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The league isn’t fair, and that’s OK

As a potential new era leaves before starting, we’re reminded of inequalities in the NBA.

Draymond Green and Jordan Poole high-five behind Andrew Wiggins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Draymond Green has been in the news cycle more than he’d like to be over the past year.

Wait, no, that’s not true. Draymond Green has been in the news cycle exactly as much as he’d like to be over the past year, but not for the reasons he’d like. Sure, there’s some chatter about his importance to the Golden State Warriors, his timelessly elite defense, his recently-signed large contract, and his thriving “new media” presence.

But the primary news cycle for Green over the last year has been about his violent response to Jordan Poole, his fractured relationship with the young players on the team, and how much those two things resulted in the Warriors following up a 53-win championship season with a 44-win second-round exit.

That news cycle isn’t dying down, and it won’t until the Warriors can prove when Green has said publicly and many more have said privately: that those chemistry issues that plagued last year’s team, and that Green was largely responsible for, will be resolved this year, and will result in the team once again staking its claim to the NBA’s throne.

For better or for worse, Green isn’t shying away from this. The recent report from esteemed Warriors beat writer Monte Poole that Green’s non-relationship with Jonathan Kuminga is a “problem” hit fairly hard if you were new to the story. But if you’ve been hoarding Green content this offseason (and I certainly don’t blame you if you haven’t been), you’ll know that this was an issue that, before Monte Poole’s report came out, Green had addressed publicly.

The Green situation brings out a hard truth that we have a natural instinct to want to reconcile: the NBA, like life, is not fair. And the more we digest what has happened, the more we can be pointed in a healthy direction and remember something pretty important: that’s OK.

Green’s relationship — or lack thereof — with Kuminga got the clicks, but the main part of Monte Poole’s report dealt with the fact that the young players on the Warriors, who had grown up hearing about their great leadership and culture, had cold (and probably spicy) water thrown on their face when they saw one of the team’s core figures clock a teammate 10 years his junior in the face. That’s one hell of a pill to swallow.

If you include Poole, the Dubs had six young players at the time of the incident. Four of them — Poole, James Wiseman, Ryan Rollins, and Patrick Baldwin Jr. — have since been traded. Kuminga has heard his name floated in trade rumors, though that’s admittedly somewhat his own doing. The only one of the youngsters whose spot on the team is secure is Moses Moody, who also happens to be the only one of the six who publicly stated his support for and admiration of Green post-punch (though I’d argue that his spot is secure because of the corner he turned on the court).

I don’t think any of the four players were traded because of their relationship with Green, even if that relationship is a large part of the chemistry issues Jordan Poole represented, which were at the heart of him being shipped off. Yet even so, it’s hard not to notice the staggering contrast we’ve seen thus far. Wiseman was traded for a role player and, even when that role player proved injured, the Dubs had no interest in undoing the trade. Poole was shipped off in a move that helped the Warriors save the money necessary to keep Green. Rollins and Baldwin were nonchalant add-ins.

And Green re-signed for four years within seconds of the free agency period beginning, being the very first free agency domino to fall — something I very much assume was by design.

You could see this building when Steph Curry and Klay Thompson competed in a nationally-televised golf tournament against Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce the day before free agency began — a tournament that Green worked as a sideline reporter. The legendary trio laughed and hammed it up all day. They hugged and dapped and chest bumped and screamed.

It’s not hyperbolic to say that on a late-June afternoon at a Las Vegas golf course, the Warriors displayed more chemistry and good vibes than at any point since hoisting a trophy nearly 12 months prior.

Ultimately, that’s all that matters. Curry may have pointed to Jordan Poole at the end of the season when asked what the key is to the Warriors sustaining success, but he knows that no player on last year’s team is as important to helping him achieve his goal — his only goal — of raising another banner as Green is. Klay Thompson may praise the youngsters and take them on boat rides, but when it comes time to lace up his Antas, he’s searching for Curry and Green and planting his flag next to theirs. Steve Kerr may think Jordan Poole is endlessly talented and be enamored with James Wiseman’s ability to speak Mandarin, but it only took 20 minutes into the offseason for him to stolidly yet emphatically aver that the team could not win the 2024 championship without re-signing Green.

Jordan Poole clearly had some attitude issues that manifested in a fractured and annoyed locker room, and the youngsters may be irresponsibly complaining about playing time, but Green is the first, second, and third-team when it comes to reasons why things went wrong last year.

But he’s also the first, second, and third-team when it comes to wingmen that Curry needs, defensive aces that Kerr needs, and co-co-stars that Thompson needs in their efforts to win a fifth ring.

Ultimately, everyone involved wins. Poole, who couldn’t crack the starting lineup, now gets to be the first option. Rollins and Baldwin, with no foreseeable path to minutes anytime soon, get to go to a team bound for 20 wins and endless opportunities for raw prospects to grow and prove their worth. Wiseman plays for a team that values back-to-the-basket centers more than any other team in the Association, and Moody and Kuminga will likely see their games grow under the pick-and-roll prowess and second-unit leadership of Chris Paul. And Green, of course, gets to spend the next four years trying to do the one thing that will relegate this year of chatter to a footnote in his story: win a ring.

Is it fair that the player who sent the team into a spiral with an inexcusable bout of violence gets to stay and potentially profit off the glory of the greatest American sports dynasty in the last decade, while the players fractured by it are shipped off without hesitation?

No, probably not. But that’s OK.

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