He's probably right, but it 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 core guys in Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Kevon Looney, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole. The trade-deadline reacquisition of Gary Payton II, who was on last year's title team, made them look 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 downgrade, if any at all. Every team tinkers around the margins. The Warriors returned a championship team, and yet, somehow, weren't a championship team? What happened? How does a proven, experienced unit with this kind of core become one of the worst road teams in the league?
Ask Draymond Green, and he'll tell you he's at fault for the way the Warriors' season went, and, ultimately, ended. Not because of anything he did during the season. But because of what he did before it, when he infamously punched Poole in the face during in an early October practice.
Speaking with ESPN's Stephen A. Smith during Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday, Green stated unequivocally that the Warriors "would still be playing" had he not punched Poole, which Green believes compromised his ability to lead with his normal voice in the locker room and, specifically, help Poole through some of his struggles as that relationship became frayed for obvious reasons.
Listen to Green's full answer. It's worth it.
UPDATE: While on Stephen A’s world, Draymond is asked if not for the punch would the Warriors still be playing. He says yes, reiterates he didn’t have his voice to start the year, also says it was hard to help Poole during his struggles (excuse baby sounds 😂) pic.twitter.com/AwQWHpKYwB— Allen Stiles (@The_StilesFiles) May 17, 2023
Green has never shied from accountability. He has taken the blame for, in his eyes, costing the Warriors a championship in 2016 when he got himself suspended for Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. He has owned up to the way he flew off the handle at Kevin Durant during a 2018 game versus the Clippers, which was the last year Durant played for Golden State. Many surmised that Green played at least a part in Durant's decision to leave.
Now he's effectively saying he blew this season for the Warriors, who, to be fair, did not seem like the same team that they were last year despite the aforementioned roster stability. On the one hand, you appreciate Green being so honest and accountable. On the other, how many times does a 33-year-old have to do something so reckless to learn his lesson?
Kerr says there’s “no hiding” that the incident between Draymond Green and Jordan Poole at the start of the year impacted their season.— Kendra Andrews (@kendra__andrews) May 16, 2023
“There was some trust lost … we have to get back to what made us successful, which is a trusting environment.”
These are not minor mistakes. 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, and whom the Warriors reportedly would like to extend, will probably be back. Does that mean Poole gets traded? Kerr said on Tuesday that he still considers Poole of Golden State's six foundational pieces, but what else is he going to say right now? He either wants to lift Poole's confidence or his trade value.
So we'll see. The NBA is a futures market, so in that sense, the past is the past. Did Green's haymaker on Poole screw up Golden State's chemistry, and, ultimately, its season? Perhaps. But moving forward, it's all about whether they can still get back to the dynamic that made them a championship team in 2022. Poole was a big part of that title. He was not the same player this season, and the Warriors were not the same team. Green believes he's at fault for that.