2022 NBA Finals: Warriors vs. Celtics

Draymond Green's familiar energy, defense help Warriors win 2022 title

Golden State's big man remains the perfect balance to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson in the trio's impressive run of 4 championships in 8 seasons.

Draymond Green and Jordan Poole talk with NBA TV about the journey to the 2022 title and the thrills of rising to the top once again.

• Complete coverage: 2022 NBA Finals

BOSTON – They figured to tiptoe around it for a moment, neither Kevon Looney nor Otto Porter Jr. quite ready to share what they and their Golden State teammates chanted in the giddiness of the visiting dressing room at TD Garden late Thursday.

But enough champagne had been flowing by the time the two Warriors role player reached the interview room, so what the heck.

“You can tell them,” Looney said to Porter, laughing.

Porter didn’t hesitate. “Basically we were saying, ‘[Expletive] you, Draymond!’ That’s what we were saying. But it was fun, though.”

Said Looney: “Fun moment. Draymond has been yelling at us all year.”

For Draymond Green’s two pals to reach for some PG-rated version would not have been authentic. And if there’s any word that describes Green, the hyperactive, loquacious, undersized center for the 2022 NBA champions, it is authentic.

Draymond, his discipline, his hunger, his focus, his tenacity, is a great balance to those two guys. It’s the yin and the yang. And he doesn’t get enough credit for his brain and the IQ he brings to the game of basketball.”

— Andre Iguodala, on Draymond Green’s role along side Steph Curry and Klay Thompson

He doesn’t sugar-coat, he rarely pulls his verbal punches and he doesn’t much trade in false humility, either. The only reason he didn’t talk as bluntly as Porter a few minutes later was that Green was flanked by his daughter Olive and son D.J., all on the podium to savor the moment and make some more memories.

For Steph Curry, named Finals MVP for leading the Warriors to their fourth championship in eight seasons, this was at least partially about checking a box – that Bill Russell Trophy – and cleaning up the one arguable hole in his legacy.

Four time champion Draymond Green addresses the naysayers after the Warriors beat the Celtics in TD Garden in Boston.

For Klay Thompson, it was about fighting all the way back from two season-spoiling injuries that turned much of the past three years into a grind of rehab and uncertainty, blocked from the game he loves.

For Green, this Finals was like living through a passion play, his personality sometimes more fully engaged than his game. His up-and-down performances generated a soundtrack in Game 3 from the Boston crowd of, well, that chant Porter abruptly shared.

Rather than analyze and dissect here, though, it’s easier to just let Green self-assess.

“Game 3, it just caught me off guard,” he said. “Like you’ve heard crowds boo, and I never heard an entire crowd yell ‘F-you, Draymond.’ That was a different thing. And then you couple that with having a so-so game, and it’s like, ah, man.

“Then … going into Game 4, it was made out like, oh, he’s having this terrible series. But if you know basketball, and you watch Game 1, I did not have a bad Game 1, and I had an incredible Game 2. And Game 3 was kind of like, terrible, awful.

“And Game 4 was not my best effort but not totally special. And Game 5, I was pretty solid. Came out with great energy. Game 6, I dominated.”

In Thursday’s title game, Green had one of his trademark stats lines, a little light on scoring but heavy everywhere else: 12 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, two blocked shots, five turnovers and a plus-16, tops among Golden State’s starters.

Most of all, he was the hub of the Warriors’ defense, playing as usual against a young and talented Celtics team like a middle linebacker. And so it has gone with their team since the trophies started filling their shelves in 2015.

Green still inspires heated debates – Hall of Famer or glorified role player? – but his own resume boasts four rings, four All-Star appearances, one Defensive Player of the Year award, seven All-Defense selections and, of particular importance to the Warriors, the unofficial title of “Steph Curry of the defense.”

“I think what made this group really special, besides the obvious with Steph, was the defensive intensity and versatility,” coach Steve Kerr said, “and for that, Draymond is the guy to point to, the leader of it all.”

Looney, on board since the second of the team’s six Finals trips since 2015, sees it too.

“Draymond, his personality and his energy, his imprint is all over our team,” said Looney, at 6-foot-9 the closest thing to a legit big man on this squad. “We kind of play with that same energy that he brings on the defensive end.

“He’s able to do a lot of stuff on the court, and he’s able to explain it to guys at a high level, too. He makes a lot of plays. And we always talk about Stephen on offense, and we kind of compare Draymond on defense the same type of way.”

Boston’s sputters offensively drove that group — coach Ime Udoka, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum — to distraction. They talked about their troubles finishing at the rim and turning over the ball, and they owned those issues in a way that kind of neglected the other team so dedicated to thwarting them.

Green made sure to remind everyone it remains a two-way game.

For us, it’s just about getting back to these moments and winning … If I struggle in one area, Steph just isn’t going to try to do it. We rely on each other for what we are great at.”

— Draymond Green

“It’s been a constant for us,” he said. “We have won championships, and I think the lowest defense we’ve had winning a championship was like seven or eight. But when you have such a sexy offense, and guys shooting the ball like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole, it’s always going to be sexier, and people are always going to appreciate that more.”

Look at the scoreboard, though. All six game in this Finals.

“Did they score a hundred points tonight?” Green said. “That’s four out of six games they didn’t score a hundred points. We beat them because of our defense, and that’s always been a constant. You don’t win a championship without a great defense. We know that.”

There is strength in that “we” of the Warriors, especially in the trio of Curry, Thompson and Green. They’re the constants, with 21 Finals victories to their credit — ranking second only to the “Showtime” Lakers threesome of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper.

On Wednesday, they talked about the flight to Boston and how Warriors’ boss Bob Myers marveled that the three of them, after all these years, could seek each other out to eat and chatter on the team’s luxury aircraft. Teammate Andre Iguodala, after things calmed down Thursday, mentioned the chemistry between the three, with Green bringing something different to the mix.

“Those three guys have had this league in a choke hold, in a headlock for a good period of time,” Iguodala said. “And Draymond was the balance between two guys who grew up in the NBA.”

Curry’s father Dell and Thompson’s dad Mychal both were NBA stars, affording their families a comfortable life. Green grew up in Saginaw, Michigan, son of a middle-school worker who raised three kids as a single mother after getting divorced from Green’s stepfather.

Golden State wins its 4th championship in 8 years, one of the most successful stretches in league history.

Green was a four-year guy at Michigan State in chilly East Lansing, and got to the NBA as a second-round pick (35th overall)  in 2012. He brought an edge, some grit, that remains to this day. (His mother Mary’s grit is intact too, based on her tweets during the Finals both defending and criticizing her famous son.)

“Draymond, his discipline, his hunger, his focus, his tenacity, is a great balance to those two guys,” Iguodala said. “It’s the yin and the yang. And he doesn’t get enough credit for his brain and the IQ he brings to the game of basketball.”

Their personalities seem to mesh perfectly, with Curry’s precision, Thompson’s casualness and Green’s amped-up extroversion.

“It’s amazing because none of us are the same, and, you know, you usually clash with people when you’re alike,” Green said. “For us, it’s just about getting back to these moments and winning, and we know what that feels like, and ultimately we know what that takes.

“If I struggle in one area, Steph just isn’t going to try to do it. We rely on each other for what we are great at.”

They are great again in 2022, even turning a vulgar, hostile chant into a term of endearment and joke among friends.

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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