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All-Star spot exceeds dreams of one-time underdog Green

The MVP candidate and emotional leader of the league-best Golden State Warriors remains in awe of his latest honor

POSTED: Jan 29, 2016 10:20 AM ET

By Sekou Smith

BY Sekou Smith

NBA.com

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In mere weeks, Draymond Green will soak in the All-Star festivities with the reigning MVP, Stephen Curry.

Draymond Green's hoop dream began in Saginaw, Mich., a basketball-crazy town some 70 miles north of Detroit.

A state championship run at Saginaw High School, and two Final Four trips and an All-American turn at Michigan State was more than he imagined possible. Because even after earning Big Ten and National Player of the Year honors in his senior season with the Spartans, there were still doubts about what position he could play at the next level.

But the latest stop on his fantastic voyage, a championship run and now, an All-Star berth as one of the catalysts for the Golden State Warriors, is going above and beyond anything the second-round Draft pick could wrap his hands around.

"It's definitely something I could've never imagined happening," Green said to the Inside the NBA crew Thursday after the reserves for next month's All-Star Game in Toronto were announced. "It's been a lifelong dream of mine to one day see that happen, but I could never imagine it happening like this."

Inside The NBA: Draymond Green

Draymond Green joins the Inside set to talk about his role in the Warriors' success and about becoming an All-Star for the first time.

Green's shock at being included on the league's elite list of stars shouldn't have surprised anyone paying attention to his steady rise up the ranks the past three seasons. He went from a rookie just trying to make the active roster to a super sub during his somphomre season to a surprise starter for the Warriors last season when David Lee went down a hamstring injury.

I've always been a very vocal guy. ... I felt like it was somebody else's job to step up and do that for this team. I thought, why not me? It's a natural for me anyway.

– Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green

Today, he's a linchpin of the league's most devastating small-ball attacks and has joined his Splash Bros teammates -- Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson -- as All-Stars.

Green said he almost started crying when he got the word early Thursday that he had been chosen by the coaches as a reserve. His body of work for the NBA's best team, however, suggests he should have been a starter.

He leads the NBA in triple-doubles (8) and his importance to the Warriors, on and off the court, cannot be measured in just numbers. He's their third leading scorer (14.5 points), trailing only behind Curry and Thompson. But he leads the Warriors in rebounds (9.4) and assists (7.2) and is the unquestioned defensive leader of the pack.

Green is also the emotional leader of this bunch, a walking and talking stick of dynamite who, with his relentless energy, fires up the Warriors' attack.

All-Star Top 10: Draymond Green

Check out the top 10 plays from Western Conference All-Star Draymond Green!

"I do think that's one of my biggest responsibilities, to be the vocal and emotional leader of this team," Green said. "I've always been a very vocal guy. When I'm on the court, I play with my emotions. That's kind of the thing that drives me, gives me energy every night ... I think that was one of the missing pieces to get us over the hump. I kind of wanted to take that role on. Steph isn't one of the most talkative guys, even though he's grown in that area. He does enough for this team. Klay does enough for this team. I felt like it was somebody else's job to step up and do that for this team. I thought, why not me? It's a natural for me anyway."

Green is a natural.

Former Warriors coach and ABC analyst Mark Jackson said it best when he described Green this way:

"He's a leader, and he doesn't care about tenure. He stepped in here as a leader, and that's a leader's mentality. Guys embrace him because they realize he doesn't just do it when he's playing well and when we're winning. He does it in the face of adversity. He's cooling off opponents' hottest scorers, keeping a body on them and making it tough on them. He's rebounding and making plays offensively. He's giving us a presence by playing with force. The guy is just a tremendous competitor."

At 25 and in the first year of a five-year, $82 million contract extension, this first, shocking All-Star berth is probably the first of many for Green.

And if he changes the narrative and opinions about who and what he can be during the process, so be it.

"Really, just No. 1, win," Green said of what he's done to change the perception of the player who was the 35th pick in the 2012 Draft. "Being a huge part of that, people have taken notice of what I've been able to attribute to this team. Really just bringing everything on the floor, whether it's defense, whether it's setting a screen or knocking down a jump shot and kicking the ball out, whatever it is, just bringing all that stuff to the floor."

The Top 10 in this week's KIA Race to the MVP Ladder:

1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Last week's ranking: No. 1

Inside Access: Spurs vs. Warriors

It was the long-awaited matchup between the two top teams in the league. Behind Stephen Curry's 37 points, the Warriors improved to 21-0 at home and snapped the Spurs' 13-game win streak, 120-90.

All Curry needed was 28 minutes to shred the best defense in the league for 37 points on 12-for-20 shooting (6-for-9 from deep and a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line) and silence any remaining doubters. If Curry isn't the best shooter you've ever seen, you need a new pair of eyeballs. He's been nothing short of outrageous in the Warriors' last five games, averaging 30 points (on 55 percent shooting, 52 percent from 3-point range and a perfect 29-for-29 from the free throw line), 7.8 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 2.8 steals. Just hand him the trophy already.

2. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

Last week's ranking: No. 2

Kawhi Leonard's Fantastic Season

Kawhi Leonard has led the Spurs to a red hot start to the season. Check out some of his best steals, blocks, dunks and threes!

Leonard and the Spurs recovered just fine from Monday night's beating at the hands of Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, trouncing the Houston Rockets 130-99 Wednesday night. Leonard scored 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting, but filled out one of the more peculiar box scores with just one rebound, one assist, one block and one steal. An even better bounce back opportunity for Leonard and the Spurs comes Saturday night in Cleveland (8:30 ET, ABC), where he'll get his second and final regular-season crack at dealing with LeBron James.

3. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

Last week's ranking: No. 4

Durant Dominates Knicks

Kevin Durant scores 44 points, grabs 14 rebounds and hands out five assists to lead the Thunder to the overtime victory versus the Knicks.

Durant scored a season-high 44 points in his matchup against the "Unicorn" (Kristaps Porzingis) and the New York Knicks Tuesday and is averaging 30.6 points in his last five games. Perhaps even more impressive than his scoring load this month (28.1 points on 49 percent shooting) has been Durant's attention to detail everywhere else. He's grabbed at least 10 rebounds in half of his 14 games, averaging 9.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.1 steals. Durant and the Thunder have yet to face Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors this season, they'll square off Feb. 6 at Oracle Arena, providing the only real remaining bit of mystery about how the league's other elite teams will match up against the champs.

4. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

Last week's ranking: No. 3

GameTime: LeBron James' Influence

The GameTime crew discusses whether or not LeBron James has the power or influence to have a coach fired.

James has been in the middle of the David Blatt mess for a week now. He's not only trying to keep the locker room intact during the transition from Blatt to Tyronn Lue but also fend off charges that he was the culprit for Blatt's firing (and is some sort of coach killer.) He's channeled his energy in the best way, on the court, leading to the Cavaliers to back-to-back wins after they dropped Lue's debut against Chicago. Only time will tell if the Cavaliers will be better off operating at the accelerated pace Lue desires, they'll have to get in better shape, of course. But few players in the history of the game have responded better to adversity than LeBron has throughout his career.

5. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Last week's ranking: No. 6

All-Star Top 10: Russell Westbrook

Check out the top 10 plays from Western Conference All-Star Russell Westbrook!

Westbrook's scoring numbers are down this month compared to what he did in the previous two months (20.1 points per game in 15 January games compared to 23.8 ppg in December and 26.0 ppg in November). But his assist numbers continue to climb, 10.7 this month and counting. Anyone needing a reminder just how diabolical Westbrook can be, however, need only take a look at what he's done in his last two outings in back-to-back wins over the New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves. Westbrook was sensational with 30 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds and three steals against the Knicks and 24 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds against the Timberwolves.

6. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

Last week's ranking: No. 8

All-Star Top 10: Chris Paul

Check out the top 10 plays from Western Conference All-Star Chris Paul!

The Clippers are going to need Paul's particular brand of leadership in the worst way over the next four to six weeks, while Blake Griffin recovers from the broken hand he suffered in a skirmish with a Clippers' equipment staffer. The Clippers have managed just fine without Griffin since Christmas (torn quad tendon), with Paul leading the way. He's averaging 20.8 points, 11.11 assist, 5.0 rebounds and 2.8 steals this month and powered the Clippers through one of the strangest road trips any team could have, scoring back-to-back wins in Indiana and Atlanta.

7. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls

Last week's ranking: No. 5

All-Star Top 10: Jimmy Butler

Check out the top 10 plays from Eastern Conference All-Star Jimmy Butler!

Butler was named an All-Star for the second straight season Thursday, and rightfully so. He continues to tote the heaviest load for a Bulls team that simply cannot find its way on a consistent basis. He's grinding at just over 39 minutes per game this month, averaging 24.9 points (on 46 percent shooting), 6.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.2 steals. Just when it looked like Derrick Rose was getting back to his old, All-Star self, the former MVP goes down with another injury. That means Butler won't get a rest anytime soon ... well, at least until next month in Toronto where he won't have to worry about playing starters' minutes.

8. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

Last week's ranking: No. 7

He can add All-Star to his growing list of duties now that he's official, having earned his first nod with the announcement of the Eastern and Western Conference reserves Thursday night. The Warriors don't ask or need Green to worry about scoring at a high clip, not with All-Stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson handling those duties with ease. But the Warriors don't go without Green facilitating like a point guard, defending all five positions and creating havoc wherever he goes on the floor.

9. Paul George, Indiana Pacers

Last week's ranking: No. 9

All-Star Top 10: Paul George

Check out the top 10 plays from Eastern Conference All-Star Paul George!

After back-to-back 30-point outings in losses to the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Clippers, George cooled off considerably in Thursday's win (go figure) over the Atlanta Hawks. He shot an ugly 2-for-11 from the floor and finished with just 11 points, three rebounds and three assists. But the Pacers got the win, which is of the utmost importance to Paul and his team as they continue working to maintain their position in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. George's ugly night against the Hawks was but a small stain on an otherwise splendid month (22.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.5 steals) for the All-Star starter.

10. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

Last week's ranking: Not ranked

All-Star Top 10: DeMarcus Cousins

Check out the top 10 plays from Western Conference All-Star DeMarcus Cousins!

Cousins has been an absolute monster this month, piling up the points and rebounds like a traditional dominant big man in a league filled with pace and space attacks. The freshly minted All-Star scored a career-high and Sacramento-era franchise-record 56 points (on 21-for-30 shooting from the floor), 12 rebounds, four assists and two blocks in Monday's double-overtime loss to Charlotte. Cousins is averaging 32.6 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks this month. Detroit's Andre Drummond, another All-Star, is the only center playing anywhere close to the level Cousins is at these days.

Others Receiving Consideration: Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons; Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors; James Harden, Houston Rockets; DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors; Paul Millsap, Atlanta

Sekou Smith is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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