Jeff Van Gundy was not happy with how the media covered Draymond Green punching Jordan Poole at Warriors practice last week.
Van Gundy and Mark Jackson are the lead color commentators, alongside venerable play-by-play broadcaster Mike Breen, on ESPN’s NBA coverage. The two analysts and former NBA coaches spoke to media members on an ESPN conference call on Thursday promoting the upcoming season.
The Post asked the duo if anything like this incident happened during their time in the NBA, and how they would handle it as coaches.
“There’s two things about the Green situation that have disappointed me,” Van Gundy said. “First, I thought the coverage of it was shameful, immediately jumping to blaming the victim, in this case Poole, for a change of attitude which would have warranted him getting struck.
“I just don’t get the victim blaming that immediately happened. The media, instead of trying to find out real facts, they went into their corner to people they were more beholden to. I found that very disappointing.”
In the aftermath of the punch, citing league sources, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweeted that “Draymond Green was apologetic in aftermath of the altercation with Jordan Poole, but there was a buildup stemming from teammates noticing a change in Poole’s behavior throughout camp with the guard on the verge of securing a lucrative extension.”
TMZ also reported that “sources who were at the practice where Green punched Poole tell us … in the days leading up to the incident, Poole was carrying himself differently — in a cocky manner. The alleged behavior was creating friction between him and some of his teammates, including Draymond, who has reportedly also asked for a big extension.”
Van Gundy also disputed that these types of fights are common.
“The second thing that was disappointing was people saying, ‘You don’t understand, this happens a lot.’ It doesn’t,” Van Gundy said. “As an assistant coach on the Knicks, there was a fight on the plane once between two men the same size. And there was a fight in the first preseason practice, between two men of the same size again. Both were able to protect themselves, with their body types, and there was a pause so both men could get their hands up and get ready to fight. Both were broken up quickly.
“The other part, what I’ve never seen, is such a size discrepancy where there was a big guy swinging at a much, much smaller guy. I’ve never seen that in my entire time in the NBA from teammates.”
Jackson, who played for the Knicks from 1987-92 and 2001-02, said he “was there” for both Knicks incidents Van Gundy brought up and agreed with his former coach.
“It’s just not what you see,” Jackson said. “I think the way you handle it is by having real discussions over it, holding guys accountable when that type of action takes place and staying true to your values.
“Jeff would say what you wouldn’t accept in losing, you shouldn’t accept in winning. At the end of the day, you have to begin the healing process to understand that something took place that should never take place.”
Van Gundy mentioned those who were upset that Green was not suspended, and essentially gave a variation of the famous line “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it” from “The Wire.”
“I’m going to add one more thing. People are judging the punishment,” he said. “There’s a lot we don’t know, but it didn’t involve a suspension. People reference to [Bobby] Portis and [Nikola] Mirotic [from the Bulls in 2017] was an eight-game suspension. Green got suspended for a game for yelling at [Kevin] Durant, so I think people are a little taken aback by why no suspension here.
“You’re gonna hear a lot of rhetoric, but this isn’t, like, a morality play. This is not an ethical decision. They’re making a decision — and these decisions are hard — based solely on what’s best for their team to win. I will say, I’m adamant in this, if Green had struck [Stephen] Curry like that — same exact scenario, same exact circumstances — there would’ve been a multi-game suspension.”
Van Gundy went on to say that of course there is hypocrisy in professional sports.
“Is there hypocrisy?” he asked. “Well, if you don’t think there’s hypocrisy in professional sports, then you’re not watching. A lot matters who’s involved, how important you are to the team.
“I remember Jimmy Johnson cut a guy who fumbled in the last game of the regular season. If that was Emmitt Smith, is he getting cut for fumbling? Absolutely not. Professional sports is about business, making money and winning — and that’s what the Warriors are prioritizing with their punishment. I think we can all stand back and be critical of it, but at the end of the day they’re doing what they think is in the best interest of those things.”