In the middle of the National Basketball Association’s finals, with the Golden State Warriors leading the Cleveland Cavaliers three games to one, the Warriors star forward Draymond Green was suspended for one game. If Golden State won game five, played on their home court, they would have clinched their second straight NBA Championship. They racked up an impressive regular season at home, where they won thirty-nine regular season games, and lost only two.
But now they would have to win without “the heart of their team,” so labeled so by their coach, and anointed so by some of the fawning local media writers. At 6’7”, 230-lbs., Green was a tenacious, driven, man-child of a competitor, and a favorite of most of the sports writers at the San Jose Mercury News because of his loquacious manner and the bombastic quotes he would give them.
Unfortunately, Green also had a tendency to get flagrant fouls, primarily for kicking or grabbing the groin of opposing players. This might have been part of a street game played by youth in Saginaw. Without this twenty-six-year-old demon in the lineup, the Warriors were badly outplayed in Game 5, and lost 112-97, Green was banished from being in the arena during the loss, unless he was willing to pay a $140,000 fine, but instead was discovered exiting a restroom in the nearby Oakland Coliseum. He could have afforded the fine since his elevated status had “earned” him a massive new five-year, $82 million contract.
Warriors’ management had tried to find a reason to let him play, and indignant fans were visibly upset, especially those who had paid hundreds or thousands of dollars for overpriced tickets to see Green help the Warriors win the championship at home. The city of Oakland had already prepared for a victory gathering at Lake Merritt.
The Write Way?
Several sports writers at the Mercury News tried to explain the situation and attach blame on someone, other than themselves. They had always sought Green out for a notable quote, and the kid from Saginaw always supplied them with interesting fodder for their columns.
The front page of the sports section after the demoralizing defeat read “NO DRAY, NO WAY,” as if without him, a mini-miracle couldn’t have taken place.
In a backhanded way, Carl Steward professed Green’s value under the headline, “Green’s missing defense dooms Warriors in Game 5.” Other columnists praised Green, but were upset that he wasn’t there when the team really needed him. Tim Kawakami added pressure on Green when he returns to the starting line-up in Game 6, as the headline of his story challenged the youngster with “Green owes Warriors one after this.”
Is It Their Fault, Too?
The sports columnists had elevated Green to a God-like status, crowding around his locker, probing him for unique quotes, many of which were oblique words from a young, sometimes immature, man. But as long as he was the center of their undivided and loyal attention, they may have convinced Green to believe he was immune from any negative action against him.
The NBA thought differently, and with their imposed one-game penalty, perhaps other players will refrain from similar underhanded attacks on their opponents.
I was born in Michigan, and until 1986, I had lived there off and on for nearly forty years; my daughter Amy Gotliffe graduated from Michigan State University, Draymond Green’s school; I have family living in the Saginaw area where Green was born; I was a fan of the Detroit Pistons from 1957 when they first came to Detroit, and watched them play at Olympia Stadium, at Caliban Hall at the University of Detroit, at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit, at the Silverdome in Pontiac, and at the Palace of Auburn Hills. In 1986 I moved to California, stayed both a Piston fan during their 1989 and 1990 NBA Championship seasons; and once again became a fan of the Warriors, whom I supported in the early 1960s as the San Francisco Warriors, and whom I have supported since I returned to Northern California in 1986.