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WARRIORS HAVE ENABLED BABY DRAYMOND — AND AGAIN ARE PAYING FOR HIS SINS
Green’s chest-stomp of Sabonis led to a 0-2 series deficit and 1-game suspension, prompting a question that should keep him out of the Hall of Fame: How many times has he cost his team a title?
If this is the end of a celebrated sports inferno — the deadeye lasers and shimmying showmanship of Stephen Curry, and the four-championship glory of the Warriors — it figures Draymond Green would stomp out the flames.
Literally, that is, as in the size-15 sneaker he intentionally planted into the chest of a fallen Domantas Sabonis, an unusually barbaric stunt even for a basketball brute of the lowest form.
Baby Dray’s latest act of subhuman behavior came Monday night, with 7:03 left in the fourth quarter of a close postseason game against an emerging Kings team and delirious Sacramento fans, all sensing an impending funeral pyre in the Bay Area. Were Green the leader his Golden State enablers say he is, and the future Hall of Famer he thinks he is, he’d have kept running upcourt after shaking off Sabonis’ brief, two-armed grip on his ankle. He’d have focused on trying to win a game, one of 16 victories the Warriors will need to claim a fifth NBA title in nine seasons and push closer to their entertainment forerunners in popular culture, the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s.
Instead, Green chose selfish retaliation over team valor, which led to an ejection and a much-warranted one-game league suspension. Instead, he chose to be a villain in a WWE ring and carry out violence that would have put him in jail if perpetrated on the street. Instead, he snapped, as he too often does, such as when he slugged teammate Jordan Poole in practice last fall, creating a dark cloud that has hovered over the team all season. Or when he ambushed Kevin Durant, repeatedly calling him a “bitch” during an in-game confrontation that chased an all-time great to Brooklyn, which might have cost the Warriors two rings, if not more over an extended partnership. Or when he grabbed LeBron James by the King’s crown jewels, resulting in a suspension that prompted a collapse from a 3-1 lead in the 2016 Finals, which certainly cost the Warriors one championship.
So it wouldn’t be a stretch — assuming the rocking Kings go on to win the Western Conference first-round series — to say Baby Dray has prevented the current Warriors from passing the five titles of the San Antonio Spurs and at least matching the six of the Jordan Bulls. The run could have left them behind only the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, who’ve each won 17 times, in league history.
Not that Green ever thinks in the context of group sabotage. Not that he ever thinks he’s wrong, trying to justify the potential chest compression or broken ribs of his victim — what if he’d stomped Sabonis in the heart region? — by complaining his leg had been grabbed after his opponent slipped. “Second time in two nights, and the referee is just watching,” he said in his typical, blame-the-refs rant. “I got to land my foot somewhere, and I'm not the most flexible person, so it's not stretching that far. I can only step so far with someone pulling my leg away.”
They say Sacramento is a cowtown. There isn’t that much b.s. in the entire metro area. And yet, somehow, though he has been counterproductive in offsetting his deeds as a defender and passer, Green’s bosses and teammates continue to support him in almost every detrimental instance. Never mind that he turned the scene into an all-Dray/all-day farce as officials reviewed the tape and determined a flagrant foul 2 and automatic ejection. Waving his hands and standing on a chair by the bench, all he did was rile up rowdies who made life worse for the Warriors when he left for the locker room, slapping skin with his mates all the way amid “Draymond Sucks!” chants. Down by four points at the time, they still could have won Game 2 and tied the series, but Green’s antics fueled the Kings, who successfully were double-teaming Curry and forcing the Warriors into turnovers and missed shots. The defending champs needed help, not thuggery.
“There is no room for that in our game today,” Sabonis said.
“That brought us together," said Kings guard De’Aaron Fox, whose star turn has gone national in a showcase against Curry. “We huddled up and were like, ‘We have to win this game.’ Everybody thought he would be ejected, and when that happens, usually that team comes together and goes on a run. But we were able to negate that.”
That’s because, deep down, the Warriors must be sick of cleaning up Baby Dray’s messes. Last June, when he insisted on doing his podcast even while playing poorly during the Finals, they had his back until he contributed at the end against the Celtics. At this point, they can’t see the 2023 Finals with the highest magnification equipment in Silicon Valley. Steve Kerr, an otherwise reasonable and worldly sort, has defended Green at every turn as his coach. So has general manager Bob Myers, who unearthed Green with the No. 35 pick in the 2012 draft and protects him like his own child. So has Curry, who is guilty of blind loyalty to a friend. And Klay Thompson, who also believes in Harry Potter.
“What are you going to do when someone grabs your foot when you're running full speed?” Thompson said after the 114-106 loss. “That's not cool. I'm not saying what Draymond did was right, but you can't just grab somebody's foot taking off in a full sprint.”
This time, they cannot stand up for him and be taken seriously. This time, Green has bookended what appears to be Golden State’s version of “The Last Dance” — despite Kerr’s steadfast protests — by slugging Poole in October and stomping on Sabonis in April. As usual, he was cocksure after a loss that pushed the Warriors into their first 0-2 postseason hole of the current era, in their 28th playoff series together. “It’s exciting, right? It's a new challenge,” Green said. “I was thinking that: This is something we haven't seen yet. And we've conquered all the rest of them, so why not go conquer this one? It will be a lot of fun.”
Well, they haven’t conquered the rest of them. There was 2016, which he conveniently forgets as if the crash never happened, because his enablers also practice amnesia. In an ordinary world, Green would be arrested and prosecuted for his actions. At least NBA top cop Joe Dumars, with a push from commissioner Adam Silver, ignored his longtime friendship with Green and issued the Game 3 ban without pay. “The suspension was based in part on Green’s history of unsportsmanlike acts,” the league said. Not that TNT will look sideways at Charles Barkley’s heir apparent in the “Inside The NBA” studio, enjoying the attention and ignoring his rage.
Sometime soon, once the Warriors are eliminated, I do anticipate a parting of ways. Does anyone really think owner Joe Lacob will pay up for more of this lunacy and produce a lucrative contract extension? Green will take the east ramp onto the Bay Bridge, bags packed for another destination, and not even Kerr and Myers will beg him to turn around. A franchise will be better off for it.
Baby Dray always will flash four fingers, to commemorate the trophies.
He should cut off two or three others, as punishment for his sins, while some of us lobby to block him from the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Jay Mariotti, called “without question the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ writes general sports columns for Substack while appearing on some of the 1,678,498 podcasts and shows in production today. He is an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and talk/podcast host. Living in Los Angeles, he gravitated by osmosis to film projects.