Draymond Green Has Never Been Better. Or This Quiet. – Smart Media Magazine

Draymond Green Has Never Been Better. Or This Quiet.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Draymond Green loves to talk. To teammates. To coaches. To opponents. To himself. For seven seasons running, he has ranked among the league leaders in words per minute.

But in recent weeks, as the Golden State Warriors prepared for another crack at another N.B.A. championship, Green decided to do some listening. In particular, he said, he listened to his mother and to his fiancée, who advised him to keep his emotions in check, especially when it involved his interactions with referees.

“Sometimes I’m not mindful,” Green said, “and I’ll get a tech and that will just kill the energy of our team. I’ve really been focused and locked in on that, and I realized I got to a point where I was doing more crying than playing. I’m sure it was disgusting to watch, because I felt disgusting playing that way.”

No one has benefited more from that epiphany than the Warriors, who have been leaning on Green to inflict damage on the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals. Green, a 6-foot-7 forward, may be operating with more diplomacy than usual, but his level of ferocity feels familiar. He is merely channeling it in all the right ways.

In leading the Warriors to their 110-99 victory over the Blazers on Saturday night, Green finished with his third triple-double of the postseason: 20 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. Afterward, Warriors forward Klay Thompson stared at a box score and tried to digest Green’s handiwork. “Ridiculous,” Thompson said. But the numbers told only part of the story.

The one word that Green’s teammates, coaches and defenders kept using was “pace.” As in, Green kept pushing the pace — after collecting defensive rebounds, after calling for outlet passes, after picking off errant passes — and in such a relentless manner that the Blazers finally buckled under the strain of it all.

“I don’t even know what to say about Draymond,” Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said. “He was like a wrecking ball out there. He was just destroying everything in his path. The pace that he was generating was incredible, and it just seemed like he never got tired.”

He added: “It’s one of the best games I’ve ever seen him play.”

The Warriors have a 3-0 series lead, with Game 4 set for Monday in Portland. No team in N.B.A. history has ever come back to win a playoff series after losing the first three games. Loose translation: The Blazers are in trouble, and Damian Lillard, their All-Star point guard, struggled in Game 3 as he played with injured ribs. He was asked whether he was tired.

“Everybody’s tired,” he said.

That may be true, but Green has managed to look indefatigable. His presence has been especially important in the absence of Kevin Durant, who injured his right calf against the Houston Rockets in the conference semifinals and did not make the trip to Portland. The team has said that he will be re-evaluated later this week.

Without him, the Warriors have dipped into their pre-Durant past by operating as more of a collective, with Green acting as the selfless focal point of it all, the point forward of an offense that hinges on ball movement. On Saturday, Stephen Curry had 36 points and Thompson added 19. Green described his general approach.

“If I’m wide open and Klay is half open, I still think it’s a better shot if I give the ball to Klay,” he said. “That’s just my mindset.”

The Warriors are playing a beautiful brand of basketball that has them one win from a fifth straight trip to the N.B.A. finals. In the four games that Durant has missed, Green has averaged 14 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.8 assists while shooting 52.3 percent from the field. During the regular season, he averaged 7.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.9 assists.

“He’s done so much here, it’s hard to look back and say what’s his best stretch,” Kerr said. “I just know he’s playing unbelievably well right now. He’s playing with force. He’s playing with discipline. He’s playing under control. He’s not letting anything bother him — you know, officiating, bad shots, turnovers. He’s just moving on to the next play.”

It is all the more remarkable because Green did not have the most drama-free season. In November, he had a well-publicized squabble with Durant that led to a one-game suspension. And during a game in March, Kerr was filmed in a candid moment telling one of his assistants that he was tired of Green’s antics. At the time, Kerr just wanted his players to stop complaining so much about the officiating. And Green would not stop screaming at them.

But he has made progress. Consider: He has not been called for a technical foul since Game 1 of the conference semifinals, which is a DiMaggio-like streak for a player of his verbosity.

“I understand that officials aren’t perfect, and I still have conversations with them when they miss a call,” Green said. “But it’s completely different conversations.”

The calm has also freed him up to engage in more productive conversations with teammates. On Saturday, the Warriors were still trailing in the third quarter when reserve forward Jordan Bell missed a breakaway dunk. It could have been a momentum killer. But in that moment, Green recalled something that James Laughlin, the Warriors’s director of video operations, had told him before the start of the series: It was going to be important for Green to stick with the team’s younger players and fill them with confidence.

So Green gave Bell a quick pep talk: “It’s O.K.! You missed a shot. All of us have. Nobody’s perfect.”

Sure enough, minutes later, Bell got a second chance to dunk in the open court and delivered amid a rally that buried the Blazers.

“He got my mind back in the game,” Bell said.

In that sense, Green has wisdom born of experience, and it has not always been easy. But in following his lead, the Warriors are suddenly making it look that way.

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