SAN FRANCISCO — The moment Draymond Green put a chokehold on Rudy Gobert less than two minutes into the Timberwolves' 104-101 victory Tuesday over the host Warriors was a while in the making for Green.
When Green, the Warriors forward, punched former teammate Jordan Poole during a practice prior to last season, Gobert tweeted "Insecurity is always loud." When Gobert, the Wolves center, took a swing at Kyle Anderson in the final regular-season game for the Wolves last season, Green fired back with the same tweet.
Green, often an instigator in his career, appeared as if he was using the altercation Tuesday to take out some long-simmering frustration on Gobert.
Gobert fired back at Green after the game and called his actions "clown behavior" three different times in the same answer. Gobert said he was expecting Green to do something to get ejected because Stephen Curry was out because of right knee soreness and, according to Gobert, "Everytime Steph doesn't play, he doesn't want to play."
It was hard to imagine things would escalate in that way Tuesday. It started when Warriors guard Klay Thompson and Wolves forward Jaden McDaniels got into a tussle at halfcourt in which both grabbed jerseys and shoved each other.
Gobert said he was attempting to de-escalate the situation by pulling back Thompson, and that was when Green came in to put the chokehold on Gobert and drag him toward the Warriors bench.
"Clown behavior, and I'm proud of myself for being the bigger man again and again," Gobert said. "And yeah, [Green] doesn't even deserve me putting my hands on him. My team needed me tonight. I did whatever I could to keep my cool and then show that I wasn't making the situation worse, and I do hope that the league is going to do what needs to be done because that's just clown behavior. Not much to say. It's clown behavior."
Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters after the game the reason Green went after Gobert was because it appeared Gobert had Thompson by the neck. Gobert insisted his role was to de-escalate the situation. The officials agreed with Gobert. In speaking to a pool reporter after the game, crew chief Tyler Ford said the officials deemed Gobert to be a "peacemaker" in the incident. Then he didn't want to react once he felt Green on him.
"It wasn't good enough of a choke for me to sleep," Gobert said. "So I just kept my hands up and waited until it was over."
McDaniels, Thompson and Green were all ejected with Green receiving a flagrant foul-two for his actions.
Gobert, who frequently practices meditation, said he took a deep breath and re-focused on the game. It was a struggle offensively for him (2-for-8), but Gobert had three important blocks, including one on a corner three-point attempt from Dario Saric in the final minutes with the Wolves clinging to a one-point lead.
"It takes a lot of maturity, and it takes being the bigger man to do that," Gobert said. "It was a big game. Big game for the team, for the organization, my teammates and they need me. So, unless I really felt like I was in danger, which I didn't feel like, I just had to keep my calm and let the situation de-escalate and that's it. Not too much more."
As media entered the locker room after the game, McDaniels was dressed and awaiting reporters' questions. His teammates were giving him a hard time as reporters made a beeline right for him. Anthony Edwards chimed in for all in the room to hear at that moment, "Slim is not guilty on all charges," with "Slim" being McDaniels.
“It wasn't good enough of a choke for me to sleep. So I just kept my hands up and waited until it was over.”
For his part in the incident, McDaniels said Thompson grabbed him by the collar as he was crashing for a rebound.
"I was just trying to defend myself, get him off me a little bit," McDaniels said. "The rest, it is what it is."
McDaniels mentioned there was "probably" some chatter between them prior to them getting into it. He wasn't taking that talk seriously but he added, "Some people take things differently."
When asked if he had any history with Thompson, McDaniels said, "I don't know bruh at all. I just know he's Klay Thompson."