On Thursday night, Draymond Green, three-time NBA champion and beating heart of the Golden State Warriors, was ejected from a 119-104 loss to the surging New York Knicks. With 1:04 left in the second quarter, Green received his second technical after yelling at rookie teammate James Wiseman—which referees mistakenly thought was directed at them (they later admitted they’d screwed the pooch). Hours earlier, I was on a Zoom call with Green to discuss, among other things, his road to recovery.
“I’m rounding into form—getting my wind back, getting my body back, getting my legs up under me,” Green told me. “I’m feeling pretty good. It’s starting to come together.”
Green, 30, has had a rough go of it this season. After a (rumored) battle with COVID-19, he suffered a foot injury that sidelined him for the Warriors’ first few games and affected his fitness. There have also been whispers around the league that his good pal Damian Lillard is trying to woo him over to Portland.
But like he said, the former Defensive Player of the Year is now close to fighting shape, and appeared to be in good spirits over the course of our chat—the official occasion of which is the release of his the LARQ Bottle DG23 Edition, a high-tech limited-edition water bottle equipped with UV technology that supposedly wipes out 99.9999% of bacteria. A percentage of the sales will benefit 501CTHREE, a charity addressing the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, a city only 31 miles away from Green’s hometown of Saginaw.
And Green, a versatile big who’s helped usher in a new era of “positionless” basketball, not only gives it his all on the court but is also incredibly entertaining off it.
COVID kicked your ass pretty bad, right? What was that battle—and recovery—like?
I essentially missed a month of the season, and it was really frustrating because I came into camp in the best shape probably since my fourth year in the league. And then the injuries and stuff, it set me back and took me off the court for about a month, and that sucked. But nonetheless, I feel great now. My body feels great. I’m starting to get my rhythm and my feel back. It’s essentially been a year since I’ve played in a game.
With COVID, we’ve seen people experiencing all kinds of side effects—losing their sense of taste and smell, you name it. What was your experience like battling the virus?
Anytime I’m off the floor, for me, that’s just tough. You work tirelessly and non-stop to put yourself in a position to be at the top of your game, and with such an extended offseason, I was able to do a bit of both. All my past off-seasons have been…
Green’s 4-year-old son, Draymond Jr., interrupts our Zoom chat.
Draymond Jr.: Who is it?
Me: It’s Marlow. Hello!
Draymond Jr.: I thought it was a [unintelligible].
You know, as an athlete, you put in all that time, and then to be off the floor at any time, it just sucks. Then you tack on starting the season, and games, and not being able to battle with your guys, just mentally, it’s a tough situation and one that, quite frankly, I hate. You work to get yourself into a position to be ready to go, and then some things are out of your control.
You’ve got this LARQ DG23 water bottle out that seems designed for COVID times.
When you look at the UV light, I’ve heard of companies in a lot of places installing UV light as their normal light to fight bacteria ever since we’ve been dealing with COVID, so to see that there’s a bottle essentially fighting that same fight, I don’t think the timing could have been better. I’m extremely lucky to be aligned with the brand, and just helping clean all these things up in our world that needs to be clean. All I drink is water. I don’t drink juice, I don’t drink soda. Understanding the importance of good, clean water and the benefits it has for our body, especially as an athlete, it was a no-brainer for me.
Only water? You don’t drink any wine—not on that LeBron program?
[Laughs] Oh, obviously wine! But I’m not walking around all day drinking wine.
And proceeds from the bottle help the people of Flint, Michigan. It’s crazy and horrifying how the people and city of Flint was—and still is being—treated.
I obviously went to Michigan State, but being from Saginaw, where Flint is 20 minutes away, seeing those issues firsthand and literally knowing the people that are dealing with those issues, and then to come across a product like LARQ and understanding the benefits it can have for the people of Flint—I’m no different than a kid growing up in Flint. I grew up in Saginaw, and the cities are very similar. What I don’t understand is being a kid growing up in an area like Flint with the water issues that they’ve had. I know how tough it is without the water issues, and you add that in, and it’s impossible to deal with. It’s an honor for me to help in any way that I can because it’s a dire issue. It’s been seven years, and the issue hasn’t gone away.
When you look at the city of Flint and the way it’s been treated, it reminds me in a way of how the Capitol rioters were treated compared to BLM marchers. There seems to be two very different sets of rules in America for white and Black folks, and the crisis in Flint would have never been handled the way it has in a white community.
Of course. I don’t think that’s any surprise. I wrote on my shoes the other day, “Time’s Up.” When you look around, everyone’s speaking about “the time is now.” The time is not now, the time is up. It’s been time for changes. It’s no surprise to me that Flint wasn’t taken as a priority, because there’s no benefit to America to correct Flint’s water. That’s just what it is. But there is a benefit to America in continuing to mistreat melanated people. That may be a shocker to everyone else, or everyone else may now be just waking up to see that, but as I said on my shoe, “Time’s Up.” The time is not now. The time’s been up.
I did enjoy the time you and the Warriors turned down a trip to the Trump White House—which also led to perhaps the greatest LeBron tweet of all time. The “u bum” tweet.
[Laughs] The decision for us to not go to the White House was a no-brainer. You go there to share a moment with the commander-in-chief, and with the things that he was doing in office, and the things that he stood for, that wasn’t someone that we wanted to align ourselves—and our championship—with. That’s such a huge accomplishment, and to align ourselves with someone of that nature just wasn’t something that we wanted to do.
And he’s such a baby he disinvited you guys after you’d already turned him down.
[Laughs] Yeah. I mean, no surprise! But… brighter days to come here in America. Congratulations to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Hopefully, we have much brighter days in our future than in the last four years in America. Post-President Obama has been extremely tough on a lot of people, so hopefully this can bring some great times and get this country back to where it once was—but not only where it once was, but also correcting a lot of the issues that a lot of people have been speaking about.
I think you’re one of the NBA’s unsung great players, and the glue to the Warriors. But I have been hearing rumors about you going to Portland—and that Dame [Lillard] really wants you on the team. Have you heard those rumors too, and what do you think of them?
Obviously, we live in the day and age of social media, and when there are rumors like that there’s no way around it. You open your phone, and you see it. So, of course I’ve seen it. Dame’s a great friend of mine. I don’t have a lot of friends in the NBA. I have the friends that I have, and then a select group of friends in the NBA, and Dame is one of those guys. He’s a guy I have a tremendous amount of respect and love for. We were both in the same draft, and ironically, we just hit it off at the combine and have been friends ever since. In watching Dame and where he’s come in his career, for years, a lot of point guards were looked at as better than Dame, and he just kept his head down, continued to work, and put himself right in that category with the best point guards in the league. We also have a connection because he’s from Oakland and I’ve lived in the Bay Area for nine years now, and I’ve been to some of his picnics he’s thrown in the neighborhood. Dame is one of the better guys in this league. Just a stand-up human being.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about the biggest news in the NBA right now—the Brooklyn Nets, and the trio of KD, Harden, and Kyrie. What do you think of this team-up? Do you think it’s gonna work?
It’s not really on me to think or care whether it works or not. They’re another team just like the 29 other teams in the NBA, and quite frankly, I don’t give a damn about the other 28, so I’m not sure why there would be an exception for the 29th. I care about one team: the Golden State Warriors, and what I can do to help this team reach its full potential. That’s the only thing I care about.
You guys obviously had a really good thing going, and then KD forced his way out of there.
I don’t think he forced his way out. I think he was a free agent and just left.
But before he left, was there any acrimony there? How did it reach that point?
Green’s rep chimes in to tell me that this would be my last question.
Umm… I think people go through different chapters of their life, and life is a book, and this was one of the chapters of his book. Nothing more, nothing less. We won three championships, two with Kevin, and we’re connected forever. That’s just kind of what it is. There was never a guarantee that he would be here longer than the one year or two years he signed for initially, and so, yeah, no acrimony or nothing. So many people try to make this about more than what it is, which is: he saw something different for his future. And that’s OK.
No one goes to Tim Cook when the second-in-charge leaves Apple to go work at a different tech firm and says, “Was there any acrimony? Are you upset?” No one does that, but in basketball—and sports in general—it’s always viewed that way. I quite frankly view myself as more of the CEO of a company than a basketball player, so because of that, I don’t view someone leaving a team the same way as you may, or someone else may. He’s the CEO of a brand, and as the CEO of a brand, you’re always trying to find a way to grow your brand. If Kevin finds different ways to grow his brand as the CEO of his brand, who am I to question that?
OK, so they’ve given me the wrap-up, but I wanted to ask one more question. The NBA seems to be handling COVID quite well so far, and they rolled out these new protocols the other day that a number of players seem to be unhappy with. You basically have to be either at home or attend team-related activities, with few exceptions. How do you feel about it?
Umm… very demanding. It’s just a lot of time spent in between going to the facility, a lot of testing, wait times, all these different things. If you’ve been in the league for quite a while, it’s just not what you’re accustomed to. You’re accustomed to your schedule being what it is for those few hours in a day, and that’s it. It’s added a lot of time onto every day, but that’s just the nature of the thing. We’re not the only ones going through it. The NFL went through it, the NHL just started going through it, college football and basketball went through it, so we’re not the only ones going through it, but we’re doing what we have to do to play. It’s not the most fun thing or the most pleasant thing, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
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