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Draymond Green Remains In Pursuit Of Method For Attacking Opponents That Won’t Get Him Suspended

Draymond Green talks to a teammate during a timeout.
Photo by Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Draymond Green will return from suspension Tuesday night, when the Golden State Warriors travel to Sacramento to face the Kings. Green was banned for five games for deploying a chokehold against Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert during a scuffle inside the first minute of a game on Nov. 14. It's bad to grab a person around the neck, and anyone who has done so in an NBA game is looking at some sort of elevated punishment, but the league said in an official release that the length of this suspension was "based in part on Green's history of unsportsmanlike acts."

The timing could've been worse: The Warriors played four of their next five games at home, and four games against teams that failed to make the playoffs last season. But these Warriors sort of stink on their home court, and however janky and gremlin-like Green looks while doing basketball things he is an important part of all of Golden State's best lineups. Including the fateful Timberwolves game, the Warriors have lost four of six since the chokehold. The opportunity to deprive Rudy Gobert's brain of a few seconds of oxygen, however tempting, is a poor reason to kneecap a Warriors team with real-deal championship aspirations, especially with the Western Conference looking once again like it might go 11 deep in playoff hopefuls. These games will matter.

The matter of whether Green regrets his actions—whether he wishes he had handled the situation differently—is complicated at least in part by his own difficulty with admitting fault. It's a theme from throughout Green's history of getting into trouble for weird goon shit he pulled in basketball games: My absence hurts the team, but my absence was caused by unfair treatment for normal or even valiant behavior; therefore obviously there is nothing to regret.

"Any time there's a situation and a teammate needs you to come to their defense, I'm gonna come to their defense," Green explained Sunday, of an instance when a teammate absolutely 100 percent did not need him to come to their defense, where "come to their defense" should be interpreted to mean grab by the neck a person other than the one who was fighting my teammate. "I know for me, I'm gonna always be there for my teammates. That's who I am. That's who I am as a teammate, that's who I am as a friend. If I'm your friend I'm gonna be there for you, right, wrong, or indifferent. You look to your side, I'll be right there, if not in front of you."

Unfortunately, as a consequence of his choice to briefly strangle an enemy while his teammate was fighting an entirely different person, Green was not able to be right there by the side of his friends as they faced six basketball teams across 11 nights. Green is aware that this causes some difficulties. "For me personally, I have to be on the court for my teammates. Our chances of winning drop dramatically if I'm not out there, so I have to be better at, um, being there, as one of the leaders of this group." This could conceivably mean doing fewer chokeholds in the future. "You've just got to find different ways. For me that's the biggest lesson in all of it, is just, like, yeah, you've got to be there for your teammate, but you have to do it differently," i.e. by resisting the urge to treat the neck of Rudy Gobert as if it is a large Go-Gurt.

Green's position on this is at its funniest when he is asked whether he will change his behavior going forward, now that the league has made explicit that they intend to treat him differently than other players. "I'm gonna be me, no matter what," says a laughing Green, as if groin-kicks and assorted other pro-wrestling moves are fundamental to his character. This is followed by a "but" that is so tortured and reluctant that it becomes the word mmmbut. "Mmmbut, in saying that, there's always a better way that something can be done. So figuring out a better way I think is the consensus among all of us."

Does Green regret putting Gobert in a chokehold? Certainly not. "I don't live my life with regrets. Like I said before, I'll come to a teammate's defense any time I'm in a position to come to a teammate's defense. That's what a team is, you stick together through the good and the bad. And I take that to heart. I take pride in being a good teammate. When I step in here every single day that's number one on my list, to be a good teammate." Interesting! Do go on.

Even when he is at his most blustery, Green is good to listen to. He's engaged and charismatic even when he's being stubborn and evasive, and sometimes he will talk his way into little interesting truths just from an impulse to keep talking. He mentioned Sunday his perception—which is probably shared among lots of professional athletes—that the sports media seems to expect or even to want players "to crack" from consequences and from criticism, which might go part of the way to explaining why Green talks about accountability as if he's afraid that accepting any will cause his wiener to shrink. But that doesn't mean he's wrong. There's always a hint of bloodlust in the coverage of player misconduct, and the accountability process for players often involves a fundamentally coerced and therefore compromised performance of contrition. It's hard to be mad at a guy who reaches a certain stature in his career and decides to opt out of that part: As Green explains it, so long as he and his coaches and teammates are good, he's good. That seems fine.

On the other hand, it would be good for his coaches and teammates and also for the sensitive tender parts of his fellow competitors if he would eventually stop attacking people during basketball games. The league has made it known that Green will face harsh punishments for future unsportsmanlike acts. The onus is now on Green to incorporate this knowledge into the general way that he uses his limbs in the performance of his duties, but this would require that Green acknowledge that he hasn't always gotten this right. Therein lies the rub, as Green articulated Sunday in what might've been a Freudian slip: "I'm also not one to admit when I'm at fault." You don't say.

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