So there was Draymond Green, emotional leader of the most celebrated sports team on Earth, yapping and shoving in a post-game scuffle with O.J. Mayo and other Milwaukee Bucks. There was Draymond, shoving him away instead of holding the Mayo and heading straight to the locker room after a tense but thrilling victory Friday night.
Why was he in the middle of that mess? After a night of trash-talking on both sides, all inspired by the Warriors’ callout of the Bucks for perceived overcelebrating after the 24-0 streak was broken in Milwaukee, Green said something was uttered to him in the scrum that he couldn’t repeat to a family audience. Then Mayo touched his head.
“No man is going to touch my head,” Green said. “Point blank.”
“Show a little respect,” Mayo said. “You talk about one guy’s class and then you go the same route, that’s not class.”
This is called stooping to a level unbecoming of a champion. And this is not the sort of frivolity the Warriors need this season, an incident where security personnel intervened on the Oracle Arena floor when the only focus should have been 26-1.
I get it: Green is the edge, the sweat, the physicality of the operation. He’s the one who stoked the tension when he made fun of the “24-1” T-shirts in Wisconsin last weekend. He’s the one who mocked Michael Carter-Williams for staring down the Warriors’ bench in the final minute of their only loss. And in the end, the Warriors did avenge the defeat, returning from 11 points down with 7:50 left — after struggling with energy and defense for three quarters — as Steph Curry awakened from an out-of-sorts slumber to join Klay Thompson and Green in making the big late shots in a 121-112 win.
But don’t look for trouble afterward, Draymond. This is not an alley fight. As it is, he comes awfully close to drawing technical fouls in mouthing off at officials. As word gets around that he can dish out trash-talk but can’t take it, other teams will be targeting him. The last thing the Warriors need is Green serving a suspension.
“There was some kind of banter back and forth, Draymond and O.J settling up,” Curry reported. “Everybody came together … and it got all hyped up for nothing. Nothing happened.”
In that punches weren’t thrown, yes, nothing happened. But something did happen. And Green and the Warriors can prepare for more enemy yapping this season, because it clearly took them out of the laser-focus zone typical of their performances.
“We were very public about the fact that we wanted revenge,” interim coach Luke Walton said. “And then we didn’t come out and play with that edge and mentality. If you’re gonna say that about another team, they’re not just going to fold because you say that. We didn’t start the game with the intensity it takes to stop teams. I don’t care what a team’s record is in this league. Every team can beat you.”
It’s a much bigger hoot, admittedly, when the Warriors are challenged and engaged, when owner Joe Lacob is so agitated at courtside that he whips off his suit jacket, when the friggin’ Bucks seem like the Warriors’ biggest rivals. At one point, as they were trying to whittle down what had been a 15-point deficit, Mo Speights was ready to charge Miles Plumlee after Plumlee had dunked over him. “Two games in a row, we haven’t come out with focus on the defensive end,” Curry said. “We didn’t have that aggressiveness and physicality until the last 20 minutes.”
The insults aren’t going to stop. Blind to history and tone-deaf to the greatest start in American team sports history, the prophet of Dub Doom, Charles Barkley, predicted the other day that San Antonio will win the NBA title. He also opined that Michael Jordan’s Bulls “would kill this little team,” referring to the Warriors.
Kill? Isn’t that a little, uh, harsh?
What is it about the Warriors that inspires bitter reactions? Is it the continuing shimmies, dance steps and mouthguard swishings of Curry after an arena-rocking shot? Is it the trash talking, on and off the court, of Green? Is it because the bench guys are hopping, dabbing, gesturing, waving and shooting imaginary arrows after every splash run? Is it because of the media craze, the global attention, the Instagram madness when Curry, his wife and Drake show up at an In-N-Out Burger in Alameda?
Sure, it is all of those things. And I suppose the Warriors could act like they’ve been here before, as they have, winning 83 times en route to a championship. But when they obviously feed off disrespect, why would anyone want to blunt those emotions — as long as Green reins it in afterward? They rode the wave of offseason dissing to a record start. When Walton tells them in meetings that they probably won’t win 72 games — the hallmark of Jordan’s Bulls — Green interrupts and says, “No, we are going to win 72 games.” It’s clear they thrive off the continuing skepticism.
I’m just amazed the skeptics still exist.
It’s a story when they’re interested in exacting revenge over the Bucks. Deriving inspiration from a slight, real or imagined, is exactly how Jordan pushed the Bulls into winning 72 games during the 1995-96 regular season. There will come a time, if the Warriors do morph into a dynasty, that they won’t care as much about little things. But right now, they do care, which creates more buzz in a league that most people wouldn’t watching now if not for Curry and a historic mission.
Two memories stuck with the players about the Milwaukee loss. One of the Bucks’ owners, Wesley Edens, had 500 of those green “24-1” T-shirts distributed to members of a fan squad — quite presumptuous for a team perhaps headed to the lottery. Worse were the final-minute antics of Carter-Williams, who stole a pass, dunked the ball and stared down the Warriors.
Michael Carter-Who? Doing what? Green, Thompson, even Curry made a big deal out of it. In doing so, they fired up the Bucks. Still, playing at their best for most of the game, they couldn’t beat the Warriors when they were in a sluggish mode. Had the Dubs lost, this would have been an embarrassing night. But they didn’t lose.
Even in Utah, Curry and Green found reason to fire back at a critic, misguided and irrelevant as he was. Some blogger — the kind of untrained loser they should be ignoring — wrote after the Warriors’ close victory that they were disrepecting the Jazz. I was in the locker room. It wasn’t close to being true, the problem with most wannabes in sports media who make up stuff without corroborating or even vaguely looking into it. Next morning, two Twitter feeds were fired up.
Curry: “Hey @Ben_Dowsett….that’s a personal foul……….. “REACHING”
Green: “Yo @ben_dowsett why you lying bruh? Trying to make your name bigger off lying? Want more importance? Report something worthwhile & true!”
Green again: “You mad corny dude and media privileges should be revoked coward @ben_dowsett.”
The Ben Dowsetts of the world aren’t worthy of their time.
And neither are the O.J. Mayos.
Jay Mariotti is sports director and lead sports columnist at the San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his website at jaymariotti.com.