Draymond Green aims to cut antics: 'Cost my team enough'

ByKendra Andrews ESPN logo
Wednesday, January 10, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO -- As Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr welcomed Draymond Green back to practice from his indefinite suspension, teammateBrandin Podziemskistarted a round of applause.

But Green didn't think he deserved that.

"I've cost my team enough. I've cost this organization enough," Green said in a news conference Tuesday.

Green spent the past 3 weeks in counseling, part of the requirements the NBA set for Green to return after striking Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic on Dec. 12.

During his first session, his therapist laid out the bottom line clearly and simply: Don't do these sessions to check a requirement box, or you will be wasting everyone's time.

Green said there was a focus on figuring out what kind of help he truly needed to best work through what was causing his aggressive outbursts on the court. Because of that, he leaned into the process.

"It was very easy to open myself up [to therapy] from a personal standpoint because I needed to gather myself, to recenter myself and to recalibrate," Green said. "It's hard to see things when you're just in it ... it's hard to see what's necessary to see."

He didn't touch a basketball for the first 10 days of his suspension.

During a call with his agent, Rich Paul, Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy and trainer Rick Celebrini, Green tensed up when they mentioned a targeted return date.

"Basketball was the least important thing to me. I needed a break," Green said. "One of the best things for me was not waking up the next day like, all right, I've got to get this work in."

When Green did feel ready to start working out again, that in itself felt like therapy, he said.

Green was adamant his self-reflection this time around wasn't because the league stepped in and mandated it, it was because he had the dedicated time to devote to it.

"Part of the indefinite return was about being in a better space, to allow my mind to process what it looks like to get in a better space," he said.

During his five-game suspension in November -- that one for putting Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert in a chokehold -- Green said his mind was completely focused on his first game back, rather than why he was suspended.

The same goes for when he was suspended for one game during the first round of last year's playoffs after stomping on Sacramento Kings forwardDomantas Sabonis. Or, when he took time away from the team after punching former teammate Jordan Poole at last season's training camp.

The Warriors, as a team and organization, are also hoping this suspension breeds different results.

"I'm just open-minded," Kerr said. "... He's still obviously a huge part of this thing and a huge part of our leadership. He is going to reassume that mantle. But he needs the awareness that comes with what he's just gone through and what he has put the team through, as well."

Kerr said there will be a "no more buts" rule with Green, meaning when there is an apology needed or given, "there can't be an explanation that follows the apology." That has often been the case with Green when he has found himself in some sort of disagreement or trouble.

As Green returns -- he practiced for the first time Tuesday and will be a full participant for the rest of the week, including scrimmages -- he said he has no time to waste. During his 13 games away, the Warriors have struggled. They're in 12th place in the Western Conference with a 17-19 record. Their starting lineup and rotation have been in disarray, and their defense in the past two games has been nonexistent.

The hope is that Green will be able to help. But there is no set date for his return to game play. That green light will be given not only by the team's performance staff but by Kerr and Green's teammates as well.

While he waits, though, Green is trying to give everything he has to his team.

"It's not a time for me to come back and be like, 'OK, I'll take my time and get back when I can.' 'No, you caused this yourself. You don't get the grace,'" Green said.

Whenever Green does get cleared to play games, all eyes will be on his demeanor and interactions with opponents and referees.

As someone whose fire has been touted as an asset for his team, there is a question whether Green will be able to strike the appropriate balance to bring his usual energy to the team without getting into predicaments that could put him in trouble.

Green said his goal is not to come back and worry about crossing a line, although understanding where that line is has been an emphasis.

"When I look back at these situations, it's like, can I remove the antics? I am very confident I can remove the antics," Green said. "And I am very confident if I do, no one is worried about how I play the game of basketball [or] how I carry myself in the game of basketball. It's the antics. That's the focus. It's not changing who I am completely. You don't change the spots on a leopard.

"I'm not going to set an unrealistic set of expectations. ... Can I accept that my antics have been over the top? Of course. Can I remove them? Of course."

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