HOUSTON -- Maybe he was simply caught up in the vapors of Game 2, Warriors vs. Rockets. Or perhaps his man crush runs deep. In any event, Joe Lacob, the co-owner of the Warriors, did something unbefitting of a smart businessman whose personal net worth is into the billions.
He ceded leverage.
He violated Business 101 when he was quoted as saying this about the Warriors’ jack-of-all-trades player: “I want Draymond Green to be here forever. He’s as Warrior as they come.”
There’s no question about that last part; Green has spent his entire career with the Warriors and embodies the spirit, though not the superstardom, of a team currently surfing the wave of a four-championship dynasty. Green brings what Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant can’t: An ability to guard multiple positions at a high level, and fire-breathing that puts a flame to everyone’s backside and keeps their eyes on the prize.
Asked how he felt about Lacob's comments, a smiling Green said "it makes you feel good."
He wants to be here.
He’s the definition of The Missing Piece, a player who brings all of the components together, doesn’t shrink from big moments, willing to put everything on the line. That’s unteachable stuff. You either have it or not.
Yet, for everything that Green has meant to the Warriors then and even now, that doesn’t mean he’ll be at this level, in the gushing words of Lacob, “forever.” Maybe not even another year or two.
Basically: Should the Warriors, who’ll be forced to take action on Green’s future soon enough, keep this often-turbulent marriage going and ignore the flashing caution signs all season that Green’s impact is starting to wane?
Sometimes we become slaves to the here and the now, because that’s a fallacy in today’s microwaved world, and the last impression Green left on the Warriors was indeed inspiring and hopeful. He did a number on the Rockets with his rebounding, his smart and tenacious defense and his passing, and that’s a major reason the Warriors are up 2-0 and halfway to the West finals. This was Green in his element, causing problems for the other bench, bringing energy and grit and making sharp decisions on both ends.
“He’s really good,” said Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni. “Kind of a point guard at the center or forward position. He’s a heck of a player. He moves really well.”
This was, without question, the best Green has looked all season, and maybe the last two seasons. His 3-point shot, once a weapon, is now dreadful enough that opposing teams are praying he shoots them -- and thrilled when he makes one, because then he’ll keep shooting. The Warriors’ defense hasn’t been as strong as it was in the first few seasons under coach Steve Kerr, and while that’s not entirely the fault of Green, he’s guilty by association if nothing else.
There’s also the pain-in-the-rear-end factor. While the Warriors obviously value Green’s ability to hold teammates accountable, he went overboard earlier this season by his infamous confrontation with Durant and continues to rack up technical fouls at a high rate, meaning he hasn’t learned how to channel his emotions after all these years. Plus, he continues to be high maintenance for Kerr, and you wonder if the coach will reach a point where he no longer wants to deal with it.
Green is also 29 and brings an escalated injury history, most notably with his shoulder, but also toe and hip issues.
"All this year I don't think I was in great shape at all," Green said. “I’m really just locking in and focusing on my body; getting it healthy and ready for this time of year has been important. It feels good to step out there and not have an ache. Sometimes during the year, like the toe injury, every time you step on that toe, put pressure on it, it's killing me. You kind of dread going on the floor."
He recognized three months ago that his movements weren’t as rapid as usual so he changed his diet and dropped 20 pounds.
But that wasn’t the strategic move that generated buzz within the Warriors organization. This was: Green hired Rich Paul, famously known as LeBron James’ business partner, to represent him in future contract talks.
The five-year, $82 million deal he signed in 2015 has one more year remaining. That puts the Warriors in a potentially urgent situation: Do they extend Green this summer or wait? If they allow Green to play next season without an extension, that could be an interesting scene; an emotionally charged player perhaps feeling unwanted and therefore making Kerr’s life hell.
It would make better sense to extend him this summer, or trade him. One or the other. But when the owner comes out publicly and uses the “forever” word, that removes an option for Bob Myers even if the general manager wanted to adopt the Branch Rickey model and dump a player a year too early than a year too late.
So then it comes down to money. Green may feel he has been underpaid and is owed a somewhat significant raise, especially if the Warriors are unable to re-sign Durant and therefore have extra money to spend. Would it be a wise basketball decision to keep Green in the mix for another five years at a high price? How would the Warriors rebuild around Curry and Klay Thompson (assuming Thompson as expected re-signs this summer)?
Championship teams have a tendency to fall in love with the players who helped them win championships -- too much in love. Certainly, emotion was on Andre Iguodala’s side when he signed an extension two years ago, and his production since has dropped considerably (although Iguodala’s play this postseason has been solid). These teams are often, for lack of a better word, afraid to part with a popular player as he ages, partly because of fan and media backlash.
And there’s another reason for hesitating: Maybe the team will miss that player more than anyone thought, at least in the short term.
At some point, the Warriors must address the elephant in the room, because the bill for these championships will come due. Yes, they’re ready to move into a new San Francisco arena and revenue will flow, and the team will continue to snicker at the luxury tax.
Kevin Durant’s decision will be based on his whims, not money. The Warriors have no control over that. But they will have a significant say in Green’s future.
Or maybe the owner already spoke for them.
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