SAN FRANCISCO — Draymond Green doesn’t regret the actions that landed him a five-game suspension. Putting Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert in a headlock on Nov. 14 was in pure defense of his Golden State Warriors teammate Klay Thompson, Green said Sunday.
He said he doesn’t regret it and he’ll never change.
“I don’t live my life with regrets,” Green said after practice, the first time he has spoken to reporters since his suspension. “I’ll come to a teammate’s defense any time that I’m in a position to come to a teammate’s defense. … What matters to me is how the people that I care about feel, first and foremost. How are the people that I care about affected? How are the people I care about, what do they have to deal with? That’s it for me.”
Just 100 seconds into the Nov. 14 game, Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels and Thompson got tied up with each other in transition, as Thompson held McDaniels’ jersey while he waited for a long rebound. They refused to let go and began to swing each other around and push, resulting in McDaniels ripping Thompson’s jersey and Thompson swinging his arm at McDaniels.
As other players rushed toward the two, Gobert wrapped his arms around Thompson to pull him off McDaniels, which is when Green put Gobert in a headlock and pulled him backward for several seconds.
Green and Gobert share a rich, petty history. But Green would not say Sunday whether their past interactions played a role in his actions that night.
“Things can be interpreted how people want to interpret them,” he said. “I’m not here to judge people’s interpretations or try to change them. They are what they are. I know that for me, I am always going to be there for my teammates. That’s who I am. That’s who I am as a teammate, that’s who I am as a friend. … Right, wrong or indifferent, look to your side and I’ll be there — or even in front of you.”
After the NBA announced Green’s suspension, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Green’s actions were “inexcusable” and that the organization would have to figure out the best ways to support Green moving forward.
Green wouldn’t elaborate on any private discussions he had with Kerr or general manager Mike Dunleavy but did offer a little insight into the team’s feelings on the issue.
“The consensus amongst all of us is that I’m going to be me no matter what. That’s not going to change,” Green said. “But in saying that, there’s always a better way that something can be done. So it’s figuring out a better way. That’s the consensus among all of us.”
NBA executive vice president Joe Dumars had said in a statement announcing Green’s suspension that his history of unsportsmanlike conduct played a role in the length of the ban.
“To continue mentioning, ‘Oh, well, he did this in the past,’ I paid for those,” Green said. “I got suspended in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. You can’t keep suspending me for those actions.”
Green said the question he repeatedly asks himself after these incidents is, “Am I collecting a lesson from this?” What has often landed at the forefront of his mind is his team’s need for him to be on the court.
This time, Green’s return will come at a dire moment, when the Warriors visit the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday. They have lost eight of their past 11 games — four of those losses without Green.
The three main issues Green has observed are spacing, defense and turnovers: the former two problems he knows he will help with, and the other one he hopes to not worsen.
There is hope Green’s presence on the court will have an immediate impact. But in reality, it won’t miraculously fix everything.
“Where I can help most is demanding that everyone is communicating, not that I’m going to come back and it’s like, ‘Oh, he’s the savior,'” Green said. “That s— don’t work. There are no saviors in the NBA. But what I can do is come back and hold more people accountable.”
Kerr said Green won’t be under any minutes restriction heading into Tuesday’s game because, unlike when a player is coming back from injury, Green has been able to work out and keep up his conditioning.
Green said he has had only one full day off during his suspension and that he has spent a lot of his time shooting and lifting. He also traveled with the team to Phoenix last week where he scrimmaged and has been able to play pickup with other teammates.
“Our defense instantly gets better with Draymond; we know that,” Kerr said. “Then it’s really a matter of finding the right combinations within the game that are in rhythm and clicking. We’re searching for the best two-way version of our team. … I would say with all of the absences and injuries and stuff, we are still searching for that.”
Tuesday’s game also will determine whether the Warriors or the Kings make it to the quarterfinals of the inaugural in-season tournament. This will be the first time Green will play in Golden1 Center since Game 7 of the first round of last season’s playoffs — a series during which he was suspended for stomping on Kings big man Domantas Sabonis.
“It’ll be a lot like Game 7,” Green said. “The atmosphere, excitement, angst. The feeling I am expecting is that it will be like a Game 7.”