SAN FRANCISCO — The Warriors will be without Draymond Green as he serves a five-game suspension for putting Minnesota’s Rudy Gobert in a headlock during a skirmish on Tuesday night.
Green went after Gobert, it appears, to get him off of teammate Klay Thompson during an on-court altercation between him and Timberwolves’ Jaden McDaniels. After looking over the video replay, head coach Steve Kerr thinks Green was right to protect his teammate, but that he took it too far.
“Yes, he definitely did go too far,” Kerr said. “I didn’t have a problem with him getting Rudy off Klay, because the rule of thumb is you don’t put your hands on a player of another team. You get your own guy. So I thought Rudy was wrong for putting his arms on Klay, regardless of his intentions.”
In-game officials deemed Gobert a “peacemaker” and didn’t hand down any punishments. In their official release, the league handed Gobert a $25,000 fine for his involvement. Kerr thought Green’s five-game suspension punishment was fair. Now the trick will be drawing a line between Green’s competitive fire and doing something that trigger the league’s harsher punishment because of “Green’s history of unsportsmanlike acts.”
“It’s something we are working hard on behind the scenes,” Kerr said. “Draymond has to find a way to not cross the line. And I’m not talking about getting an ejection or getting a technical, I’m talking about a physical act of violence. That’s inexcusable. We have to do everything we can to give him the help and assistance he needs to draw that distinction.”
Jonathan Kuminga will start in Green’s place for the Warriors’ Thursday game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
It’s worth monitoring how Green’s five-game suspension impacts team morale as the Warriors look to break out of a losing skid. Kerr, Steph Curry and most of the Warriors emphasized before the season began the team’s focus to regain team chemistry. It was all to avoid another toxic environment bred by Green’s punch of Jordan Poole last preseason that derailed the year. Will his suspension disrupt chemistry? Or will teammates see his actions as having his teammate’s back?
“From my perspective, I just saw Draymond stand up for his teammate,” Warriors rookie Brandin Podziemski said on 95.7 The Game. “I wouldn’t want to have any other teammate in that situation besides Draymond… Draymond will stick up for anybody on our team. Just because it was Klay doesn’t mean anything. If it was anybody else, he would have done the same thing. That’s the great part about being Dray’s teammate. He’ll stick up for you no matter what.”
A handful of professional, current and former, NBA players — and a few NFL players — spoke out in understanding of Green’s headlock. Most pointed out that Green was justified in grabbing Gobert because Gobert had grabbed Thompson by the neck.
“He plays with pride,” former Warrior and current New York Knick Donte DiVincenzo told the New York Daily News. “No matter what, he’ll take whatever the repercussions are to protect whoever’s on the court.”
Added former ESPN commentator and player Paul Pierce on Twitter: “I respect what Draymond brings to the game; don’t change (for) nobody.”
Former 49ers cornerback and current sports analyst Richard Sherman — who had his share of run-ins with players during his NFL days — defended Green’s reaction to defend Thompson as he saw Gobert put his hands on him.
“Rudy Gobert in this situation is 100 percent wrong,” Sherman said on “First Take.” “You don’t grab their guy in the middle of a scuffle, you grab your guy. Because anything else you do is incendiary. You grab our guy in the middle of a scuffle with your guy, it looks like two-on-one. As soon as you see that from a distance, you just re-ignited the fire for everybody.”
Green will be out for the Warriors’ two games against the Oklahoma City Thunder, then the next three against the Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs. He will return on Nov. 28 against the Sacramento Kings. With Curry out Thursday and day-to-day with a sore knee, the Warriors’ biggest challenge over that span will be to find traction on both the offensive and defensive ends.