Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green vows to get emotions under control
By Melissa Rohlin
FOX Sports NBA Writer
Draymond Green has a unique challenge this season.
The fiery, emotional leader of the Golden State Warriors no longer has savvy veterans above him to smother the flames and prevent raging infernos. He's now largely on his own to regulate his emotions.
On Saturday, in a game against the Charlotte Hornets, he knows he deeply failed at that task.
With 9.3 seconds left, Green was assessed two technical fouls and ejected after he lost his cool when the referees didn't call a jump ball and instead awarded the Hornets a timeout. The Hornets were given two free throws and the ball and went on to win 102-100.
Green was initially extremely angry.
He felt wronged, robbed. He didn't speak to reporters after the game because he wanted to reflect on the situation before once again letting his emotions get the better of him.
Two days later, after letting himself marinate on the consequences of his actions, he spoke about the incident for the first time.
"I was dead-ass wrong," Green said Monday.
Green has always been a highly emotional player. He has long been considered the Warriors' heart and soul who inspires and motivates everyone around him. But it's a double-edged sword, and at times, his outbursts hurt the team.
In the past, he has had guys such as David West, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston to help him tow that line. But now Stephen Curry, at age 32, is the oldest player on the Warriors' roster, and he no longer has a regulator type of teammate to put him in his place when he crosses the line.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that's a new twist for Green.
"David West was the guy who could literally physically pick Draymond up and bear hug him and wrestle him away from a situation -- and he had the respect from Draymond to back that up," Kerr said of West, who played for the Warriors from 2016 to 2018. "This team, you've got younger guys, they might not feel as comfortable doing something like that. So it's a different dynamic, for sure."
Green knows he messed up. But at times, it's difficult for him to see that in the moment.
He now feels that he let his teammates down, especially the younger ones who haven't been to the NBA Finals five straight times and won three championships. For them, he knows each win means a lot. He thinks he robbed them of one.
His teammates have had his back and defended him. But Green says that was unnecessary.
"Like I told the guys, I appreciate the support of me, but that action does not warrant support," Green said. "With support from teammates comes a responsibility, and I let that responsibility go."
Green said he was disappointed in himself, especially in the context of the week he was having.
Five days before Saturday's game, after the Warriors' 129-98 win over Cleveland, he delivered an eloquent, unprompted speech about what he perceives to be a double standard between the way players and organizations are treated and viewed.
His words were widely celebrated across the league, with superstars such as LeBron James publicly lauding his oration over Instagram, writing, "FACTS!!!" Green was hailed as potentially being the next Charles Barkley -- if he should choose to become an analyst after he retires -- because of how well he can articulate his thoughts and how unafraid he is to speak his mind.
But in a whiplash-inducing time span, he went from being the hero to being the villain.
"That's where the disappointment for me lies," he said. "Just kinda letting my emotions get the better of me and going from one of the most powerful statements in NBA history to that. It's embarrassing."
Green said he regretted how he handled Saturday so much that it bothered him even more than the flagrant foul he was assessed for hitting James in the groin in Game 4 of the 2016 NBA Finals against the Cavaliers, which led to his being suspended for Game 5.
Sure, this was a random game in February. But Green knows he went from zero to 60 in a situation that should never have become so heated. And he has no one to blame but himself.
"The reason it bothered me more than that is because you can have your thoughts on the Game 5 situation — I for sure have my thoughts on the situation — but this situation in particular, I had complete control over," he said. "I let that control get away from me, and in turn, I let the game get away from myself and my teammates."
At this point in his career, Green holds himself to a different standard. He's no longer in his 20s. He's the fourth-oldest player on the roster after Curry, Kent Bazemore (31), Brad Wanamaker (31) and Klay Thompson (31).
The younger players on the team look up to him, and he takes that responsibility seriously. But even though Green let them down Saturday, Kerr said no damage was done.
"It's an easy move on," Kerr said. "Draymond has tremendous respect in his locker room. The guys adore him, and they should because he's a great, great teammate who made a mistake. But I've said it many times, and I know the guys on the team feel the same way: If you want to win a game, you need Draymond on your team. He's loyal, he's a competitor, he's a winner, and if the price to pay on that is him spilling his emotions over the top sometimes, so be it."
That said, Kerr was clear that he didn't want this type of thing to happen again, especially not in a late-game situation with the game on the line.
A reporter asked Kerr how confident he is that Green learned from his actions and will be able to respond differently in the future. Before he could respond, Curry jokingly interrupted the interview.
"Great question," Curry yelled from offscreen.
Kerr flashed a smile — then hedged his response.
"I'm not going to promise that he's not going to snap again. It's kind of who is," Kerr said. "I do think he will keep his emotions in check if there's a similar circumstance. I don't foresee that happening again because he knows he crossed the line."
Green was later asked a similar question.
He said he has no problem reining things in when he needs to, pointing to the fact that he has finished with 15 technical fouls in multiple seasons but has always managed to avoid picking up a 16th, which would bring an automatic suspension.
"As far as controlling my emotions, I know how to control my emotions," he said. "I let them get the best of me that day, but as someone who could get 15 techs every year and never crossed that line, I think I know how to control my emotions pretty well."
For Green, this was just a lapse that he wasn't proud of. And he vows to be better next time.
"When I look at the person I am today, that should never happen," he said. "And in saying that, I can admit my faults and when I'm wrong — and I was wrong."
Melissa Rohlin is an NBA reporter for FOX Sports. She has previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.