Draymond Green is who we thought he was

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images   Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images /

Say this for Draymond Green at least. The man sticks to his story.

He does a lot more than that of course, as evidenced by his rather valiant effort in a Game 7 defeat. His 32 points, 15 rebounds, 9 assists, are the sort of line that, had a few things gone just a little differently on Sunday night, may very well have resulted in “Draymond Green, NBA Finals MVP.” The undersized, underdog, often under-appreciated 35th overall pick in the Draft, ascending to one of the league’s great honors.

Of course, things didn’t go that way for the 73 win Golden State Warriors. And afterwards, as he’d said days before, Green made clear that he still held himself responsible.

“I’m not afraid to take the blame,” said Green to the media, following the 93-89 loss that will forever live as a stain on their still-remarkable season, “I do think that’s where the series turned, but it happened.”

“That,” of course, was the swipe seen ‘round the world, the wild swing at LeBron’s nether regions that took Green out of Game 5, not precisely for the act itself, but, appropriately enough, because of an accumulation of “flagrant points” by a player who defined these playoffs, hell, defined much of his career, through a tendency to make the most of every shot available to him.

Including the cheap ones.

That, in essence, is the duality of Draymond Green. Skill, tenacity, and work ethic, that anyone on this earth would do well to emulate. And, regrettably, an inherent tendency to push too far.To break every code of trash-talk, to pick every fight, and yes, to catch his rivals “manhood” frequently enough with his flailing limbs to eliminate any doubt that this would keep happening to any other player.

The 2016 Finals belonged, without any doubt, to LeBron James, and the culmination of his quest to finally deliver a championship to his hometown team. But they also belonged, in their own way, to Green, whose virtues, and vices, marked the series in equal measure. They are impossible to separate, given that both are borne out of a player who refuses to accept limits, be they his own, or the ones imposed on him by a peace-loving, order-seeking, non-groin-kicking hoops hierarchy.

“I mean, we can all look and say, if I did this, I did that,” added Green in assessing the loss, “If I don’t turn this ball over, if I get this stop… I mean, that’s it.”

Which is true enough, of course. But only one Warriors player will ask himself, in the undoubtedly painful weeks ahead, “What if I had been more cognizant of the situation? What if I just kept my cool? What if I didn’t meet every perceived threat to my toughness with a disproportionate response?”

The answer, of course, is rather simple. Then he wouldn’t be Draymond Green.

“I’ll take the good with the bad,” Green added, accidentally providing his own perfect summary of the Draymond experience. “I’m not the guy who rides high when things are going well and say, oh, man, this is great, I’m this, I’m that, dadada. You know? I got suspended. And like I said, I put myself in that position, so I take the good with the bad. I learned from the good. I learned from the bad. Overall, it makes me a better person.”

It makes Golden State a better basketball team, too, as even the most committed critic of his temperament would have to admit that for all the extracurriculars, Draymond Green provides things that no other player can. His ability to play beyond his size unlocked a lineup that, for a time, went unsolved across the league. His ferocity on defense, as we witnessed throughout the series, has helped, for some time, to mask team liabilities on that end. And his personality, that of the tough talking write-off with a massive chip on his shoulder, is an irreplaceable part of the DNA of this Warriors team, one whose irrational confidence is almost as key to their success as the three-point shot.

It’s easy to say in retrospect, that once Draymond disappeared for Game 5, so too did that confidence, that swagger, that completely groundless but unshakeable feeling that nothing could possibly go wrong. The basketball world had basically begun planning the parade, and was more than ready to celebrate the coronation of the greatest team that ever was.

Until Draymond Green couldn’t hold it together… and everything came undone.

He’ll hold onto all of it, of course. That too, along with the hustle, along with the basketball IQ, along with the (to steal a phrase from Charlie Murphy) habitual line-stepping, has also come to encapsulate Draymond Green. Earlier in this postseason, Jon Wilner of the Mercury News unearthed one of those delightful nuggets that ends up aggregated all across the country, discovering that Green was capable of reciting, in order, the 34 players taken ahead of him in the 2012 NBA Draft.

“What happened to me is what normally happens to players in my situation,” Green explained to Wilner, “But I knew I wasn’t normal.”

One might argue that choosing to carry around 34 separate reminders of an affront from years ago, one that he has most certainly exorcised by way of his All-Star bid, his All-NBA Second Team spot, and his championship ring, is not exactly “normal” either. But watching Draymond during Sunday’s instant classic, there was no escaping the notion that “normal” is overrated. Green appeared, as is his wont, to be everywhere, contesting shots, facilitating far more than a man his size ought to be able, and knocking down as many threes as the Splash Brothers combined. If the Warriors were fated to fall, Draymond Green played like a man determined to make sure that this one wouldn’t be on him.

In the end, the Dubs did indeed fall short of immortality, and whether you call it blame, or responsibility, there is plenty of it to go around. Stephen Curry, the league’s first unanimous MVP, looked human for the first time all year. Harrison Barnes continued to struggle when he was needed most, shooting just 25-71 from the field in the Finals. Steve Kerr’s often curious rotation decisions are likely to be questioned all summer long. And the basketball gods contributed too, with injuries to Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala.

And then there was Draymond, who was both brilliant, and boneheaded, and who, with just a touch more composure, might never have provided the Cavaliers with an opening to change history. Another player might try move on from this as quickly as possible, to put it out of mind, to turn the page, wipe the slate clean, or attempt any of 100 other cliches. But another player wouldn’t be Draymond Green, who is going to hang on to this for a bit instead.

“Obviously, I’m not over losing. That will sting me for a while, and it will probably sting me until I get back here and make it right. But it will sting, and it’s supposed to sting. And if it doesn’t sting, you’re probably in the wrong business.”

That’s Draymond’s story, and he’s sticking to it.

For better, and for worse.

For more NBA Finals coverage, check out our NBA Finals hub page.