The best weekend news for the Warriors, other than no reported vomiting episodes involving a concussed Crash Brother, was the official shutdown of Draymond Green's Twitter involvement. He stopped tweeting weeks ago and, shockingly, hasn't been tempted to feed the @Money23Green account that has brought him so much trouble.
“I haven't been on the Internet and haven't been watching SportsCenter and all that other stuff. Want to check my phone? Twitter's not on there. I removed myself from there,” he said. “I'm starting to realize I really didn't need it. I realize there's more time in the day when you're not texting and doing Twitter.”
I don't need to tell you that this is is the social media equivalent of a junkie quitting heroin. And with hundreds of global media people descending on the Bay Area for the NBA Finals, everyone from owner Joe Lacob to coach Steve Kerr to the public-relations staff must be thrilled. As it is, some of Green's older tweets —from his Michigan State days, when he was a mouthy, opinionated 20-year-old instead of a mouthy, opinionated 25-year-old gunning for a championship and a $12-million-a-year contract — are about to bite him back this week. With Green tweeting as a kid basketball fanatic and not as someone who'd be defending LeBron James five years later in the Finals, his account ripped King James in several posts ranging from disrespectful to insensitive to derogatory.
In April 2010, while praising Kobe Bryant, Green wrote, “That what separates champions from losers and that's y bron is a loser.”
Also that April, he wrote of Bryant and James, “That's y #Lakers is gone get a ring… Best player in the world tryna take a charge… Bron not doing that.”
In July 2010, after James fled Cleveland and signed with the Miami Heat, Green wrote, “LeBron gay 4 that he know he can't lead a team to a championship.”
In April 2011, he wrote, “If I played for the 76ers I would remember that all summer and the 1st time we play the heat next year I would try to take his head off …”
He took some regional criticism for the comments, including an earlier tweet on his account, “Are all male flight attendants gay??? Cuz we have one and … he gone have to stay out of the first class section in stay in da back.” While it should be pointed out that these things were posted a long time ago, it also should be pointed out that the Warriors have a team president, Rick Welts, who is openly gay; employ an assistant coach, Jarron Collins, whose twin brother became the NBA's first openly gay player; and represent a community that is progressive about sexuality choices.
Oh, and did I mention LeBron James is going to be asked about it?
For all the growing concerns about the team's Finals state — none bigger, of course, than Klay Thompson's ongoing concussion protocol program — Green's equilibrium is a variable worth watching. He has emerged as a star this season, thanks to Kerr's bold move to hand him David Lee's starter minutes, and he developed as a key offensive weapon to accompany his wondrously versatile defensive skills. But with uncertainty over how Thompson will perform, Green's burden will grow to new levels in this series.
Can he handle it? Much as he enjoys the bright lights and largest audiences, will he give the Warriors the optimum performances they need to win their first NBA title in 40 years? There is the Mean Tweets angle, which the media will seize. Is he prepared for daily questions about it? His famous mother, Mary Babers-Green, already has made reference to the James tweets on her still-crackling Twitter feed, opining on her new iPhone 6 Plus, “All you ppl that are going to the archives and pulling up old tweets JUMP IN THE LAKE! Ppl like you ruin social media!” Will her son respond with similar emotion? And is it something the Warriors can handle in what has been a remarkable season for its lack of distractions?
Then there's the money angle. Green's next contract will be impacted by his play in the Finals. Will that be in his head? Whatever he is offered as a restricted free agent, Lacob and general manager Bob Myers won't let him get away, even if it means veering into tax territory for a year, giving the Warriors five players making eight-figure annual salaries and dropping Stephen Curry into their fifth-highest-paid slot. (No worries, Stephphiles: He'll be supermaxed at some point after the league's salary cap, fueled by $24 billion in new TV money, catapults to a whopping $89 million in the summer of 2016). If Green excels in the Finals, he'll be in position to demand more money. If he struggles, his leverage weakens.
Finally, there is the responsibility of covering James and dealing with the bruising Tristan Thompson inside. In the scheme of Kerr and defensive master Ron Adams, the Warriors will try various defenders and looks and surely will double-team James at times; if they're wise, and they are, they'll double him constantly and force hobbling Kyrie Irving, erratic J.R. Smith and other Cavs to beat them. When talking about James, Green makes him sound like an old man.
“I've watched him since he was in high school. He was always on ESPN,” he said. “I think LeBron came into the league when I was 13 years old. I've been watching him since, and you kind of remove yourself from being a fan in college to, 'All right, I may play against these guys,' and you're trying to learn. I've been watching him since I was 10 years old.”
Did he have a LeBron poster on his wall?
“My mom didn't allow us to have posters on the wall of any type of star or whatever you want to call people,” Green said.
“Because the Bible says you don't idolize man. So she didn't allow us to,” he said.
Someone suggested James is a cyborg, not a man.
“He's not God,” Green said.
But he is an 18-wheeler in sneakers, the most dangerous moving load in the history of the sport. “It's definitely a challenge, and a very hard one,” Green said. “We've just got to be willing to accept that challenge. You can't be scared, you can't back down. One thing you have to understand: It's not a one-man challenge. It's a complete team effort in stopping him. It's not one person's job to stop LeBron. If we're gonna expect one person to stop LeBron, we'll probably lose. As long as we approach it that way, we can do it.
“I'll get my shot. So will Harrison (Barnes), Andre (Iguodala), Klay and whoever else. We'll try different guys and different looks. If you give a guy like that the same look every time, he'll figure it out and tear it apart — tear the whole game plan apart. I'm looking forward to it. … At the end of the day, he is who he is for a reason. Some are successful against him, many have failed.”
Green and the Warriors failed the last time they faced the Cavs, in late February, when he rocked them for 42 points and 11 rebounds in Cleveland. “Uh, he got it going,” Green said. “We've watched some of that film, and we'll do a better job. We gotta be better. He dominated that game.”
He'd prefer to talk about his first game against LeBron, in his rookie NBA season. That's when Green hit a game-winning layup with 0.9 seconds left and got payback for a game's worth of trash talk from James, who had 31 points. “I remember that game like it was yesterday,” Green said. “It was a fun game for me. I got thrown into the fire and guarded him. I stepped up to the challenge. He started talking to me. I started talking back. He's going back and forth.
“I'm pretty certain I hit the game-winner.”
It may be the last time he smiles for a while if LeBron has Twitter recall and uses it to exact revenge. To call him “gay” is childish. To call him a “loser” is foolish.