'He don't deserve a chance': Jusuf Nurkic criticizes Draymond Green after Suns loss to Warriors
SAN FRANCISCO – Phoenix Suns' big Jusuf Nurkic didn’t mince words when talking about Golden State Warriors' forward Draymond Green after Saturday’s 113-112 loss before a sellout crowd of 18,064 at Chase Center.
"It's sad,” Nurkic said after the game. “He didn't learn anything, man. Just a matter of time. He's going to knock somebody else again. Take everything back what I said. He don't deserve a chance."
Nurkic then was asked what makes him think Green hasn’t changed.
“Just his antics,” Nurkic said. “Try to hit people. The stuff he shouldn’t do, but I don’t care. At the end of the day, he tried to play that way. No one is worried about him. They got the win tonight. We’ll see what happens in a few games.”
The two hadn’t faced each other since that Dec. 12 game in Phoenix when Green struck Nurkic in the face, leading to an ejection and an indefinite suspension that lasted 12 games for the Warriors' forward.
Nurkic vs. Green: Round 2 in the Bay
They met again Saturday in San Francisco in a game that ended with Warriors All-Star Stephen Curry hitting a game-winning 3 with 0.7 seconds left. With Green now starting at center, they were matched up against each other from the opening tip. The two were battling, but then the matchup took a turn when Green was called for a foul guarding Nurkic at the midway point of the first quarter.
“They called a foul on a postup and he started talking,” Green said after Saturday’s game. “I’m never backing down from that. I like that type of action.”
The two started staring at each other and exchanging words. Then Warriors guard Klay Thompson came over and knocked the ball out of Nurkic’s hands and was hit with a technical foul. The situation calmed down as Suns security and Kevin Durant intervened along with Curry.
Five seconds of game time after that, Green drew an offensive foul on a charging Nurkic as the two men both fell to the floor hard.
“Just two guys competing,” Suns coach Frank Vogel said after the game. “I was OK with it.”
Green got up and feverishly pointed at his head.
“I was saying he was a dummy when I was pointing to my head,” Green said. “I wasn’t necessarily saying, I was keeping my head. I was saying he started talking and he comes charging through. Not smart, right?
In the second half, Nurkic scored inside over Green to give Phoenix a 72-70 lead with 7:05 left in the third, did the “too small” sign and slapped the floor that got a reaction out of the crowd.
'Draymond was in his head. Plain and simple'
Green came right back at Nurkic, scored over him to pull Golden State within two with and slapped the floor with his own “too small” sign with 6:16 left in the third.
“You can’t get bullied and a couple of plays later, you want to do that,” Green said. “He probably outweigh me by 70 pounds and you get put in the rim, got to be more careful.”
Curry believes Green was winning the mental battle with Nurkic as evidence of how Nurkic celebrated his jump hook over Green.
"It easy to throw stones from across the way when you have no idea what you're talking about, especially when you're kind of on the wrong side of it," Curry said. "You can tell when somebody is in your head and you go out of your way to celebrate. When he did that little too small thing. Smacked the floor. Funny how the refs didn't see that one."
Curry added, "All the talk, Draymond was in his head. Plain and simple."
Green said it was Nurkic who was hitting him “a lot” in the game, but he wound up getting the last laugh. He went around Nurkic for a layup accompanied by a between-the-legs dribble and a wide smile to put Golden State up five with 2:48 left in the game.
“He was hitting me a lot today,” Green said. “You should go back and watch the film. Key in on him. A lot of little cheap shots. I knew his goal was to get me out the game. No one wants to see me in the game. That makes the game a lot tougher. It’d take a pretty good talker to get me to do that. It’s OK. It was a fun game.”
The last time in Phoenix
With the December game, Green apologized to Nurkic afterwards, saying the Suns' big was grabbing at his hip and he was trying to sell the call when he hit Nurkic in the face.
“As you know, I’m not one to apologize for things I meant to do, but I do apologize to Jusuf because I didn’t intend to hit him,” Green said after 119-116 Phoenix win. “I sell calls with my arms.”
At that time, Nurkic said “that brother needs help” in talking about Green, who did receive counseling during his suspension that took his previous acts into account.
“What's going on with him? I don't know," Nurkić said. "That brother needs help. I'm glad he didn't try and choke me. But at the same time, it had nothing to do with basketball. I’m just out there trying to play basketball and they’re swinging. Hopefully whatever he got in his life, get better.”
Durant later addressed the incident, saying that was “insane” to see.
“Glad Nurk is alright,” Durant said at the time. “Never seen anything like that before on the basketball court in an NBA game. I hope Draymond gets the help that he needs. Been incident after incident. I know Draymond and he hasn't been that way when I was around him and coming into the league. Hopefully he gets the help he needs and get back on the court and put all this stuff behind him.”
Nurkic later praised Green after the suspension was announced.
“I have a lot of respect for him, obviously, even before this,” Nurkic said before a Dec. 13 game against Brooklyn in Phoenix. “I still have it. I don’t know what people go through. It’s not our problem, but he’s an NBA champion for me, Hall of Famer still.”
Green 'been perfect,' picks up first tech since return
Green returned to action Jan. 15 at Memphis and has impressed his head coach, Steve Kerr, for how he’s carried himself in games since.
“He’s been perfect,” Kerr said about Green before Saturday’s game. “We did not want him to be ‘Mr. Goodie Two Shoes.’ We wanted him to be himself, but not go over the line. We want him to be on the officials, but not yell profanity at the officials. That’s what he’s doing. He’s himself, but he’s not crossing the line. He’s been great.”
Green ended up getting the better of Nurkic in Saturday's game in finishing with 15 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. Green's last basket in which he put the ball between his legs before driving by Nurkic for a layup and flashed that wide smile gave Golden State a 106-101 lead with 2:47 left.
Nurkic managed six points, six rebounds, and four assists. Shooting 3-of-7 from the field in 27 minutes, Nurkic appeared sped up by the Warriors swarming defense on the inside.
“He gave us great energy in that sense of competitive spirit that you need to win a game like this,” said Curry about Green.
“To meet the moment and I know that everyone will talk about what Nurkic said, how idiotic that was, but just the fact that Draymond knows how to walk the line that he needs to walk. This is probably the best that you have seen it where he can be loud and fiery, competitive and jaw back and forth, but with playing basketball. If you didn’t see that, you weren’t watching the game.”
Green did receive a technical foul with 8:04 left in third as he felt Devin Booker fouled him on a layup and barked at the officials.. That was Green's first technical foul since returning from suspension.
Have opinions about the current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at [email protected] or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, at @DuaneRankin.