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January 22, 2023

BOSTON — Draymond Green is a host of fascinating things on and off the court, all of which combine into a potent mix capable of supercharging a championship team or making it so explosive it can crush those ambitions from within.

Green is a future Hall of Famer. An all-time great defensive player. A funny, frank and thoughtful voice over the hoops, and its intersection with much bigger things. A provocateur. A broadcaster and podcaster who effectively livestreams his own career and his team’s pursuit of basketball immortality. A bold, sometimes reckless competitor. A closer clutch that can also turn into a self-destruct. A guy who likes to challenge others, but bristles at even minor criticism.

Green has been one of the touchstones of the Warriors’ greatest accomplishments and bitterest disappointments.

That may be truer today than at any other time in his career, especially with his Golden State Warriors tied heading into Wednesday’s Game 3 of their NBA Finals series with the Boston Celtics.

Effective Draymond is a world-class winner, a player whose individual impact on the game of basketball and overall influence on his team is key to the Warriors’ greatness. Golden State has never lost a seven-game playoff series in which Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green started every game.

Green’s need to be formidable and available seems even more glaring now, with Thompson looking diminished and Green’s own production in Games 1 and 2 tied directly to his team’s respective loss and win over Boston.

Take Game 2: Green’s defense against Jaylen Brown helped disable the Boston star’s hot start, which was key to shorting a Celtics side looking to put the series aside earlier . Green’s mind games can also prove critical, and they also walk that fine line between just enough and too much.

But it’s Green in a nutshell. He’s a star so essential to his team’s greatness that he must perfectly calibrate his unique competitive fire and how he expresses himself to be a hero rather than a heel. His approach straddles all lines – between dirty and stubborn, between awesome and downright boring, between limiting an opposing star or limiting his own presence because he’s gone too far. Between winning and losing.

The most egregious example of Way-Too-Far Draymond was on full display in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors were favored in June to cement their epic 73-9 regular season and the Greatest Team mantle of the league all-time with a championship against LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers 57-25.

But Green has crossed that line in this series, hitting LeBron where (and when) he shouldn’t have. At the end of Game 4, with Golden State less than three minutes away from taking a 3-1 series lead, Green’s actions resulted in him being suspended from an eventual closing game on the court. of Warriors. Instead, the incident provided enough momentum for the Cavs to rally all the way, aiding LeBron’s legacy by providing the oxygen to fuel the biggest comeback – and meltdown – simultaneously. in NBA Finals history.

Green walked that line again on Sunday, earning himself an early technical foul and then, as if daring the officials to give him another, flirted with ejection time and time again. One game with Brown in particular, in which they both fell to the ground after Green fouled his three-point attempt and then kept his feet on the Celtics star, drew some collective gasps from the crowd from the Chase Center.

The tension was palpable as the play — and, again, the very idea of ​​Effective Draymond vs. Way-Too-Far-Draymond — was under consideration.

Warriors fans have seen this spectacle before, and it’s one they’d rather not relive: their team is on a title track, with Draymond at its heart, and then that same star goes too far and costs the club dearly. .

He wasn’t ejected, and his nine points, five rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one block — plus his exquisite defense — helped the Warriors win.

But had he gone one step further on this game or several that followed or had the right official been there on the wrong day, disaster could have struck Golden State. Still.

This is one example among many others. There’s the Flagrant-2 that Green threw at Memphis’ Brandon Clarke earlier in this postseason. It didn’t lead to a suspension, but probably should have. Green’s toes were over the line that night, but he came out in front.

Green’s moves on the floor

While his stardom and thoughtfulness have rightly given him an unprecedented real-time platform, Green’s tough talk and willingness to say whatever he wants has invited a new level of scrutiny and debate. waiting – for him, of course, but also for his teammates.

It’s one thing for Green to be able to tell the media that Flagrant-2 was nothing. It’s quite another to chastise Charles Barkley, in the NBA’s most influential space, for not understanding the inherent blamelessness of a Draymond Green. That Memphis responded with a dangerous play that knocked Gary Payton II out of a playoff game is surely related.

Green’s podcast and appearances on NBA On TNT are perfect for those outlets, for us fans, for Draymond Green. The jury is still out on whether they benefit the Golden State Warriors.

Ask LeBron James to raise massive expectations and anxieties and invite the wrath of the rest of the league. Those things were essential in the Heat that didn’t win an NBA title the first year of the Miami Big Three era.

Green is one of my absolute favorite players in the game, and his rebellious can die approach on and off the pitch is captivating. Authenticity is rare, and even rarer when paired with actual greatness. But sometimes the rebel who doesn’t care has real consequences – say like 2016, or maybe at some point in this series.

Go too far down the field, as he almost did in Game 2, and the missing playing time could be enough to tip things the Celtics way. Go too far, and the Celtics could find that extra motivation and anger when they decide it’s time to shut down the overconfident superstar, just like many wanted with LeBron & Co. in 2010.

The pressure is real, and so are the forces Green has the potential to unleash.

They say don’t let your mouth write checks your body can’t cash. In Draymond’s case, whether it’s the line he flirts with while playing or the lines he drops when he’s not playing, he has to be careful not to write checks that his team doesn’t. will not be able to cash.

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