FOX Sports NBA Writer
Just eight months ago, it seemed that Draymond Green and the Golden State Warriors were poised for a dynasty-shattering divorce.
Green beat teammate Jordan Poole in a practice session in October. Shortly thereafter, the Warriors offered Poole – a fourth-year guard who made a breakthrough last summer en route to the team’s championship – a four-year contract extension worth up to $140 million. Meanwhile, the 33-year-old Green and the Warriors appeared to be moving in opposite directions, and there were signs the two sides would not agree on the maximum overtime Green wanted. The summer of 2023, when Green would officially reach free agency if he turned down a $27.5 million player option for next season, loomed as a possible date for a split.
So how did things come to change so drastically, leading up to Friday’s news that Green and the Warriors reportedly agreed to a four-year, $100 million extension that includes a player option last season?
Though his return seemed in doubt for most of last season, the Warriors have always been a home for Green.
They picked him 35th overall in 2012. And over the past 11 years, Green has developed deep bonds with many members of the franchise, most notably trainer Steve Kerr and superstar Steph Curry.
In recent years, Kerr told FOX Sports that Green had even become something of an assistant coach behind the scenes and the two men had developed a mutual trust despite having some very public screaming matches over the years.
Meanwhile, the brotherhood between Green and Curry deepened after Curry showed up at Green’s house after Green unleashed a verbal tirade against then-teammate Kevin Durant in 2018. Curry sat with Green for more than two hours, with Curry saying that he didn’t like the way Green was handling the situation but always stood by him.
Green felt understood by the Warriors. He had great success with the team. He always wanted to be a warrior.
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But the incident between Green and Poole turned everything upside down.
After a video of the punch leaked to TMZ and went viral, Green briefly resigned from the team, and when he came back there were times when Green had trouble being himself this season. Green’s intensity drives him on but also gets him into trouble. In 2016, he was suspended for Game 5 of the Finals after hitting LeBron James in the groin. And after the Durant incident, the Warriors suspended Green for one game.
The Poole punch seemed to be the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Green responded by dampening his fire – and that had a profound impact on the team. This was particularly evident in the Warriors’ miserable away record (11-30), for which Green took full responsibility.
“I think a lot of our shortcomings this year are my fault,” Green said on his podcast in January. “Why is it my fault? Because I wasn’t the leader that I am and need to be for this team. And the reason I wasn’t that leader is also my fault.”
Around that time, Green admitted in an interview with Taylor Rooks in January that “the signs are pointing” when discussing his future with the Warriors. He further referenced the team’s two-schedule schedule, which created a lot of tension between the team’s veterans and its young core.
“I thought I’d stay there forever, I’d love that,” Green told Rooks. “I understand the luxury tax. I understand that you’ve got these young people and contracts signed and they need to be paid… And I mean that just to me by the words on the wall.”
But then things took an unexpected turn for both Green and the Warriors.
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Green was key in Golden State eventually securing sixth place in the Western Conference and then bouncing back from a 2-0 deficit in the first round against the Sacramento Kings to win in Game 7. He helped stretch the team’s second-round series against the Lakers to six games.
During this time, it seemed like Green was reminded of why he loved being a warrior. And his team was reminded of his immeasurable importance with performances like Green’s in Game 5 against the Lakers, in which he scored 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead his team to victory. He was also named to the all-defensive second-team in May.
Meanwhile, the Warriors’ two-time schedule had faltered. They dealt former top pick James Wiseman at close of trade in a multi-team deal to take on Gary Payton II. Poole’s value plummeted in the postseason, averaging 10.3 points on a 34.1 percent shot rate, a significant drop from the 17 points on a 50.8 percent shot rate he had during the playoffs that year scored in 2022.
With the Warriors eliminated, Green made his intentions clear.
“I want to be a warrior for the rest of my life,” Green said after Game 6 against the Lakers. “I want to go out with the same guys I went in with.”
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Kerr, in turn, emphasized the importance of Green to the team.
“If Draymond doesn’t come back,” Kerr told reporters during his farewell interview, “we’re not a contender for the championship.”
The Warriors’ pillars reflected that sentiment, with Curry and Thompson saying they still firmly believed their core could win championships together.
Then newly appointed general manager Mike Dunleavy called Green’s signing the team’s top priority. And just over a week ago, the team traded Poole to the Washington Wizards in a deal to acquire Chris Paul, eliminating the lingering disharmony between Poole and Green that had plagued the Warriors all season.
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The Warriors knew their previous approach was a mistake. Now all they needed was Green to buy in. He declined his option, as expected, and rumors of possible other targets circulated.
But in the end, with the drama behind them, everyone agreed to move forward together. Everything worked out wonderfully for Green, he has said that he wants to play in the NBA for 15 years, which would mean the end of his new contract.
Now Green’s dream of being a lifelong warrior is likely to come true. And the team’s dream of winning more championships with this group remains alive.
Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She has previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.
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