Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted that forward Draymond Green “crossed the line” Saturday night when he was ejected in the final seconds of a 102-100 loss at the Charlotte Hornets.
The wild sequence that led to Green’s ejection started with 9.3 seconds left in regulation and the Warriors leading 100-98, when Warriors guard Brad Wanamaker was tied up for a jump ball by Hornets guard LaMelo Ball. After Hornets swingman Gordon Hayward corralled the ball off the tap and fell to the floor, Green appeared to quickly tie up Hayward for a jump ball. However, the Hornets were awarded a timeout.
Green began arguing with officials and was quickly assessed two technical fouls and ejected, giving the Hornets two free throws and the ball. Charlotte guard Terry Rozier went to the line and sank both free throws to tie the score at 100.
Seconds later, Rozier drained a shot from the corner at the buzzer to give the Hornets the win.
“He crossed the line,” Kerr said of Green. “That’s the main thing. We love his passion and his energy. We would not be the team we are without him, but that doesn’t give him license to cross that line, and he knows that.”
Via a pool reporter, crew chief Marc Davis explained Green’s ejection.
“His first technical was assessed when he directed profanity at his opponent,” Davis said. “He was assessed his first technical foul for verbally taunting an opponent. He then proceeded to direct screaming profanity at a game official and received his [second] technical foul and was ejected as per rule.”
Kerr said he “didn’t have time to ask” for an explanation in the heat of the moment, given that the Warriors were rushing to check Juan Toscano-Anderson into the game to replace Green.
But what irked Kerr and the Warriors’ staff occurred in the sequence before the jump ball. Kerr said he was calling for a timeout before Ball tied up Wanamaker to create the jump ball in the first place.
“There’s a lot to unwind,” Kerr said of the final few seconds. “But if you just want to cut to the chase, it’s a very difficult call on a loose ball that becomes a jump ball that they get a timeout on. Especially because in the exact same situation, I was trying to call a timeout when Brad had the ball at the top of the key when they forced the jump ball just prior to that.
“So given that the exact same thing happened back to back, only we actually had possession of the ball when I tried to call timeout. And then watching the replay after the game, it’s a loose ball, the ball’s actually bouncing on the floor, Draymond dives after it; in my estimation, it should be another jump ball.”
Davis explained that in the officials’ judgment, the tie-up occurred before Kerr requested a timeout. For his part, Wanamaker admitted he didn’t hear Kerr calling for a timeout, but he wasn’t sure exactly how the sequence played out.
“LaMelo ties Brad up prior to Kerr requesting the timeout,” Davis said. “The postgame video confirmed this decision as correctly judged.”
It was a ruling that the Warriors did not agree with, but it was a moment for which Green took responsibility. Warriors forward Eric Paschall said when the team got back to the locker room after the game, Green took the blame for picking up the two late technical fouls.
“He said it was his fault,” Paschall said. “And he took ownership as he always does as a leader. We’re still rocking with Dray no matter what. A great dude, competitor, so it’s all good. S— happens in the NBA. We’re just going to learn from it and try to come back, try to win the next one. Great leader and competitor.”
As much as Warriors teammates and coaches respect Green, Kerr was clearly frustrated with Green’s inability to control his emotions late in the game. For years, Green has been a league leader in technical fouls as he loudly voices his objection to various calls from officials or words from opponents. But Kerr has said repeatedly through the years that he felt Green knows when not to cross a line.
It was a line that Green stepped over on Saturday, leading to a loss that would have been arguably the Warriors’ most impressive win of the season, given that star guard Stephen Curry (illness) was a late scratch and centers James Wiseman (wrist) and Kevon Looney (ankle) remain out.
“Draymond can’t do that,” Kerr said. “He knows that. He made a terrible mistake getting T’d up and giving them a chance to shoot two free throws and tie the game. … As his coach, it’s my job to communicate with him and with the team. That’s what we’ve done, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
Davis stated that the Hornets were awarded a timeout before Green’s ejection, and before Green tied up Hayward, because the group felt the Hornets made the timeout call in time.
“P.J. Washington requested its timeout and Gordon Hayward had clear and sole possession of the ball,” Davis said. “As per rule, Charlotte was granted the timeout. Postgame video review confirms this decision.”
Despite Kerr’s frustration with Green’s actions, Green’s teammates repeated a similar message about their leader after the game.
“He’s been in this league long enough,” Warriors guard Damion Lee said. “He knows what’s right and what’s wrong. And it doesn’t matter; day in, day out, I’m always going to ride with Day Day. Throughout the good, throughout the bad, I’m always going to ride with Draymond. … It doesn’t matter if I’m a Warrior or not a Warrior. That’s my guy. That’s one of my vets. And I’m always going to ride with Day Day.”
Aside from Green’s technical fouls, Kerr spoke with a tinge of sadness that his short-handed team couldn’t close the door after fighting so hard all night without Curry.
“It’s a tough loss, obviously,” Kerr said. “They don’t get any tougher than this one. That’s two straight, back to back, really difficult losses. That’s my job to get the team organized and emotionally ready to play New York. We’ll keep moving forward. That’s what you do. The NBA season is filled with a lot of ups and downs, and obviously, this is a really tough one. But you got to get ready for the next game.”