is a lottery and the Warriors know where they land, it’s tough for Myers to do much more than plan. Just like the rest of us.

Draymond Green: Kevin Durant’s discontent with Warriors stems from LeBron praise, not our incident

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Warriors coach Steve Kerr endorsed the idea that Kevin Durant became restless because he didn’t get enough credit for besting LeBron James in the 2017 NBA Finals.

Draymond Green also subscribes to that theory.

Which, to Green, means too much stock is put into his infamous blowup at Durant nearly a year-and-a-half later. (You’re a b—, and you know you’re a b—. We don’t need you. We won without you. Leave.) Durant said the incident contributed to him leaving Golden State for the Nets last summer.

Green gave his fascinating perspective on “All The Smoke” (video warning: profanity).

Durant joined the Warriors in 2016, forming a rare MVP tandem with Stephen Curry. Initially, each superstar overly deferred to the other, throwing off Golden State’s rhythm. Durant told Curry to take the lead, and the Warriors surged. In Golden State’s victory over LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the 2017 NBA Finals, Durant asserted himself and won Finals MVP.

Green:

Kevin is happy as hell, not complaining about nothing, just enjoy playing good basketball.

You turn on the TV the next day, and the f—ing headline is “LeBron James still the best player in the world, question mark.” You’ve got Stephen A. You’ve got all these people debating it. And everybody still said LeBron James is the best player in the world. That’s when I kind of felt like it took a turn. And then we came back 2017-2018 season, and Kevin just wasn’t as happy.

Durant has given contradictory statements about his happiness in the aftermath of his first title. But he did say he felt LeBron passed the torch to him in 2017.

Green said Durant complained more about shot distribution between himself, Curry and Klay Thompson. Durant expressing misgivings about the Warriors’ offense would become a running theme

Green:

It wasn’t a problem in 2017. But now in 2018, it’s always an issue. And so that was a challenge, just trying to figure out, how is Kevin going to react to certain s— that would happen with the team or that Steve Kerr would do. Steve Kerr would call a play for him, and he’d be like, “I don’t f—ing want you to call a play. I want you to f—ing make them play the right way.” And it’s like, yo, what are you talking about? You you say you need the ball, and you want the ball. But then when I call the play for you. It ain’t that. So what is it? It’s obviously a much bigger problem than just you getting the ball.

I’m talking to Bob Myers. I’m like, “Yo, I don’t think Kevin coming back here.” And, you know, Kevin has said to me once before like, “They keep this bulls— up, I’ll get out of here.” And me and K was real close. So, I’m always in between everybody talking him off the ledge, f—ing telling Steph like, “Yo, we need to get K a touch.”

Remember David West’s cryptic comments about about how much Golden State went through internally en route to the 2018 championship? Green said it referred to this drama with Durant (not just a meningitis scare).

Green even thought Durant might leave during the 2018 offseason. But Green believes the lure of a three-peat brought Durant back. Green later said he wanted Durant to declare his plan – leave or stay in 2019 – before the season.

Green:

His heart wasn’t here no more. He was kind of one foot in and one foot out from the very beginning of the season.

But the one thing about Kevin is he loves the game of basketball. And he’s going to give it 100 percent every f—ing time he step on the floor. I don’t give a f— if it’s a game, if it’s a workout.

If you watch this dude work out, every rep he do, it’s f—ing game speed.

To watch him f—ing work out is like mesmerizing. Like the f—ing heart.

To go every rep game speed in a f—ing workout, it’s just not realistic. It’s not realistic. But he does.

The one thing you could always depend on is, no matter what, once he stepped on the court he’s going bust his ass, because that’s just who he is, that he worked his ass off.

But it was kind of always commotion all year. And so beginning of the year, I told Bob and Steve, I’m like, “Yo, I’m struggling with Kevin right now. He kind of not here. I need some help. I’m trying, and it’s frustrating. I need some help.” And everybody’s like, “Yeah, OK. We understand. We get it. Alright, cool.” But nobody did s—. And so I’m kind of stuck in this position.

Was Durant fully committed to the Warriors last season? Probably not.

But, as Green said, that didn’t affect Durant’s effort level. Durant played hard and played well. He even rushed back from injury – and suffered a ruptured Achilles – to help Golden State in the NBA Finals.

The issues came primarily with team chemistry. Especially in hindsight, Myers and Kerr should have heeded Green’s plea for help. But Green is the Warriors’ emotional leader. He embraces that responsibility.

And he made the situation even worse.

Green berated Durant before overtime of a game against the Clippers in November 2018. At the end of the fourth quarter, Green grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled up court and then committed a turnover. Durant said he was stunned Green didn’t pass to him.

Green:

When I get the rebound, what do I do? I get the rebound. I push the ball. I find one of them. So, I get the rebound. I take off. He clapped loudest s—. I’m like, “Yo, come on.” I’m taking off. I’m going. I start to cross over and go across court. And in my mind, I’m already thinking like, “Oh, he trailing. I’m about to cross over and take this guy standing here, and I’m going to just flip it back. He going to step into a 3. He step into a 3, it’s game over, and we out of here.

He stood back there clapping and kind of moseying up. So, when I go across, I’m waiting to flip. He kind of not there, and I turned it over.

It’s amazing how both big and small this argument was.

Durant wanted the ball in the backcourt. Green wanted to pass it to Durant in the frontcourt. That’s such a tiny dispute! It’s the type of thing to discuss briefly and get on the same page the next time. Green is a willing passer, and Durant is a lethal scorer. Both know their roles. It’s an issue of only when to throw the pass.

But it was also so much more. Durant’s looming free agency was always going to cause tension. It was unavoidable. The question was whether the Warriors could properly manage it. This incident revealed a clear no.

Afterward, Green met with Myers and Kerr.

Green:

They’re pretty much telling me, “You were wrong. You apologize.” And my thing for them was, “I told y’all this. So, yeah, it boiled over. But this shouldn’t be no surprise to nobody. I told y’all what it was, and nobody did nothing. I told y’all this was coming.” And so when that happened, they kept telling me like, “Yo, you need to apologize.” And I’m like, “I’m not f—ing apologizing. He one foot in and one foot out. I meant what I said. I’m not f—ing apologizing for something I meant to say. I’m not apologizing.”

After an hour and 45 minutes, they’re like, “You go home. You meet us in the morning. You sleep on it, and maybe you feel different.”

And we meet and they’re like, “So are you going to apologize?” I’m like, “I’m not apologizing!”

Myers told Green he’d be suspended one game.

Green:

I started laughing. And he’s like, “Well, that’s not the response I expected you to have.” I’m like, “Well, I feel like you’re suspending me to try to save Kevin, to try to make him feel good. Because that’s bulls—. I never seen no player get suspended for arguing with another player. So, you’re really trying to save him. It is funny to me.”

On this, Green and Durant agree: The Warriors mishandled the aftermath of the incident.

Green:

At this point, it just had gone from bad to worse. But we were so talented, that the outside world couldn’t tell that there was problems.

Durant said he decided midway through last season to leave Golden State. Durant said the argument with Green contributed to his decision, though Durant never pinned his exit solely on that.

Green:

You ain’t leave because of me. You’re f—ing Kevin Durant. You wanted to be here? I would have been out if I was the issue. I would have been long gone. And guess who would’ve understood that? I understand that. I understand the business of basketball. I understand how this s— works. If Kevin Durant wants to be somewhere and he don’t want me here, I’m out.

He was one foot in and one foot out. And he left because he wanted to leave. Because he wanted to be here and me being here was an issue, I would have been out. And that’s just the real.

Yes, Golden State would’ve traded Green if that meant Durant would’ve returned. But that’s an oversimplification.

Durant joined the Warriors in the first place because he liked their ball movement. Green was a big part of that.

On the other hand, Durant also chafed at Golden State’s offensive scheme. It’s difficult to tell what he really wanted. I’m not sure even he knew other than he wasn’t finding it with the Warriors.

Again, Durant never said Green was the sole reason for leaving. There were clearly other issues, too. Durant merely said Green’s blowup contributed. Even if Durant planned to leave, he still had time to change his mind. In fact, there’s evidence Durant’s opinion of the Warriors turned more favorable as they advanced through the playoffs.

But they had more ground to make up because of Green. Green has owned that.

Green also owns this:

I still love KD. His feelings about me may not be the same. But I’ll ride for him for the rest of my life. I got that type of love for that brother.

I obviously don’t agree with every way Green framed Durant’s experience with Golden State. But I appreciate Green’s ability to explore the nuance of a complex situation. That advanced understanding of interpersonal dynamics gives Green even more credibility. I highly value his perspective here and am glad he provided it.

Toni Kukoc hopes rest of The Last Dance is ‘more of a celebration of basketball’

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The first two episodes of “The Last Dance” documentary on Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls set up the drama: GM Jerry Krause was the bad guy, the GM with the big ego feuding with Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, and Jordan, and the Bulls will only overcome this thanks to the legendary talents of Jordan.

That’s just not exactly how Toni Kukoc remembers it.

Kukoc, still a consultant to Jerry Reinsdorf and the Bulls, told K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago that he hopes the future episodes of the show don’t dwell on the negativity.

“I’m hoping the other episodes are brighter and more of a celebration of basketball instead of who is guilty or to blame, and why didn’t they win eight championships or 10,” Kukoc said in a phone interview. “The world was so happy when that was happening. So I don’t know what people are mad at…

“I cherish the things we did in practice, that we did on the road,” Kukoc said. “That team worked so hard and was committed and devoted. We’re talking about people who won six championships in eight years and we’ve got to find a way to find a dark note?”

Expect more negativity and focus on the drama — that’s what people tune in to see.

We are all guilty of it, fans and media (if we should be guilty at all). We talk about the drama around the Golden State Warriors of the past five years, of how Kevin Durant never felt at home on Stephen Curry‘s team and the tension between Durant and Draymond Green. There is little celebration of the beautiful, high-level basketball those Warriors teams played, and how they changed the game.

Don’t blame that entirely on the media. If we here at NBC Sports put together a well researched and written story with video about how we need to appreciate the beautiful basketball of the Warriors, then put that story next to one about the Durant/Green drama, we all know the story with all the conflict would get all the clicks. Fans gravitate to the conflict, they want player movement for the sake of player movement, and they want to say how they don’t want those things. The media feeds them a steady diet of it.

Kukoc is right. We should appreciate those Bulls for what they are, one of the NBA’s great teams. Those Bulls are in the pantheon of the very best we have ever seen on the court. That should be celebrated.

Just expect the documentary to follow the drama.

Draymond Green: Kevin Durant should’ve said before last season whether or not he’d return to Warriors

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Kevin Durant wanted to hit free agency in 2019, not be locked in longer with the Warriors.

Especially in hindsight, it’s easy to see why. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irvingwho’d been discussing it for a while – reportedly decided before last season to sign with the same team last summer. They ultimately both joined the Nets.

Even at the time, clues were apparent. Despite stating reluctance about taking another discount, Durant signed a contract in 2018 that didn’t maximize his earnings, because that was the only way to structure a shorter deal. Durant’s company moved to New York.

The result?

The Warriors played last season under the cloud of Durant’s looming free agency.

Everything he said and did was viewed through the lens of him staying or going. Golden State braced for his exit.

Draymond Green, via Uninterrupted:

What should have happened was Kevin come out and say, “Hey, man, this is it.” Like, “So, let’s do this.” Or, “This isn’t it.” But you can’t just leave the elephant in the room.

Because what happened was, the question came to us every day. Every time we spoke to the media, Klay and myself was asked about our contracts, and it was strictly due to Kevin. Because while that was going on, Klay was saying, “I want to be a Warrior forever. I want to be here. We started this thing. This is where I want to be.” I’m saying, “I want to be here for my career. We started this. We built this. I want to finish my career here with the guys I started it with.”

And then you kind of had Kevin like, “I don’t know what I’m going to do next year, and it don’t matter.” But it does matter, because you’re not the only person that has to answer that question.

And to be quite frank with you, you’re honestly the last person that has to answer the question because you don’t really say s—. You don’t say much to the media. If anything, you tell them to shut the f— up. Well, I don’t tell them to shut the f— up. I kind of have a conversation. And so I’m stuck answering that question all the time.

And due to that, there was always an elephant in the room amongst us.

This is so unfair.

If Durant said he were going to leave, that would have created an even more toxic situation. Durant’s devotion to the Warriors would have been widely questioned. How much would he help the team with one foot out the door? I doubt Green would have respected that one bit.

If Durant said he were going to stay, he would have boxed himself into an impossible corner. He earned the right to free agency in 2019. There was no good reason for him to relinquish that a year earlier just to temper media inquiries. Or Durant could have lied – said he’d stay then departed, anyway. I bet Green would have respected that even less.

Even if Durant planned before the season to depart, he had a right to change his mind. In fact, late in the season, signs emerged Durant was giving more consideration to staying. Did Green really want a highly talented teammate anchored to the idea of leaving? The best thing for the Warriors would have been Durant keeping an open mind.

The situation was going to be awkward last season no matter what Durant said. It was unavoidable.

But both Green and Durant handled it especially horribly at times. Green infamously blew up at Durant during a game, profanely telling the superstar that the Warriors didn’t need him and that he should just leave. Durant lashed out at the media for writing things Durant would later corroborate.

It was also unfair to pin the burden of relieving tension solely on Durant.

More than anything, it was circumstantial. All contracts eventually expire. As that point nears, there will be questions.

But the Warriors also leaned into suspicions. In 2018, Durant said he’d re-sign. Yet, some within the organization didn’t believe him. The 2018 championship parade got awkward with jokes about Durant leaving.

Contrary to what Green said, Durant repeatedly talked about free agency. Yes, in the most infamous incident, Durant vilified the media. He was also often accommodating.

So was Green, and I’m sympathetic to him repeatedly having to answer questions about Durant’s free agency. That can be wearing.

But no matter what Durant said, he was going to be a free agent in the summer of 2019. People care where one of the NBA’s best players plays.

There was no way around that.