Draymond Green wins another personal battle — at Golden State’s expense

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Tuesday night’s Warriors-Timberwolves rematch was advertised as an In-season Tournament group play match. Instead, a Draymond Green slobberknocker broke out. Early in the first quarter, Klay Thompson and Jaden McDaniels got into a tussle, Rudy Gobert did what happens in 1,000 routine NBA fights, by attempting to separate Thompson from his McDaniels. Right when emotions should have been easing up, Green’s entrance music blared in his head and he saw the pretext for an unnecessary flex chokehold on Gobert. After squeezing Rudy like a Go-Gurt for almost 10 seconds, players and officials finally got Green to relax.

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While Green turning himself into the protagonist upped the entertainment value, he also forgets he’s the valuable cog in a machine. When he gets that fire in his eyes, Green reacts as if WWE legend Teddy Long is on the officiating crew. Klay Thompson and Green were ejected and just like that, the Golden State Warriors unraveled. Golden State was already playing without Steph Curry. Without three of their headliners, they fell to 1-1 in group play and 6-6 on the season.

Social media was abuzz with Draymond headlock memes and questions about why KAT didn’t stick Green with a right hook or why Anthony Edwards didn’t put Green in a chokehold back so they could start a chokehold centipede. It’s because they were actually trying to play and win the game.

Green can tout his record in 1-on-1 tussles. He’s nearly undefeated in settling personal scores, but at the expense of the hardwood wars. Green’s choking Gobert is another shot in his ongoing one-sided beef with the Timberwolves center. Gobert has won three Defensive Player of the Year awards and Green isn’t content being a four-time champion. He also considers himself to be the undisputed best defender alive and Gobert’s presence has always posed a problem. During the All-Star Game last year, Green went out of his way to turn a compliment into a dig at Gobert and in 2019 mocked Gobert for getting emotional over a 2019 All-Star snub, then referenced Gobert crying while discussing his own 2022 All-Star selection on TNT. This was just a continuation of Green’s relentless war. But his edge is waning. Gobert is the anchor of Minnesota’s No. 1 defense, and the Warriors are playing .500 ball again.

The other pent-up anger towards Minnesota began on Sunday. Anthony Edwards already spoke on it this weekend with actions when Green got in his feelings after Green barked at him to “Get the f—k outta here,” while sending him to the line to extend Minnesota’s double-digit lead. After their exchange, Edwards scored eight points in the next 1:12

Green was relatively calm there, but he wasn’t when he punched Jordan Poole in the face and then spent the next year wondering why Golden State’s chemistry was off. Or when he stomped on Domantas Sabonis down the stretch in a Game 2 the Warriors lost. Following his ejection there, Sacramento drowned Golden State under a 23-point scoring barrage and took a 2-0 series lead that the Splash Brothers had to expend energy digging Golden State out of. The league docked him there for his “history of unsportsmanlike acts.” He seems intent on testing the limits of Adam Silver’s patience.

Or when he was ejected for raking Brandon Clarke across the face in Game 1 of their 2021 semifinal series against the Grizzlies. Or when he went ballistic on Donovan Mitchell Saturday and got baited into an ejection.

It’s become a common theme for Green. His track record of turning the volume up too loudly and leaving Golden State in a hole is a consistent trend throughout his career. These aren’t the Minnesota Timberwolves of old. After an offseason spent working out the kinks and implementing more structure, Chris Finch has the Timberwolves playing like (in-season tournament) contenders. Minnesota will be the next challenge for Golden State after squashing youth revolutions in Memphis and Sac-Town.

But Golden State’s offensive advantage has been diminished. The season is young, but watching Green get ejected in two of his last three games portends a knucklehead streak that the Warriors can’t survive like they used to. Green’s presence could have been the difference in a 3-point loss. The West is tighter than it’s been since 50-win teams were watching the playoffs from home. Their margin for error is slimmer than ever and Green’s getting more ornery. Now that he’s secured a new four-year extension, you can rest assured he’s tougher for Steve Kerr to rein in than ever.

Follow DJ Dunson on X: @cerebralsportex

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