He took 11 days off after the Olympics in August. But he was supposed to be gone for 17. He was sitting on the beach in Puerto Rico and started to feel guilty. “I called my people,” Draymond Green says now, and he got back in the lab, knowing he had to get ready for another high-leverage season under the microscope.
There’s so much unfinished business for Green and his Golden State Warriors, a lot of it his doing and responsibility. He knows better than anyone else that his ill-timed contact with LeBron James’s groin may well have turned around The Finals. Suspended for Game 5, Green watched as the Warriors couldn’t finish the Cavs off, and gave them life. Four days later, Green played out of his mind in Game 7, with 32 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists, but Cleveland won again, and Green and his teammates had to watch the Cavs celebrate on Golden State’s home floor.
Green signed on for the Warriors’ pursuit of Kevin Durant, then for the U.S. Olympic team, but Green wasn’t his usual ebullient self in Rio. That may have been because of the online disclosure of a rather self-revealing picture in July that went to Green’s Snapchat followers (of course, Green says he was hacked).
And Green’s training camp with Durant was highlighted by an ESPN.com article detailing the Warriors’ frustrations with Green’s emotional tirades throughout the last two seasons. Make no mistake: he’s worth the trouble as only Russell Westbrook (18) had more triple-doubles last season than Green’s 13. No one remains as unique as Green, capable of starting the break with a rebound and finding open shooters, while defending any position on the floor. But like everyone else, Green will have to adjust to Durant’s game, as the Warriors figure out how to play with a very different team than the one that’s rolled through the NBA the last two seasons.
Me: What has camp been like?
Draymond Green: It’s really kind of adjusting to all the new pieces.
It’s been great. But nonetheless, I think the best part about it is our environment has been the same. We still have the same fun we always have. And guys have really been clicking. I think camp went just about as good as it could have possibly went, with guys picking things up, from KD to D West, Zaza (Pachulia), JaVale (McGee), all the guys have been picking up things.
Me: Who takes over for Bogut in terms of screen setting?
DG: Zaza’s always been a great screen setter. He’s kind of made a living on screen setting and being a force in the paint. Nonetheless, everybody’s going to set screens, from Zaza to myself, on down to Steph. That’s the good part about our offense, is that you have so many guys doing different things. And it puts teams in positions they’re not comfortable being in. So you’ll have everybody setting screens. When it comes to getting guys open like Steph and all those guys, that falls on myself, that falls on Zaza, it falls on David, it falls on all of us. We have great scorers. All they need is a half of an inch. And that falls on us.
Me: Is there a danger on this team of overpassing?
DG: You know, when you talk about passing too much, that’s one thing we have to be conscious of. I think we’ve done that one (preseason) game, where it was like, we’re overpassing the ball. Shoot the basketball. But for the most part, you can pretty much feel when it should be a swing-swing, you can feel when it should be a catch and fire. The thing that I think will help us in that category, to where we’re not overpassing, is there aren’t any insecure guys on this team, who are thinking, ‘man, he’s thinking this about me, or this guy’s thinking this about me.’ If you’re open, shoot the basketball. That’s what we’ve preached all along and that’s what we’ll continue to preach.
Me: You recruited KD as a group, so I can only assume you all wanted him here. But there’s still adjustments to be made on all sides. How is that working so far?
DG: That adjustment isn’t going to happen over the course of training camp; it isn’t going to happen over the first month of the season.
That’s something that’ll be an ongoing process, and he’ll continue to get more and more comfortable, we’ll continue to get more and more comfortable alongside him. Nonetheless, I think he’s gotten pretty comfortable with us, and we’ve gotten pretty comfortable with him. It can only continue to get better ... KD was a guy who we really wanted to be a part of this. When you look around, not every year do you get a chance to add a superstar to your roster. And not every year does that superstar, if there is a superstar, fit the mold of who you are.
Usually when you talk about adding a superstar, it’s a team that’s not quite over the hump that needs that extra push, or it’s a team who just needs help. Whereas we were a team that had won a championship, and gone to Game 7 of The Finals, and were already established. But he just makes us so much better. That can be scary. It’s a great thing, because like I said, his attitude, the way he carries himself, the way he approaches the game, fits right into who we are. And that’s why it made it so intriguing for us to say, hey, I’m hopping on this plane from Michigan; hey Steph, Klay Andre, y’all hop on that plane from California and go get this done.
Me: He has said he probably wouldn’t have come if you had won the championship last year. So was it a good thing you lost and can all come at this with a chip on your shoulder?
DG: I think it helps. I think when you’re a defending champion, I think we did a good job of it last year coming out ready to go, but it can be tough. Because you’re starting over from the highest point all over again, like game one of the season. It’s hard to do. But at the same time, I’m pretty sure KD wouldn’t have come here if we hadn’t won the championship. Would I sit here and say, well, I’m happy we didn’t win? I’d love to win a championship. That would be kind of crazy to say. Nonetheless, I’m happy that was the consolation prize.
Me: Have you looked at Game 7?
DG: You know, my mom was watching it one day. She was at my house. And I looked at it a little bit, and then she turned it off, and I left the house. It was kind of good. I really don’t want to see it. It’s kind of spoiled milk to me. It is what it is. They won, and it’s time to move on. I don’t know if I can sit and watch that game and feel comfortable.
Me: But that’s not just another game you lost.
DG: That’s why I can’t sit and watch it. That’s why I can’t sit and watch it. Like I said, I can’t sit and watch that game and feel comfortable knowing that this is Game 7 of the NBA Finals, tied up with four minutes, and we lost. Like, I can’t, I’m not comfortable watching that. So I haven’t watched much of it. I watched a little bit of it. But I don’t plan on watching much more.
Me: I’m sure you have an opinion on the ESPN story, and if you want to speak on it, feel free. My bigger question to you would be, do you think you have to be more careful dancing on that edge? Did that in any way express to you, I need to work on that a little bit more?
DG: At the end of the day, before basketball, before anything, I’m a man. And as a man, one thing that I’ve learned over the course of my years on this earth, from my mom, from my dad, from my grandmother, my grandfather, my uncle, down to my coaches -- Coach Dawkins, Coach Izzo, Coach Bruce, one thing I’ve learned from those people, Coach Spevey -- is accountability. The one thing Coach Izzo used to always tell me, he used to always say, the best evaluator is a self-evaluator. That’s the best evaluation you can get from anyone, is when you can self-evaluate yourself.
And so I know the mistakes that I made. And I know the ones that need to be corrected. I know things that I need to work on in my life, things that I can be better at. It don’t really take a story for somebody to say, hey, Draymond needs to do this. Or, he did this, or he did that. Number one, I probably realize I did it before you knew I did it. Number two, I know what I need to work on before anyone tells me I need to work on it. I’m going to be more critical of myself than anyone could ever be.
So I didn’t really come away from that story thinking, man, I need to tighten up on this, I need to tighten up on that. Because I used this whole summer of ups and downs to propel me forward as a man, which will propel me even further as a basketball player. The story was kind of old news, things that everybody really knew already. So it was what it was, and it’s going to continue to be there. But it’s over and done with for me.
The one thing that I really took away from it was really the theme of this whole season, which is we have to block out all the noise. It’s going to be noise around us every day. It’s already been happening, people twisting words and all these things going on. For me to go read a story and want to jump off a bridge isn’t going to happen.
Me: What did you all take from being in that spotlight all last season?
DG: Number one, just the bullseye that’s going to be on our back. The target we had last year, being defending champions, chasing a record, winning 24 in a row, all those things, and not winning the championship? If you told me the target got bigger, that’s tough to do. And yet, I think it is. And so, we really learned how big that target is going to be on our back, how you have to use every day to continue to try to get better and continue to prepare for that target.
And, just enjoy every moment. They don’t come around often. We’ve had some great moments together as a group, and look forward to continue building more.
Me: How do you avoid complacency building in during the regular season if you’re in a lot of blowouts?
DG: I think complacency is what you allow it to be. Number one, I think when complacency sets in, it’s human nature. At some point, you’re going to hit some type of complacency. That’s just the world we live in. The lesson or story and everything about it comes from how you overcome that complacency. What type of leaders do have to overcome that complacency? How hungry are you to overcome that complacency? At the end of the regular season, there’s still a long way to go, and if it’s anybody knows that, it’s us.
Me: Bird and Magic used to always wake up every morning and see how the other guy’s team did the night before, because they knew they were going to see each other in The Finals. If you get back, is Cleveland the only team you want to play?
DG: No. I want to win the Western Conference, try to beat everybody in the Western Conference -- which is a tough task. There are so many good teams. So that’s got to be our only focus, to win the Western Conference. And then, if Cleveland comes out of the east, I want to destroy Cleveland. No ifs, ands and buts about it. But I also know that there’s steps to get to that point. And if and when we get to that point, I want to annihilate them.
Me: And if you get there?
DG: If we get there…
Me: And they get there?
DG: And they get there, I want to completely destroy them. No ifs, ands or buts about it. That won’t change. I’m not saying we’re going to look forward to that. Like I said, there’s a long road ahead. And it’ll be a tough, tough road to get there. Nonetheless, if we get there, and they get there, I want to destroy them. Really ain’t no other way to put it.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
-- Former Clippers forward Corey Maggette (@Corey_Maggette), Sunday, 5:36 pm, after Griffin’s 18 points in L.A.’s 88-75 win over Utah moved him ahead of Maggette (8,835 points) on the franchise’s scoring list. With 8,846 points, Griffin now trails only Randy Smith (12,735 points), Bob McAdoo (9,434) and Elton Brand (9,336).
THEY SAID IT
"We're so responsible with how we use him and play him, and anytime people fall down or something, it's like us with children.They go out for the night, and you're nervous, but they go out for the night. And he plays basketball for the living, so he plays.”
-- 76ers Coach Brett Brown, to the Philadelphia Inquirer,on why the team, after two years of fretting about the state of Joel Embiid’s foot, are now convinced that the 22-year-old center is healthy and ready for regularly monitored minutes.
"Right now it’s an emotional time for the city, emotional for the players. We’re cheering and rooting the Indians on. When you flash it across the screen during our game, you’re going to see it. I saw it. I looked, too. I’m guilty of that.”
-- Cavaliers Coach Tyronn Lue, on being distracted during Saturday’s game when highlights of the Indians’ Game 4 win over the Cubs were shown on the screen at Quicken Loans Arena.
"I'm still trying to figure out my life. Since I've been in fourth grade, all I've known was basketball. I'm just trying to better myself and work on my degree and set something up for the future of my family."
-- Former number one overall pick Greg Oden, to the Indianapolis Star, on his life after injuries destroyed his NBA career. Oden is back at Ohio State at age 28, taking classes toward a sports industry major.
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