Draymond Green disagrees with most of his technical fouls, and he’s not going to change because he has to be who he has to be.
And I think we know how all this ends – with a rousing chorus of “I Fought The Law (And The Law Won).” And a knowing nod from Kevin Durant.
Green has taken a full-frontal approach to NBA officiating, allowing his emotions free and full reign when he feels slighted or wronged. An accomplished on-court thespian in only four years, he protests vociferously with face and pace when a whistle finds him, and he has noticed, as have his compatriots and employers, that it only earns him more whistles and notice. He has seven technical fouls this year and has concluded that he earned (and got his money’s worth in protest of) two.
That leaves five, plus the number of calls that he has disagreed with that have not led to technical. And he claims to understand the system, and how it is being applied to him, and isn’t going to give in to the system that has made him one of the league’s pre-eminent discipline targets, along with Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins.
“A lot of guys get home at night and they’re exhausted from acting all day. I only know how to be Draymond,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “That's who I’ve been my entire life; that's who I’m gonna continue to be. I won’t be exhausted from acting when I get home. That ain’t gonna work for me. So no, I won't change an approach with anything. No point.”
Except that there is a point, and a line to be walked that allows him to be both Draymond and a diplomat. And this is where he wanders into the woods. In the NBA, both historically and comtemporaneously, the way to become unscrewed is NOT to fight the screwings frontally, but to be more judicious in picking one’s spots, and in learning and applying which officials respond to what form of protest. It is the time-honored way of the world in the NBA, and those who have not learned it have paid a heavier-than-required price for their stubbornness.
Which leads us to Durant and his vociferous objections to the league-mandated last-two-minute reports cataloguing and disseminating calls in close games that may or may not be correct. He thinks the NBA is leaving its officials to twist in the wind, and he chose the aftermath of the Warriors’ Christmas Day loss to Cleveland to make his point.
In other words, having been freshly tripped by Richard Jefferson in the last few seconds of the game, he decided to rail against the system at its source – the league office – and the peripheral issue – ratting out the beat cops for making an honest mistake.
At best, this was a sincere act of support for men (and one woman, Lauren Holtkamp) who get little, and at worst it was a tactical schmoozing that will serve him well in those benefit-of-the-doubt moments every game has.
And no, we’re not talking about calls per se, but the dead-ball chats that players have with officials. Durant will get more of an ear than most players because he is Kevin Durant, but he also will get more because he had a chance to slag the officials and chose to uphold them instead.
This is particularly useful given that the Warriors are particularly poor at selling calls. There is no metric for it, rather an eye-of-the-beholder thing, but Durant and Shaun Livingston are the only players in the rotation who know how to draw a foul when it is needed, and conversely, players like Green, Andre Iguodala and Stephen Curry aren’t nearly as skilled at it.
In short, no James Hardens or LeBron Jameses or Jamal Crawfords here, just to name three players who have mastered this very useful skill.
Anyway, Durant is going to do with honey what Green won’t be able to do with sandpaper, and his claims that nobody is smart enough to interpret his body language (or even the color of his teeth, though there is no evidence that any official has ever cited gingivitis on a game report) ignores the fact that people in position to do just such judging are going to judge anyway. One, because they can, and two, because their bosses want them to.
That’s how Green became the marked man he is – by trying to be oblivious to how his body language affects those who can affect his playing time. That’s never worked well, even with the most conscientious objectors like Rasheed Wallace, who holds the likely-untouched record for technicals in a season with 44.
Green’s right to speak is clear, but so is the official’s right to have him speak from the bench, where he is not nearly so effective.
And the Warriors’ middling ability to find the fine line between letting Draymond be Draymond and not letting Draymond be too Draymond needs work as well.
Does this mean Durant is responsible for making Green be less Green? No. These are both grown men who have to do as they do. But when Green sees how many more calls Durant gets, and how much more respect he gets from the officials, it may occur to him that he needs to adapt to conditions if he wants to stop being That Guy, because while it may be momentarily satisfying to get into an official’s grill, there is far longer-term benefit to channeling a bit of Kevin Durant.