Draymond Green admits Jordan Poole punch screwed up Warriors season: ‘We would still play’

After the Golden State Warriors were eliminated by the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of the playoffs, Steve Kerr said they were “not a championship team”.

He’s probably right, but that begs the question: why not?

After all, this season’s Warriors looked a lot like last season’s Warriors, who of course won a championship. Same basic guys in Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Kevon Looney, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole. The reacquisition at the trade deadline of Gary Payton II, who was part of the title team last year, made them even more familiar.

Donte DiVincenzo is a reasonable replacement for Otto Porter Jr. JaMychal Green instead of Nemanja Bjelica doesn’t represent much of a demotion, if at all. Each team tinkers around the margins. The Warriors fired a champion team, and yet, somehow, weren’t they a champion team? What happened? How does a tried and tested unit with that kind of core become one of the worst road teams in the league?

Ask Draymond Green, and he’ll tell you he’s responsible for how the Warriors’ season went and, ultimately, ended. Not because of anything he did during the season. But because of what he did before, when he infamously punched Poole in the face during training in early October.

Speaking to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday, Green said unequivocally that the Warriors would “still be playing” if he hadn’t hit Poole, which, according to Green, compromised his ability to lead with his normal voice in the locker room and, more specifically, help Poole through some of his struggles as that relationship unraveled for obvious reasons.

Listen to Green’s full response. It’s worth it.

Green never shied away from accountability. He took the blame for what he believed cost the Warriors a championship in 2016 when he was suspended for Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. He acknowledged the way he flew against Kevin Durant in a 2018 game against the Clippers, which was Durant’s last year playing for Golden State. Many speculated that Green played at least a role in Durant’s decision to leave.

Now, he effectively says he’s been blowing this season for the Warriors, who, to be fair, didn’t seem like the same team as last year despite the aforementioned roster stability. On the one hand, you appreciate that Green is so honest and responsible. On the other hand, how many times does a 33-year-old have to do something so reckless to learn his lesson?

These are not minor errors. These are, in Green’s own words, championship-impacting mistakes. It makes you wonder if Poole and Green can co-exist long-term with the Warriors.

Green, who has a $27.6 million player option for next season, which the Warriors would like to extend, will likely be back. Does that mean Poole is traded? Kerr said Tuesday he still considers Poole from Golden State six fundamental pieces, but what else is he going to say now? He either wants to increase Poole’s confidence or his business value.

So we’ll see. The NBA is a futures market, so in that sense, the past is the past. Did Green’s fan on Poole screw up Golden State’s chemistry and, ultimately, its season? Maybe. But going forward is a question of whether they can still recapture the momentum that made them a Championship side in 2022. Poole was a big part of that title. He wasn’t the same player this season, and the Warriors weren’t the same team. Green thinks he is responsible for this.

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