A controlled frenzy broke out when the news broke that Draymond Green punched Jordan Poole at the Golden State Warriors’ preseason practice. After all, this was not the first time in NBA history that a player struck his teammate in the heat of the moment.
Golden State head coach Steve Kerr was a victim of what is arguably the most famous “practice punch” after Michael Jordan struck him in the face while they were teammates on the Chicago Bulls almost 30 years ago in 1995.
More recently in 2017, Bobby Portis earned the nickname “Punch Bob” following a closed door incident, coincidentally during his time with Chicago as well. Portis swung at Nikola Mirotic and sent him to the hospital with a fractured face which led him to miss more than a month of action.
The episode between Green and Poole was shocking, but not completely unexpected given the passionate personality of the former and the growing confidence that the latter has shown in these past few months. However, the situation took a turn for the worse after footage of the altercation was leaked to TMZ.
This was a case of bad judgment by the four-time NBA champion and though he has already apologized for his actions, the emergence of this video may ultimately lead to his or Poole’s departure from the team.
It turned out that the squabble was not the melee that many expected it to be. The clip showed that Green pushed Poole before sucker punching him. This kind of move carries a much higher level of disrespect and also poses more risk to the victim.
The unsuspecting Poole had little to no chance to defend himself and could have easily been severely injured similar to what happened with Mirotic five years ago.
The NBA world reacted to the footage with disbelief and, at this point, there is a strong likelihood that one of the two players involved will be on another team sooner rather than later.
Although keeping Green would be the sentimental choice for the defending champions, the accelerating drop off in his play over the last few seasons is difficult to ignore. His averages have steadily fallen from his spectacular ‘15-’16 campaign where he put up 14 points on 49% field goal shooting, 9.5 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.5 blocks in 81 regular season games.
Last season, Green managed to record 7.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, seven assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.1 blocks, yet suited up for a mere 46 games. More than his declining numbers, his reluctance to shoot has been a hindrance for the Warriors as it has allowed his defender to liberally help off him on many occasions. Kerr actually decided on benching Green during several key stretches of last season’s NBA Finals which may be an ominous foreshadowing of his future with the franchise.
Meanwhile, Poole is only 23 years old and has continued to get better at an astronomical pace. His per-game averages shot up to 18.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, and four assists last year which was just his third season in the NBA. He played with Golden State’s G-League affiliate as recently as a year and a half ago which highlights how much he has improved over such a short span of time.
Poole is up for an extension and is likely to receive something similar to what the Miami Heat gave Tyler Herro last week. The expectations during these past few months are that he will sign his lucrative new deal before the October 17 deadline.
This looming pay day for Poole may have been a source of tension for the two players since they are both extension eligible. The inklings were that the Warriors had a preference to extend Poole and were willing to ride out Green’s current deal before discussing the terms of his future with the team.
Staying loyal to Green may be the sentimental and popular choice, but the decline in his on court production and the desire of Golden State to continue contending for titles is growing more incompatible by the day.
The fall of a dynasty is never pretty and it will be interesting to see if this is the beginning of the end for the Warriors or if it is another bump in the road that they can shoot themselves out of.