Draymond puts troubles in the past while proving vast worth to Warriors

Draymond puts troubles in the past while proving vast worth to Warriors

It was during Draymond Green’s five months of fury that the conjecture began to surface. At the essence of it was whether his high-velocity characteristics were threatening the blindingly bright future of the team, if not Green himself.

There was enough concern that folks in front offices around the league would mention Green’s name in the same sentence as that of the former Ron Artest.

Which led to the obvious question: Might the Warriors and their much-envied chemistry, be better off without Green and his occasionally exasperating behavior?

The Warriors, for their part, consistently closed that door. Slammed it shut, put a lock on it and walked away. Draymond, they said, not only was the catalyst but also intelligent enough to survive this spell of nonsense and disobedience. We’ve talked with him and we’re confident he’ll be fine, they said.

Folks within the organization didn’t say much about his importance to their success. They didn’t have to. We’ve seen it before. And, now, not quite a month into the season, we’re seeing it more than ever.

Regardless of where one sets the parameters – the eye test, the stats watch or stats within the stats examination – Green’s defense is the bedrock upon which the Warriors championship hopes rest. That the team’s defense, the subject of considerable concern two weeks into the season, is gradually improving is largely a result of Green realizing and accepting his altered role, and thriving within it.

Already the team’s most versatile defender, he has, out of necessity, become its top rim protector.

Green has finished second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting, behind Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, in each of the past two seasons and admits he wants to nab it this season. Green’s statement a couple days ago, that he has been “incredible defensively,” is a left turn into self-promotion.

It’s also the truth.

“I hope he wins,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Monday night in Indianapolis, after the Warriors swept a four-game road trip. “It’s one of those votes that the last couple years could have gone either way. But I would love to see Draymond rewarded for his efforts, but those things you can’t control.

“All I know is I’ve been thrilled with Draymond’s play at both ends. He’s been absolutely phenomenal.”

Green leads the Warriors in rebounds per game (9.1, 18th in the NBA), blocks (1.71, 11th in the NBA) and steals (2.21, fourth). His defensive real plus/minus (3.13) shares the rarified airs of such defensive-oriented centers as DeAndre Jordan (league-best 3.85), Andrew Bogut (3.25) and Rudy Gobert (3.14). Green stands 6-foot-6. Each of the others are at least 6-11.

If it seems that Green short-circuits opposing offenses several times a game, it’s because he does. Sometimes, it’s by blocking a shot. Other times, it’s by disrupting their action on consecutive possessions. Sometimes, it’s simply by anticipating that which is obvious only to him.

There are many terrific on-ball defenders, and Green is among them. There are plenty of passing-lane vultures, and he is among them, too. There are maybe 10 imposing paint presences, and he is the shortest among them – by far.

There are precious few that can change the game from most any spot on the defensive end, and Green conceivably is the best in today’s NBA.

“He's covering a lot of ground for us guarding one through five," teammate Kevin Durant said Monday night. "Rebounding, blocking shots, he's doing it all. That stuff is a popularity contest, so my campaign starts now: Draymond Green for Defensive Player of the Year. So hopefully (voters) realize what he does on the court, the small things that go into being a great defender."

The Warriors are scoring a league-best 117.1 points per game, while giving up 106.8 points, ranking 22nd in the NBA. More pertinent given the pace at which they play, the Warriors are seventh in both field-goal percentage defense (opponents are shooting 43.7) and adjusted field-goal percentage defense (48.8).

Think those numbers would apply if they had given up on Green? If those troubling months of irresponsible driving and confronting his coach and picking up technical fouls and late-night misadventures had been too much for the Warriors to bear?

“He’s in a great place,” Kerr said of Green. “He’s backed up everything he said this summer, when he said he grew and he realized he needed to grow. And he has grown. There is zero drama. He’s just playing. He’s putting his head down and playing as hard as he can. He’s been great in the locker room.

“I really think Draymond has taken another step.”

There will be moments when Green chafes his teammates. He will annoy. Like matriculating education or eating fresh crab, he requires tolerance. It’s work, it’s irritating and it can try one’s patience. But it’s almost always worth it.

Pat McCaw will return vs Spurs; Draymond Green vs LaMarcus Aldridge


Pat McCaw will return vs Spurs; Draymond Green vs LaMarcus Aldridge

In 43 seasons battling the Spurs, only once have the Warriors swept a season series, a feat they will accomplish again with a victory Monday night in San Antonio.

Winning at AT&T Center will be a tough task for the depleted Warriors (53-17), who for the third consecutive game will take the floor with three of their four All-Stars -- Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson -- unavailable. Guard Pat McCaw, however, will be available for the first time in five weeks.

After the Spurs (40-30) lost nine of 11 games over a 30-day span and seemed to be fading from the playoff race, they’ve posted three straight wins and are very much in the race, despite the continued absence of star forward Kawhi Leonard.


Spurs by 7


Draymond Green & Co. vs. LaMarcus Aldridge: Aldridge is a load for any defender and has carried the Spurs this season. Expect the Warriors to stick to their routine when facing a single pivotal player and send a variety of defenders. Green is sure to be one of them. Others likely to take turns include Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, David West and maybe even Kevon Looney. The Warriors will consider it success if they can keep Aldridge under 30 points.


Warriors: F Omri Casspi (R ankle tweak), G Stephen Curry (R ankle tweak), F Kevin Durant (R rib fracture) and G Klay Thompson (R thumb fracture) and listed as out.

Spurs: F Kawhi Leonard (return from injury management) is listed as out.


Warriors: 7-3. Spurs: 5-5.


James Capers (crew chief), Bennie Adams, Karl Lane


The Warriors won the first three of four meetings this season: 112-92 on Nov. 2 in San Antonio, 122-105 on Feb. 10 in Oakland and 110-107 on March 8 at Oakland. They were 1-2 against San Antonio last season and are 9-7 against the Spurs in the Steve Kerr era.


COOK’S ROLL: Two-way PG Quinn Cook was terrific in the last two games, scoring a combined 53 points on 21-of-30 shooting. That was against lottery teams. The Spurs traditionally make life tough for guards and will pose a much bigger challenge. If Cook stays hot under this pressure, the Warriors will be beyond ecstatic.

MCCAW RETURNS: The return of McCaw, out since Feb. 12 with a L wrist fracture, gives the Warriors a fourth guard and some welcome flexibility. Cook played 80 minutes in the recent back-to-back set, and Nick Young played 78. McCaw will be on a minutes restriction (less than 20) but can perform on or off the ball.

THE BENCH GAME: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has virtually trademarked liberal usage of reserves; only San Antonio has had eight players score in double figures in three different games this season, and 13 different Spurs average at least 10 ppg. Their depth will be a problem for these very thin Warriors.

Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue taking 'step back from coaching for the time being'


Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue taking 'step back from coaching for the time being'

The Cavaliers are going to be without head coach Tyronn Lue indefinitely.

On Monday morning, Lue issued the following statement through the team:

"After many conversations with our doctors and Koby and much thought given to what is best for the team and my health, I need to step back from coaching for the time being and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation from which to coach for the rest of the season.

I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is.

While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team. I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season. My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the Championship we are all working towards.

I greatly appreciate Dan Gilbert, Koby Altman, our medical team and the organization's support throughout."

Lue has had to leave multiple games early this season due to his health.

Get well, Tyronn.