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Draymond Green’s suspension is good for everyone

Let’s hope it works.

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Draymond Green hanging his head. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It was fairly shocking on Wednesday night, when the NBA announced an indefinite suspension for Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green. I had anticipated a fine and probably a one-game suspension after Green struck Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkić in the face on Tuesday, resulting in a Flagrant 2 foul and an ejection in a game the Dubs would lose by three points.

Some punishment was to be expected, and the league is clearly — and openly — at a point where they’re taking Green’s reputation into consideration. But the strike on Nurkić, while indefensible, was at least somewhat explainable. You could see it as Green trying to extract himself from a tangle, trying to sell a foul, or trying to display anger towards a ref after a non-call. He even apologized for it, which is not something we’ve seen Green do, even when it might limit punishment.

Indefensible? Yes, especially given his past actions. But after the league only suspended Green for five games after putting Rudy Gobert in a chokehold — and didn’t enforce any action after Green punched his own teammate last year — an indefinite suspension was shocking to me.

It certainly signals that the suspension is for Green’s total body of work, but it was certainly a surprise that this was the final straw for the league.

But it’s good. It’s good for Draymond. It’s good for everyone.

It’s clear that Green needs help, in some form or fashion. At the surface level, something needs to change, because he can’t continue with this behavior, which seems to only be getting worse. And for a player who has inked hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts, plus sizable endorsements, while also having multiple side jobs in media, suspensions and fines simply weren’t going to be an incentive for the behavior to change.

But it goes without saying that it’s below the surface level where something really needs to change. I will not provide backseat psychology, especially in public, but there is obviously something triggering this behavior that needs to be addressed for Green’s well-being.

The league’s announcement of the suspension said that Green will “be required to meet certain league and team conditions” before he can take the court again, and The Athletic reported that Draymond is expected to receive counseling during his absence. Joe Dumars, who runs point for these issues as the NBA’s Executive Vice President and Head of Basketball Operations, and also maintains a close relationship with Green, stressed that an open suspension creates a clear end goal of making sure that Dray receives the help he needs, and addresses the issues that are surfacing.

All of this is good for Green. Whatever is leading to this behavior is something we should all support him in addressing and working towards. As is so often the case, it’s clear that punishment is not leading to a change in behavior; hopefully this is what spurs growth for Green.

Further evidence that this is more about reformation than punishment (which should always be the goal, in my opinion), is that Draymond himself is on board with the decision. Not just on board, but involved.

Green and his character growth are far and away the most important parts of this story. But there is a ripple effect of positive impact.

The NBA as a whole will certainly benefit from this. Green has clearly shifted from being viewed in the sports world as a volatile star to being viewed as a violent player who is staining the league’s reputation. Working to have that change, while also showing a level of discipline with such issues, clearly benefits the league.

And the Warriors, as a team, will greatly benefit. There’s the obvious positive for the Dubs if Green can correct his behavior: he’ll be on the court. Love him or hate him, Draymond is essential to the Warriors being competitive. He’s still one of their best players, and the Dubs are 7-5 when he plays a full game ... and 3-8 when he either doesn’t play, or is ejected. But he’s already taken himself out of eight games this year, with three ejections and a five-game suspension, plus whatever will follow with this current indefinite suspension. Golden State cannot win a championship without Green’s contributions; they need to have the confidence that he’ll actually be around for those contributions.

But beyond that, some time without Green could help Steve Kerr figure out his rotations, while young players learn and grow on the job. As I wrote about the other day, the Dubs simply have too many players who deserve too many minutes, and we’re seeing the ramifications. Either youngsters like Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and Brandin Podziemski don’t get the time they need and deserve to develop, or veterans like Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins don’t get the time they desperately need to work through their struggles and hopefully return to being championship-level contributors.

Removing Green’s 30-plus minutes each game gives Kerr more room to distribute minutes to other players. By the time Dray returns, hopefully everyone will have a better feel for each player on the roster, and how many minutes they should each be playing.

And of course, we can’t ignore the significant money in tax payments that Joe Lacob and Co. will be saving while Green is suspended.

But again: Green’s growth and evolution is the most important thing here. Let’s hope he’s getting the help he needs, and that it pays dividends.

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