SAN FRANCISCO — He’s not afraid to defend LeBron. He’s not afraid to take a shot when the clock is running down. So why should Draymond Green be afraid to speak from the heart, a characteristic that doesn’t make him much different than others in his sport?
You’ve probably figured this out: Basketball players are different, a little more individualistic, a lot less protective. They don’t wear helmets or pads. They don’t disappear into dugouts. They play in what could be described as their underwear. No place to hide, no way to cover up.
Green has his style and his opinions. Why shouldn’t he? Even a great NFL quarterback needs an offensive line, a receiver or two, a running back. A great basketballer can do it on his own, play offense, play defense, pass, shoot and rebound. It’s not so much a matter of ego as of responsibility.
Put Draymond on the court, and he’ll provide what’s needed. Put him behind a microphone, and it’s the same.
Especially now that the Warriors, Kevin Durant having fled, Andre Iguodala having been traded, Shaun Livingston having retired, are down to the Big Three, Draymond, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. And Klay, still recovering from the knee injury incurred in the playoffs, won’t be ready until February.
Green is 29 and has a wedding planned for next year and, if selected, a spot in next year's Olympics. At the moment he’s concerned with how to make the Warriors into something resembling the team they used to be, the one that made it to the NBA finals five straight years.
“I think on the court,” said Green about possible success, “it’s just play our game. Not get too caught up in trying to make people fit ... Obviously adding a piece like D’Angelo (Russell) to the fold, things will have to change to better suit him, and we’re all understanding of that. And you know that’ll happen.”
We don’t know. We don’t know whether the Warriors will be able to adapt their offense to best utilize a great shooter such as Russell, whom they acquired in a sign-and-trade deal with Brooklyn for Durant. We presume Russell will be a brilliant replacement for KD, but we don’t know.
What we do know is that Draymond will be the Warriors' spiritual leader, hawking opponents, badgering teammates, saying what he believes must be said. Last season, Green and Durant got into an argument when Draymond wouldn’t pass the ball to Durant after a rebound. Green was suspended one game for his outburst.
The issue never arose Monday during Warriors media day in the Bill King Interview Room at the new Chase Center. The future was of more concern than the past.
“We have to do a good job in getting to know these younger guys,” said Green. That means almost everybody except the Big Three, including Kevon Looney, Alfonso McKinnie and Jacob Evans III.
“It’s kind of a new day and age in the NBA,” Green observed, “and we haven’t had to experience that because we’ve had the experience. So just getting to know the younger guys and their way of life. How they get things done.”
One of the new guys who isn’t that young, Willie Cauley-Stein, 26, was signed to play center, but it will be a while until that’s possible. Warriors GM Bob Meyers announced the 7-foot Cauley-Stein incurred a mid-foot injury and is not able to practice. You know what that means, another role for Draymond Green, who handles the center position when required.
“There’s definitely a lot of unknowns,” Green said about the Warriors. “But it’s exciting. It’s been status quo the last few years, and we just kind of knew what to expect. It’s a new challenge, which as a competitor is very exciting. We’ve been to the mountain top with our previous group and know how it feels. Now, can you do it again?”
One thing Draymond would like to do again is play college ball — he went to Michigan State — if the new state of California rule giving undergrad athletes the financial rights to their likenesses being used for school financial advantage takes effect.
“Someone needs to force this (NCAA) dictatorship to change,” said Green, “because that’s exactly what it is ... So college athletes have no voice. It’s a great day for everyone, because I don’t know about you all but I’m tired of seeing college athletes ripped off.”