RIO DE JANEIRO – Go back a couple months and the Draymond Green story is one of inspiration, of a four-year college player and second-round NBA pick with a championship ring, All-Star appearance, enormous contract and community-service award to his name.
Throw in some groin shots (actual and pictorial) and a late-night scuffle and the story changes. Of course, the guy living that story can always think back to five years ago when NBA success and a spot in the Olympics would have been laughable suggestions.
Amid some tense moments Thursday as questions came about Green’s recent Snapchat gaffe — a picture of his private parts, shared publicly rather than privately as he said was intended — he pointed to the larger story that will continue after this rough patch is behind him.
“I’ve had a couple instances that I’m not too proud of, and that’s not who I am as a person,” Green said at a Team USA media session at Olympic Park. “But like I’ve said before, I’m not gonna sit and complain about some things that have happened to me when there’s people out here, like, struggling. I’m out here living my dream. Like, I’m at the Olympics representing my country. I’m not gonna sit here and throw a pity party for myself.”
Green was vilified during the NBA playoffs for three different instances of hitting an opponent in the groin, despite his insistence that the shots were not intentional. The Golden State Warriors forward and Michigan State product was suspended for Game 5 of the NBA Finals, which helped the Cavaliers win at Golden State on the way to taking the series in seven.
Green got into a late-night altercation July 10 in East Lansing with MSU football player Jermaine Edmondson, and Green was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault. That resulted in a noise violation and a $560 fine for Green. USA Basketball gave him public support.
Then came Green’s adventures in Snapchat, a social medium sometimes used to send salacious — and private — images to others. Asked Thursday if he would be staying off social media in Rio, Green gave a simple and aggravated: “No.”
Asked what his mother thought of the incident, he invited reporters to give her a call. Asked if he would have any family in Rio, he said: “Possibly.”
But Green’s role as a media magnet off the court is as secure as his role as a defensive presence and fiery leader on it. When an Australian reporter asked him how disappointed he’ll be when Team USA loses to the Aussies, Green smiled and said: “You’re not gonna get me to talk junk, man.”
And he reflected on five years ago, when he was entering his senior season at Michigan State as a fringe NBA hopeful, coming off a stint with USA Basketball’s World University Games team. That team finished fifth in China, and Green had no reason to think he would play for his country again.
“I’m like, ‘Wow, probably one of the very few USA basketball teams to not place and this is my only shot at it and I didn’t get a medal,’” Green said. “That was painful for me.”
It’s an obvious contrast to Rio and a natural thing to consider, with the reality of contributing to an anticipated third straight gold medal at hand. That would help Green’s story get off Deadspin for a while.
“It’s an incredible experience so far,” Green said. “It’s a surreal experience. There’s been a few instances where it’s like, ‘All right, it’s real.’ Like pulling up to practice today, to the arenas, was like ‘Wow.’ It feels real now. It’s a dream come true to me to be able to represent my country in the best way I possibly can. … I grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. I know the struggle, been through the struggle, lived through it my whole life. So to sit and complain about a couple things that’s happened, like I’m not blessed, like my life is not going in the direction I want it to go in would be wrong. And I won’t do that.”
Joe Rexrode writes for The Tennessean.