Free speech Warrior: Draymond Green wants to talk – and protect players
“We’re all in support of everybody running and yelling Black Lives Matter. We’re all in support of everyone promoting vaccines and all of these things,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “But we’re not in support of you saying where you want to be. Why?”
“We don’t muzzle players on situations that are big in the world, because we can’t, because we know the backlash that that comes with. But we muzzle players with situations that are not huge with the world because we know we can get away with it.”
Green has become the NBA’s most outspoken advocate on behalf of players, particularly their right to speak out. Stirred by Andre Drummond’s situation with the Cavaliers, Green recently attacked the double standards he saw within the league. LeBron James echoed him.
In a recent interview, Green elaborated on his stances.
I told Green the NBA seems to fine players for trade requests only when the trade request is made publicly on the record. If a player’s trade request is merely reported in the media with anonymous sourcing – even if it’s abundantly obvious the information is coming from the player’s camp – the league hasn’t levied penalties. That’s why James Harden avoided a fine.
The Cavs haven’t gone on the record with their Drummond plans. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN attributed the key details of his report to “sources.” Theoretically, the Cavaliers weren’t involved in revealing Drummond’s status.
“Don’t give me implausible deniability,” Green said. “Because that’s ridiculous.”
Green brought up a fine he received in 2019. Several Golden State players demonstrated their umbrage with the officiating during a game refereed by Marat Kogut. Afterward, Green tweeted “TD” and “MK.” People inferred he was conflating disgraced referee Tim Donaghy with Kogut. But Green never admitted that publicly. Still, the NBA docked him $35,000 for “making statements on social media which impugned the integrity of NBA officiating.”
So, no, Green is not willing let the Cavs skate just because they haven’t said anything on the record.
“If that’s implausible deniability – where we see a guy get sat down, not suited up, extremely healthy, having a great season, but it didn’t come from the team and it came from sources that they’re looking to trade Andre Drummond,” Green said, “if that’s implausible deniability, I’d love my fine money back.”
I’m with Green on his fundamental issue: Let players speak.
Whether a trade request by a player/trade plan implemented by the team is made on the record or under the cloak of anonymity is a silly distinction for the league to make. If people can get their messages out anyway, let them use their names without fear of fine.
Not only is this forced quasi-silence unfair to the players who want to speak publicly about their own situations, it’s a disservice to fans who want an accurate understanding of what’s happening in the league they follow and spend money on.
Drummond remaining in limbo also bothers Green.
Two more situations have emerged even since I talked to Green on Wednesday. LaMarcus Aldridge isn’t playing for the Spurs, and P.J. Tucker isn’t playing for the Rockets. It’s unclear exactly how the players feel about their situations (maybe in part, because the league prohibits them from saying certain things).
In fairness, when the Pelicans wanted to sit Anthony Davis – a superstar – the NBA threatened to fine them. NBA commissioner Adam Silver argued sitting a healthy Davis would undermine the entertainment product.
But there are gray areas.
Drummond isn’t quite having the “great season” Green said. Jarrett Allen is Cleveland’s best center and usurped Drummond’s starting role. At that point, Drummond – in a contract year – might have preferred sitting out rather than becoming viewed as a backup entering free agency. The Cavaliers have JaVale McGee as fine backup center. Wojnarowski’s report gave the impression sitting Drummond was at least a somewhat mutual decision between the team and player.
Likewise, Aldridge and Tucker are having down years and might prefer sitting while awaiting a resolution.
Besides, the Collective Bargaining Agreement – ratified by the players’ union – allows teams to trade or not trade players. Teams pay players for, among other things, the right to trade them.
In theory, the system could be reimagined. The union could push for greater player control, making concessions elsewhere (like salary).
But Green is not some hardliner on that.
“We’ve got to keep some balance here,” Green said. “I’m not arguing that at all. I don’t think just because a guy said ‘I want to be traded’ that you have to trade him. At the end of the day, if you sign a contract, you signed that contract. Whether that team decides that they want to honor your request or not, it’s on that on that team because you signed a contract. Now, when you sign that contract, yes, it does suck that you can’t determine whether you’re going to be traded or not but the team can. But, hey, it is what is because you decided to sign that contract. So, you have to live with that. Those are the rules. I have no complaints with that.”
These situations will tend to work themselves out, anyway.
Even Green acknowledged Harden was “dogging it his last days in Houston.” That probably contributed to the Rockets honoring his trade request. But that doesn’t bother Green.
“One thing about this game people don’t really take into consideration is your heart has got to be in it,” Green said. “If your heart’s not in it, it’s hard to go in night in and night out and produce at the level we’re expected to produce at if your heart’s not in it.
“His heart wasn’t there. Who am I to judge and say James Harden is dead wrong how he was playing if his heart wasn’t in it?”
Some of Green’s complaints are deeply personal.
He again brought up his tampering fine for saying Devin Booker should leave the Suns. “They said I was tampering,” Green said. “What am I tampering with?! My opinion?”
But this doesn’t fit neatly into Green’s pro-player campaign. The NBA’s arbitrary tampering enforcement leaves everyone – owners, management, coaches, players – unsatisfied. If anything, the league has been especially lenient toward players.
Green also said: “You see conduct detrimental to the team. You see conduct detriment to the league. But you never see conduct detrimental to the player.” I thought he was referring to poorly run organizations failing to develop young players then the players getting blamed, a complaint he has lodged in the past. Instead, Green’s example was having his reputation tarnished for getting ejected yet again – even though it was for yelling at his own teammate.
This isn’t just some personal vendetta, though.
Green has spent his entire career with the Warriors. He hasn’t even really been involved in trade rumors.
But he’s highly sympathetic to players who get dealt in less than ideal circumstances.
In his initial comments, Green criticized the Mavericks for letting Harrison Barnes learn he was traded during a game and the Kings for telling DeMarcus Cousins during his All-Star post-game press conference they traded him. Green expanded the complaint to include “guys finding out an hour before the game that they’re going to be in trade talks and won’t suit up until they’re traded or bought out.”
So, players shouldn’t get traded too close to a game starting, during a game or too soon after a game?
That’s infeasible. Trades involve too many people to always keep a deal under wraps until each player involved can be told simultaneously.
I wish I could have challenged Green more on the areas where I think he’s too clouded by personal experience or missing the mark for other reasons. Perhaps, he would have persuaded me. But even further discussion would have been illuminating. People disagreeing and discussing it is a great way to gain understanding and make progress. That’s why I was so pleased Green raised these issues in the first place, even the parts I disagreed with.
Unfortunately, Green – who was promoting using the #MySubwaySub hashtag and the promo code BOGO50 on the Subway app – had limited time for the interview.
But you can be certain he won’t let the conversation end here.
“My mom was very adamant to me as a young kid, when you have something that you want to say, when you have something that you believe in,” Green said, “don’t ever be afraid to speak on it.”