SAN FRANCISCO — Draymond Green will sit out for the Warriors’ game against the Sacramento Kings on Friday night, missing the first game of a budding rivalry between the two Northern California teams. His absence denies fans a chance to see Green and Kings big Domantas Sabonis face off for the first time since Green told the world why he “lost respect” for Sabonis during last year’s playoff matchup.
Green, recovering from a left ankle sprain, also missed Opening Night as he works back into game shape. Head coach Steve Kerr was hopeful that Green could be back for the Warriors’ upcoming back-to-back against the Houston Rockets or New Orleans Pelicans. But they already Green navigating the first part of a tricky part of the schedule in which they play seven of their next eight games on the road.
Green’s absence weakens the Warriors’ defensive against dribble-handoff maestro Domantas Sabonis and leaves them without a voice to help keep up with the Kings’ fast-paced offense led by De’Aaron Fox.
“We’ve seen them twice in the preseason without Draymond, so I don’t think matchups are too much of an issue,” Kerr said. “But missing Draymond is an issue. He’s one of the best defensive players, if not the best, in the whole league and he does so many other things for us, so we’re anxious to get him back, for sure.”
Kevon Looney and Green had success against defending Sabonis’ DHO in the playoffs. Then drama hit when Green earned an ejection and one-game suspension after stepping on Sabonis in Game 3 of the series. The Warriors’ Game 4 win in his absence showed the benefits to staggering Green and Looney’s minutes in order to space the floor.
After Game 7, Green said he lost respect for Sabonis when he refused to shake Green’s hand in the immediate aftermath.
“You don’t shake guys’ hands after you lose, I don’t respect that,” Green said on his podcast.“I once left the court when we lost in Game 7 to the Cleveland Cavaliers (in the 2016 NBA Finals) and I went to my locker room and I sat down and I said, ‘This don’t feel right’ — and I walked back out on the court and I showed everybody love.”
Green’s absence eliminates that conundrum and lessens the chances of another Sabonis altercation, but leaves the Warriors incomplete on defense. This year, the Kings have much of the same roster that had the highest offensive rating (119.7) last year while the Warriors have gotten a little older and, perhaps, slower.
Two of the Warriors’ next eight will be against the Kings — one away, one at home — for the first meaningful games since the two teams took a first-round playoff series to a blockbuster seven games last season. Steph Curry put up a then-record 50 points to advance the experienced, but struggling Warriors past the NBA’s best offense.
“The guys here last year are experienced with how Sacramento plays,” Dario Saric said on Thursday. “They have one of the best three offenses in the league, maybe the best. They push the ball out there, they have some guys who can bring the ball down. They have amazing shooters. It’s going to be a tough game, but this is the regular season now. New year, it’s going to be different.”
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The Kings are stacked with scorers, but led by former Golden State assistant coach Mike Brown, modeled after the type of offense Curry and Klay Thompson popularized and perfected. attacked the Kings defensively could give them an edge. Sabonis is a key cog to their offense, but was played off the floor in that playoff series because of his defensive lapses against an attacking Curry.
That playoff rivarly tension carried over to the second of the two teams’ preseason matchups. Still adjusting with Chris Paul on the floor alongside the starters, the Warriors turned the ball over 22 times and spent most of the game in foul trouble. But, like Game 7, Curry went on a fourth quarter flurry and hit the game-winning 3-pointer.
After Friday’s game, the Warriors play a road back-to-back against the Rockets and New Orleans before returning home to play the Kings at Chase Center. Then they head back on the road to play Oklahoma City, then the Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons on a back-to-back and close out against the defending champion Denver Nuggets.