TORONTO – Draymond Green will not have many fans in the seats when the Golden State Warriors take the floor Thursday in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
He does have a number of admirers in the Toronto Raptors locker room.
“Coming into the league people would say that he was undersized this or not good at that. But he’s worked at it,” Raptors All-Star guard Kyle Lowry said Wednesday. “They said he was out of shape and he got in shape. He got his body right. He improved his jump shooting, improved his conditioning.
“He always had the toughness because coming from where he’s from, you got to be tough. But for him just the respect that how much work you actually got to put in to be a good NBA player, All Defensive-type player, defensive Player of the Year, a champion. He’s put the work in, and that’s the thing about him is that he’s put all that work in.”
Green, drafted 35th overall in 2012, gets attention for his size, antics and short fuse with officials, but his reputation on the court slants another direction.
Head coach Steve Kerr credits what he referred to as “Peak Draymond” for getting the Warriors back to a fifth consecutive NBA Finals and sparking Golden State’s will. Green closed out the Western Conference finals with back-to-back triple-doubles and a huge 3-pointer that pushed Portland out of striking distance in the Game 4 overtime capper.
“He’s been great on and off the floor. His leadership has been great. He lost some weight and got himself in much better condition over the last couple months. You can just see it,” Kerr said. “He’s a different guy. He looks different. He’s slimmer and sleeker and faster, and I think that confidence has allowed him to be more poised on the floor. When you’re playing well and you’re feeling good about yourself, it’s easier to sort of maintain your emotions.
“I think there was some frustration earlier in the year when he wasn’t playing as well. He’s such a passionate, competitive guy that some of those frustrations came out. But you’re seeing the best of Draymond right now. He’s in great condition, an unbelievably high level of play and very poised. To me, it all ties together.”
The Raptors see it, and in scouting preparation are fully expecting to see Green rotate defensive assignments in this series from Kawhi Leonard to Pascal Siakam and beyond.
Siakam defended Leonard’s ability as a defender. As for Green’s recent declaration that he’s the best defensive player in the league, the Raptors were not about to rile up their opponent.
“I think Draymond, definitely I think he was Defensive Player of the Year one year,” Siakam said. “So definitely a guy that prides himself on defense and definitely is like the anchor of their defense, and he definitely does a lot of things that are good for them and his energy, being able to move and his size and also being strong.”
Leonard said Green should carry himself with the best-in-the-world mindset. Green concurred.
“As a competitor, if you’re trying to do something meaningful, if you don’t have the mindset that you’re the best ever, you failed already. So if you don’t have the mindset that you are the best reporter ever, then you already failed,” Green said. “That’s been my mindset since I can remember. That will be my mindset as long as I can remember anything — that I am the best ever at what I do. And every day that I step on the basketball floor I will strive to be that.
“But my mindset will always be as such, as I am the best to do what I do. And that will give me a shot at being the best. But before you can ever reach anything you have to believe it.”
–Field Level Media