Warriors stand by Green, say he'll get help during indefinite suspension
Coach Steve Kerr and general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. are hopeful Green's indefinite suspension for hitting Phoenix center Jusuf Nurkic in the face will provide the time and motivation for their star forward to make real progress on the mental and emotional challenges that led him to this grim point in a decorated career.
“To me, this is about more than basketball,” Kerr said Thursday night before the Warriors faced the Clippers. “It’s about helping Draymond. I think it’s an opportunity for Draymond to step away and to make a change in his approach, in his life, and that’s not an easy thing to do.”
Dunleavy and Kerr both said the team is satisfied with the NBA's latest punishment for Green, the four-time NBA champion who was indefinitely banned Wednesday. The suspension was the sixth of Green's career and his fourth in 2023.
“I think this is something that a lot of people may see as a problem, but we’re looking to turn it into a positive,” Dunleavy said on the UCLA campus during the Warriors' morning shootaround. “(Green is at) a point in his career and his life where we want to get some things straightened out, and maybe sometimes you need a jolt like that.”
Dunleavy repeatedly said the Warriors will “help” Green during his absence, but didn't specify the nature of that aid. Kerr said Green will get counseling from professionals outside the team to identify the reasons behind his escalating series of physical outbursts, including his decision to punch then-teammate Jordan Poole during training camp in October 2022 — an act for which the Warriors fined Green, but didn't suspend him.
“The whole key for me is what this can do for his life long-term,” Kerr said. “I want him to be happy. I want him to reap the rewards of an incredible career and legacy, and I want him to finish that career in a really wonderful, dignified manner. This guy is one of the great winners of all time, one of the great competitors of all time, but he’s crossed a line. He knows that. He knows he needs help, and he’s going to get that help, and we’re going to help him with it.”
Green will be around the Warriors extensively during his suspension, although he can't be with the team on game nights. Kerr said Green, who didn't travel to Los Angeles, will maintain his conditioning when he returns to team, although both sides “need a little space” at the moment.
“There’s a lot of ways you can go about this, but for now, we think the healthiest thing is for him to be around,” Dunleavy said. “It may not be every single day, but we’re not jettisoning the guy off somewhere.”
Dunleavy also unambiguously confirmed the Warriors are committed to the 33-year-old Green, who is in the first season of a four-year, $100 million contract extension. Although Dunleavy pointedly said Golden State's starting lineup hasn't played well enough during the team's 10-13 start, he praised the play of Stephen Curry and Green.
“He’s been here for a long time,” Dunleavy said of Green. “He’s hung a ton of banners and means so much to this organization. I think this is about turning this thing into a positive and getting better. I think that happens, and we feel really good. Like I said, his play has been terrific. It’s just his lack of availability that’s not been great, and we want to make that better.”
Dunleavy said Green and the Warriors had discussions with the NBA about the nature of the suspension before it was announced this week, and all parties agreed on a truly indefinite suspension. Dunleavy said there are no guaranteed parameters on the ban's length.
Dunleavy also said he thinks it's reasonable to hold Green to a higher standard after his history of misbehavior, including the bizarre headlock he placed on Minnesota's Rudy Gobert during a skirmish last month, leading to a five-game ban.
“I hope Draymond gets the help he needs,” Phoenix star Kevin Durant, Green’s former Golden State teammate, said after the suspension was handed down Wednesday. “I know Draymond. He hasn’t been that way when I was around him and coming into the league. Hopefully he gets the help he needs and gets back on the court and puts all this stuff behind him.”
The Warriors had lost 11 of 15 heading into their meeting with the surging Clippers, and Dunleavy indicated that the team's next 15 to 20 games will play a major role in deciding whether Golden State needs to make big roster changes for a team that has won four championships in the past nine seasons.
Entering Thursday, not only would Golden State not be in the playoffs, but the Warriors wouldn’t even qualify for the play-in tournament.
“We’re going to try to fill that gap up until he returns,” said Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga, whose minutes are likely to rise in Green’s absence. “But throughout this time, we’re all supporting Draymond. We’re all communicating. We’re all helping him. We’re just going through this moment.”
Green’s absence comes with the Warriors already in a spot of early season trouble. They’ve blown a series of fourth-quarter leads, and they haven’t won a game by double figures in well over a month. They needed nine starting lineups to get through the season’s first 23 games.
Klay Thompson has struggled offensively after failing to agree on an extension last summer, and then he was benched toward the end of Tuesday’s game in Phoenix. Andrew Wiggins’ numbers are also well off his career norms and last season’s standard.
Compounding Green’s woes, the suspension almost certainly means he won’t play in the 65 games usually required for a player to be eligible for postseason awards under the NBA’s new participation policies, which means his annual spot on the all-defensive team is in jeopardy. And it surely will be part of what USA Basketball takes into consideration when deciding whether Green, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, deserves a spot on the team that will go to next year's Paris Games.
Kerr will coach that Olympic team, and Green has indicated he would like to play. Speaking in his role as a TNT analyst earlier this week, Grant Hill — USA Basketball’s managing director — said Green striking Jurkic was “disappointing.”
“He’s got to use better judgment in that situation,” Hill said.
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.
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