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Draymond Green Delivers Spinning Backfist, Innovates In The Ejection Space

Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors reacts after being ejected for a flagrant foul during the second half of the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center on December 12, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In the third quarter of the game on Tuesday night, Phoenix center Jusuf Nurkic and Golden State infantryman Draymond Green jockeyed for position. Nurkic put a hand on Green's hip, somewhat restricting his movement. Always a proponent of proportionality, Green responded to this by whirling around and bludgeoning Nurkic in the face with his hand, as if swinging a tube sock full of coins. This was ruled a flagrant 2 and Green was ejected for the third time this season, already tying his career-high for a single season just a quarter of the way into this one. A suspension is inevitable, but has yet to be announced.

Let me be clear: This is bad. It is bad to spinning backfist an unsuspecting opponent's face during a professional basketball game. For one thing, it is rude. But I did laugh. I laughed at the way Green completed his body's full revolution even after clocking Nurkic, in a commitment to the bit. Whether he's laying out Jordan Poole, trampolining off Domantas Sabonis's ribcage, or dragging Rudy Gobert across the court in a chokehold, late-career Draymond Green takes on this wet-noodle Looney Tunes body language that really does it for me. He looks like if the Tasmanian Devil was worse behaved.

Green's random acts of violence are taking a toll not just on opposing bigs but on his own team. He is still the key to Golden State's defense, and counting one absence for injury and five absences for choking out a tall Frenchman, Green has missed six games of this floundering 10-13 Warriors season. Steve Kerr was asked about the impact of Green's ejection on the game and the Warriors coach said, "It was a huge swing"—personally I would have chosen different words here—"We kinda felt good about him at the five, spreading the floor." Asked about the overall oeuvre of suspensions and ejections this year, Kerr kept his cool: "We need him. We need Draymond. He knows that. We’ve talked to him. He’s gotta find a way to keep his poise and be out there for his teammates." Even Kerr couldn't muster his usual apologist routine this time.

Green said he didn't feel bad about his absence in this game because he didn't intend to hit Nurkic. Of a spinning backfist that used the momentum of his whole body, and leveled a 290-pound man, and resembles no known basketball act so much as it resembles a toddler imitating a wayward helicopter, Green said he was just trying to sell a foul call after Nurkic pulled his hip. "As you know, I am not one to apologize for things I meant to do, but I do apologize to Jusuf because I didn't intentionally hit him," Green said after the game. "I sell calls with arms. I don't fall to sell a call. I'm not a flopper. So I was just selling a call ... unfortunately, I hit him."

"I’m not an accurate enough puncher to do a full 360 and connect with someone," he added, insightfully.

Nurkic was officiated with kid gloves for the rest of the game and had an excellent outing with 17 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists. The Suns led by 13 with about four minutes left, but had to survive a late Warriors surge to win 119-116. While Nurkic used to be the sort of guy to defend Draymond Green's honor unprompted online, Tuesday night's run-in has changed his tune.

"What's going on with him? I don't know," Nurkic said afterward in press. "Personally, I feel like that brother needed help."

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