Sports

I was a line-stepper like Draymond. He needs to pull back.

Draymond Green is a top 25 NBA player and the league’s most indispensable teammate.

I understand his game better than most, because I played the game in a similar fashion. Mind you, I never did it at Draymond’s All-NBA level, but I was a pro all the same, and I’m well-aware there are teams around the world paying top dollar for someone who can even sort of emulate Green’s skill set .

If you’ve watched Golden State Warriors games, you may think I mean the passing, rebounding and defensive movement. But those skills are actually somewhat common. That’s not to say they aren’t important — Green is elite at all three — but when I watch him play, I see a man who understands angles, timing and position better than anyone in the league.

When I played, most opponents didn’t believe I was better than them. In fact, I guarantee they still don’t believe that. In 12 years and something like 10 teams, I never missed the playoffs eleven, and I won championships across different leagues and countries. To that, they might say I had great teams around me. I know they’d also say I was someone who fouled a lot and got all the calls. Someone who pushed and cheated. Sound familiar?

They might even have a point, I’ll admit. But the reality is that’s the best answer they could come up with to describe me, because they don’t get it. What guys like Green and myself know is that we walk right on the line between foul and fair. In that space, the opponent complains but rarely gets the call. They feel like they’re being pushed, pulled, hit, moved and played unfairly. And they are — when you know exactly how much you are allowed to get away with and routinely do jussst enough, it’s still legal. We dictate the tone of a game by blurring the line between playing within and breaking the rules.

But I was prone to the same flaw as Draymond Green, which caused him to get coughed from Game 1 of the Dubs-Grizzlies series: When you walk right on the line between fair and foul, sometimes you see foul, especially when you’re putting pressure on the refs and opposing coaches to rein you in.


I saw foul in 2012 during the Korean Basketball League Finals. I felt the refs weren’t calling the game appropriately, and I reacted in a … let’s say big, big way. I know now I wasn’t wrong to be pissed (and paranoid): KBL refs have been accused of match-fixing, and my own coach has since been indicted on match-fixing charges. I still did way too much.

In a fit of rage after I thought I was fouled for a third consecutive play, I threw the ball into the stands. I got ejected, proceeded to rip my jersey off and chased down each of the three refs to give them an F-bomb right in their face. It was a bad look. It took maybe three to five minutes to get me off the floor. There’s a photo of me, shirt off, with three fans behind me. One looks disgusted. One looks excited to see some action. The last, a young woman, looks like she’s in love. and me? I look like an asshole. Just how it goes with that style of play. Unbridled emotion coupled with a profound understanding of the game leads you to feel both frustrated and insulted at the same time. How dare they not know the rules as well as me?!

Green operates the same way, but even more so in the playoffs. When it’s working, he’s the biggest difference-maker on the floor. When he’s not working, he’s the biggest sideshow on the floor, as was the case when he “kicked” LeBron James in the 2016 NBA Finals. Was it his most egregious action of him? No. But what we all suspect is that the Warriors would have won that series if he had stayed on the court. Instead, he was suspended, and that was all the momentum LeBron needed to mount the most famous 3-1 comeback in NBA history.

Dray is gonna Dray. And the reality is that the league already lets him get away with much more than anyone else. The refs know who he is and that his unbridled emotion is entertaining and good for the NBA. But he knows this, too. Of course he does. The same as I would.

Draymond was ejected in Game 1 of the team’s semifinal series when he pulled Grizzlies big man Brandon Clarke down by the jersey. On his postgame podcast of him, Green said he felt stupid for assuming what he did was n’t a flagrant. I’m not sure I totally believe him. He probably did know it was grounds for ejection. If Steven Adams brought Steph Curry down the same way Green did to Clarke, Green would’ve said afterwards that an ejection was well-deserved.

I’m not trying to shame Green here. As I outlined, I get why he did what he did. I just believe that if the Warriors are going to win the title (they’re my favorites), they can’t have Green habitually stepping over the line. That jeopardizes their chances. They need that man on the floor. They cannot win without him.

It’s up to Steve Kerr, Steph Curry and Draymond Green to make sure they’re on the same page about how far to push the limits. There’s a real benefit to Green’s antics: Nothing gets in the head of an opponent like his style of play. But Flagrant 2 fouls with the fake “oh, I tried to keep him up” routine isn’t fooling anyone. Running up and down the court waving your arms around after getting ejected isn’t going to allow for the benefit of the doubt the next time a line is stepped on. If Green ca n’t keep his elite chicanery at a limit, he’ll end up in the same position as 2016, watching from the sideline while the Warriors’ chances evaporate in front of his eyes from him.

Or maybe even worse, he’ll end up like I did after that Korean Basketball League tenure: lost, suspended, fined and sitting by the pool all summer explaining how right I actually was. For the Warriors’ 2022 title hopes to come to fruition, let’s hope he stays smart and stays on the floor.



Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button