Back when the brutal news broke in early October that Draymond Green had punched Jordan Poole at a Golden State Warriors training camp practice, no one knew how much it would impact the team. We would later learn that Green would not be suspended or fined, that Poole had been a part of that decision, and that Dray had apologized to both Poole and the team.
Green, for his part, never deflected the blame.
We didn’t know if or when the Warriors would fully recover. And even though the tension around the team clearly lightened as the season went on, it turns out that the damage done by Green’s decision to solve a problem with violence could not be undone in just one season.
Steve Kerr mentioned it in his season-ending press conference, but the most notable admission of it came from Green himself. Green spoke with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith during an alternate broadcast of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, and suggested the Warriors would have beaten the Los Angeles Lakers had it not been for the preseason altercation.
Draymond Green told me that he believes the Warriors would still be playing if it wasn’t for the incident between him and Jordan Pool pic.twitter.com/B9txJCl0OY— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) May 17, 2023
“We’re not playing right now because, when you speak about the fouling, when you speak about all of the slippage that we had as a team on the road, not being able to come together, none of those things happened if that [the punch] doesn’t happen.” Green said. “Because the voice that I am, and the departments that I lead this team in, there was a ton of slippage due to me sitting back. Me not saying anything, me trying to allow that situation to play itself out, giving it time to heal. But while you’re giving it all of that time, guess what? And I would say probably my February I started to feel like myself again and speak more, but guess what? There was five months of the season where slippage had just been occurring. And by February, if that slippage has been going on that long, you are who you are at that point. You’ve built those habits, you’ve built bad habits, that is who you are now. So to try to correct them then? It’s like, OK, you may get a little better — we did, we ended up in the second round of the playoffs — but not at a championship level.”
That’s surely oversimplifying it a bit, as Green only mentioned the absence of his leadership, rather than the presence of any tension or distrust in the locker room.
But the point still stands. Green has been a coach, leader, and emotional heartbeat of the Warriors for the bulk of the dynasty, and him being able to return to that role on Day 1 next year could go a long way towards the Dubs regaining their championship form.