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January 21, 2023

At the start of the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the 2022 NBA Finals on Friday night, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr made a bold move. With his team trailing the Boston Celtics and in danger of losing 3-1 in the series, he sent Draymond Green to the bench and then kept him there for nearly four minutes.

Such a move would have been unthinkable in the past. Green was one of the driving forces in the Warriors’ dynastic run, and if there was anyone you wanted in a close game and winning, it was him. But it’s not 2016 anymore, and Kerr’s decision turned out to be the right one. The Warriors went 11-3 with Green on the bench to take the lead for good, and tied the series with the Boston Celtics at 2-2.

Kerr said Green’s exit was originally part of their rotation plan and he didn’t hand him over because the group that was on the court was playing so well. While Green understood that decision, he wanted to be on the court.

“I’m certainly never happy to come out of the game with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter in a game to win,” Green said. “I’m not going to sit here and act like I’m thrilled. I’m a competitor.”

“But, at the end of the day, if that’s what the coach decides, then you roll with it. You know, I had to keep my head in the game and, you know, every time I come back, try to make games. That was just my mindset. You know, don’t overdo it. I’ve always been on the – on the bandwagon of if you got something and it rolls, you get on it here. So that’s what it is.”

Right now, there’s no time to think about the future or the potential fallout from a training decision; Kerr had to make a move to win a game. It was a tough call, but he made it and it worked. Now the Warriors have tied the series and regained home-court advantage. Had he stayed with Green, the Warriors might be on the ropes 3-1.

All of which is a long way of saying that it will be fascinating to see what Kerr does with Green’s minutes going forward. For the series, Green now has a negative on/off differential. The Warriors are under 1.3 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court and over 3.4 points per 100 possessions when he’s sitting.

To his credit, Green made some great plays on the stretch to help the Warriors pull away. He still has value as a defender and rebounder, but is almost a complete non-factor on the offensive side now. The Celtics did well to take a lot of his game away from him, and he clearly prefers not to shoot. He was terrible in Game 3, fouled in two games, and had 4.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists on 30.7 percent from the field in the series.

Even his mother wonders:

“Please stop asking me what’s wrong with Dray,” Mary Babers Green wrote on Twitter during Game 4. “I DON’T KNOW! Maybe it’s a CLONE! Lmbo WHERE’S THE Draymond that helped us get here!! Hmmmm I’ve never seen that either!”

While Green won’t come out of the rotation, it’s fair to wonder how much he’ll play the rest of the series. Green is one of the toughest and most competitive players of his generation and has amassed incredible equity with his teammates and coaching staff.

It won’t be easy to get him to sit down, even if the team sometimes looks better without him. Whether Kerr can strike the right balance and get the most out of Green may just determine who wins the championship.

“Look, it’s a tough streak for him to score because of Boston’s size and athleticism, but he still has a huge impact on the game,” Kerr said. “And he knows we’re going to do whatever it takes to win. We’ve got a lot of guys that can contribute. A lot of guys did that tonight, and you know, we did that. And all that. it takes in Game 5, that’s what we’ll do too.”

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