Can the Divided Warriors still beat the NBA season?

When Jordan Paul took to a podium at San Francisco’s Chase Center over the weekend, hours after signing a $140 million contract extension, he knew he first had to tackle a different matter.

“So I’m going to start with Draymond’s situation,” the Golden State Warriors guard told reporters. “I apologise. Professional. We plan to treat ourselves this way. We’re going to play basketball and everyone in the locker room and our team members know what it takes to win the championship, and we’re going to do it on the court. And I mean, that’s really all I have to say on the matter.”

The statement marked the end of a week-long saga that began at the Warriors training facility, just meters from where Paul spoke. Draymond Green, a pillar of the multi-title Golden State race, punched Paul in the face during an altercation, despite little to no provocation. The hit was caught on tape and later leaked to TMZ. I broke a friendship and probably started the clock at Green’s Bay Area exit.

Green Warriors has not been commented on the incident. Instead, they issued an undisclosed fine and allowed him to return to training last Thursday. For now, as the NBA champions prepare to officially start defending their title Tuesday night, the organization is dealing with skirmishes as it has throughout its landmark decade: by trusting that its culture can absorb any blows as long as the core of Green, Steph Curry and Clay Thompson intact.

All the way to four titles and six finals, the Warriors frequently let their players work out their differences without major penalties. Green lashed out at coach Steve Kerr in the first half of a 2016 regular-season road game against the Thunder, so much so that police even considered entering the locker room. But the striker did not waste any time because of the incident. They even stood by Greene when Kevin Durant left the organization months after Green called him up in a vicious verbal attack during the 2018 regular season game against the Clippers.

So while critics and players criticized the lack of a penalty at Golden State last week — including veteran Bucks Bobby Portis, who had eight games, the team issued a suspension to punch his teammate when he played for the Bulls in 2017 — the Warriors are choosing once again to let time heal. surgeon.

“None of this is comforting,” said Bob Myers, general manager of Warriors, on Sunday. “I would say we did our best, and chose the decision that we thought was best for the organization. As easy or convenient as it was, it wasn’t, it isn’t. The business now has to be forward. That’s all we can do at this point. Done. Making the decision and I think the players, the coaches and the organization have gone through it, and I think we’ll be fine.”

Instead, the task of relieving tension was delegated to the players in the dressing room. Among the vital voices was center Kevin Looney, whom Kerr recently called the team’s “moral compass.” Drafted by The Warriors in 2015, Looney has been present on all but one of the Golden State Finals rounds and a vital part of three. As such, he has the unique advantage as a player who has earned the respect of veteran Golden State leadership while also being young enough to connect with the team’s younger players. Also, like Paul, a Milwaukee native, Paul must have had complaints.

“For [Poole] “It’s hard, because you can’t tell anyone how to feel or you can’t tell anyone what to do in a situation like this,” Lonnie recently told me. “You have to let the guys figure it out for themselves. You just have to be there for them and let him vent about you, just be supportive of him. Let him come up with his ideas for himself, make sure he feels good about basketball and off the court. And try to be there for him.” We don’t even talk about it. You just want to be friends.”

Although unconventional, it’s an approach that the Golden State coach hopes will work.

“I think the further away we get from things, the better,” Kerr told me last week, before Green played in the Warriors pre-season finale. We’ve had our conversations about what we need to do going forward and we will. We will not continue to cling to the past. It’s not that people don’t have feelings for what happened or a situation, but we all have individual goals, goals and team goals, we understand what needs to be done to reach those goals and that’s our focus.”

The problem is that some of the individual targets collided. When the Warriors gathered for a training camp, several key players were ready to extend, including Paul and Greene. Paul was expected to reach an agreement before Monday’s deadline for junior extensions, eventually agreeing to a new four-year agreement over the weekend. Andrew Wiggins, a key player in the 2022 edition, also signed a four-year extension worth $109 million. But with the veterans’ tax bill soaring to historic levels – current estimates have their payroll Almost half a billion next season—Green is unlikely to get a new deal. Even before the strike, the dichotomy between the future and the past was hard to ignore.

Most accounts indicate that Greene’s attack on Paul was not related to the contract cases, and that he came to the facility in a bad mood. “The day it happened, I was in a very, very bad place mentally dealing with some things in my personal life,” Green said. However, after his encounter with Paul, he will likely not continue at Golden State beyond this season, with a player option for the 2023-24 season awaiting him this summer.

Until then, Green has to find a way to repair the fences with the smaller core of the Warriors. While Green may be tough on his teammates, he has become a mentor to many young Golden State players in recent years. When Janet Jackson stopped by for a tour of the Chase Center in 2019, Green invited the youth to his suite. “That was my man,” second-year goalkeeper Moses Modi said last week. “I can go there to talk to him, talk to him about anything, go to his house. So I feel he has a real strong connection with me. I don’t know anyone else, I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, I don’t see how to be stronger.”

And when youngsters like James Wiseman struggled with injuries and inconsistencies, Green was assured that everything would work out on his own. “He told me a lot of things about what I needed to work on,” Wiseman told me last season. “But he just told me these things, and I’m having the ups and downs, in terms of my first year experience, it really helped me a lot. In terms of, as a basketball player, mentally. Everything, like knowing the game, reading the game, things like that. He taught me a lot. of things.”

But the closest Green relationship between the young core was with Paul. The duo have been close since the Warriors drafted Paul with the 28th pick in 2019. When veterans complained about Paul’s arrogance, Green had his back. And when Paul struggled to find a foothold in the league while Curry and Thompson struggled with injuries, Green reassured him that he would fix things. “He was very receptive. He was willing to take me under his wing,” Paul told me last fall. “I want to say Steve was injured and Clay was out, so out of the big three, Draymond was the one I was the most. I stored it next to my locker. Therefore, despite its small size, it is important that you come to see it every day. Even on the road, he would tell me to come to his room, and I was basically his novice. So, we kind of spent a lot of time together in the first two years.”

When Paul was toiling in the G League, Green made a point to check-in with the young goalkeeper. During a match against G League Ignite in 2021, Paul exchanged verbal punches at then-Ignite coach Brian Shaw. The exchange was so surprising that Xu called the front office of the Golden State to share his concerns about the young guard’s behavior. By the end of the evening, Chris Weams, the head coach of the Santa Cruz Warriors, got a few calls and a voicemail from a number he didn’t recognize. A few minutes later, a text from the unknown number revealed its sender: “Yo, it’s DG.” “What’s up with JP?”

“It’s really a big brother and little brother relationship,” Paul told me last fall. “Sometimes it can turn into a mentor-coach situation with some guys, but for Draymond, it was like, he’s a big bro and I’m a kid. He went to Michigan State, and I went to Michigan, so he’s going to use that card a little bit, but I think we We kind of had the same background, the same kind of hunger, the same motivation, and we’re obviously African American men in today’s society. [When he gets] A chance to put some kind of knowledge on someone, to put someone in the game, he will.”

But the blow divided them. After the accident, some within Paul’s circle did not want to sign the extension as the team dynamics would be very difficult to fix. Before Green was reinstated, team officials approached Paul with the decision and asked him to sign it.

Over the weekend, Paul was asked if his siblings with Green still existed. He replied, “If I said that, I meant it.” “Like I said, we are here to play basketball, our teammates, the coaching staff and the organisation, everyone knows what it takes to win the championship. And when we play on that court, we have one goal in common. Get the job done, win as many games as possible, and try to repetition.” .

For his part, Green was remorseful when speaking to reporters: “I didn’t handle that well,” he said days after the hit. And I failed as a leader, and in turn I failed as a man. You failed as a leader, which in turn led to that. And for me personally, I have to take whatever comes with that. I have to deal with that and continue to improve myself as I do. Like I said before, rebuild trust and relationships in this locker room because that’s what’s most important to me in the end. And making sure that this team can come together and compete at the absolute highest level we know we need to compete in to do what we plan to do. This goal does not change.”

So far, the road back to friendship has been slow. Green and Paul exchanged a brief hug before Friday’s preliminary game. Paul even sat next to Green in the first quarter, although the exchanges weren’t quite as affectionate as usual.

But a glimpse into how the two repaired the damage came Thursday morning, during Green’s first practice since the accident. There was tension that led to Greene’s arrival, and about the uncertainty of whether Greene and Paul would coexist. Then, at one point during an altercation, Green and Paul find themselves on the same team, along with Carrie. After a while, Green and Poole were making their selections completely synchronously without saying a word. Just as Golden State had hoped, the game was bringing them back together.

“It’s not really what I think, it’s about his teammates,” Myers said. “It’s not something I can answer. They can answer. And time will tell, you’ll see the results there. You don’t need to sit here and tell you how it’s going with the players. So that question, I know we want an answer now, but that question will be answered over the course of the season, as it should “.

The Warriors know they have as good a chance as any team to win the title this season if they can overcome this controversy. But as they begin their quest for a fifth title in nine years, there is as much caution as optimism.

“He has some work to do to get that trust back from us,” Looney said of Greene. “But I think he’s willing to do it.”


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