NEW ORLEANS -- On several occasions in the Warriors-Pelicans Western Conference Semifinals, Draymond Green and Rajon Rondo have engaged in verbal exchanges that provoked a response from officials. Nothing serious, but it’s enough to create a rivalry within the games.
Green knows his reputation, deserved or not, is that if he is involved in any conflict or squabbling, blame is bound to find him.
So in the wake of the Warriors taking a 119-100 loss to New Orleans in Game 3 Friday, Green put forth a vigorous self-defense, urging everyone to pay close attention to his behavior and implying that in this case he is not the instigator but the recipient.
To be sure, Green and Rondo have a lot in common. Both are terrific players, able to put their stamp on a game without scoring. Both are determined competitors. Neither is inclined to back down from anything.
Green’s clear implication is that Rondo has been trying to bait him.
“I haven’t been getting into it with Rondo,” Green began. “You’ve seen me get into it with people before. It’s been once. I wouldn’t even say ‘getting into it though.’ How many times have I walked up to him? I haven’t gotten into it with him.”
There were couple instances in Game 3, with officials playing referee both times and separating the two. Asked if they were trying to bait each other, Green bristled.
“I don’t have to try and bait Rondo,” he said. “I get nothing out of trying to bait Rondo at anything. That does nothing for me. Once again, when have I went up to him and tried to bait him? (Media) hate the storyline of somebody trying to bait me, huh? I’ve just got to be involved. ‘Oh, Draymond is doing this! At some point, somebody has got to tell the truth. It ain’t Draymond this time.
“I’ve baited a lot of guys,” he conceded. “I’ve tried to bait a lot of guys. Succeeded in quite a bit, sometimes not. I ain’t trying to bait nobody.”
Green was not finished.
“So at some point somebody’s got to tell the truth,” he said. “And I know that’s not quite the DNA these days, of people telling the truth. But at some point, y’all got to tell the truth. Draymond ain’t trying to bait nobody. I’m chilling, playing basketball. I look forward to y’all telling the truth one day. Maybe it won’t happen; I ain’t expecting it. But I do look forward to it.”
Green feels that he is being targeted by the Pelicans, and particularly by Rondo, in an attempt to exploit his reputation.
“I’m not an idiot, that’s for sure,” he said. “I can see what they’re trying to accomplish a mile away.”
Rondo, for his part, denied any involvement in trying to get Green off his game or in trouble with referees.
“That’s his game,” Rondo said. “I don’t try to bait him at anything. It’s just that he talks a lot of sh-- and this is a part of it. We’re competing. I don’t think it’s nothing more than that we’re battling on the court. He’s a great competitor and I love competing against him. I’m just trying to match his intensity.”
Rondo said there is no method to his tactics, that he’s merely playing the game against someone willing to use similar tactics.
“If a guy is talking trash on the other team, it’s natural to me to respond,” he said. “And not in a crazy way or anything, just to let him know that we’re not a pushover. We’re here to fight. And with my guys on the court, I’m going to fight as hard as I can.”
After losing Games 1 and 2 in Oakland, the Pelicans rallied at home to tighten the series. Knowing Green and listening to Rondo, it’s evident that this new rivalry is not likely to go away, at least not during this series.
There’s too much on the line, and both of them are at their best when the stakes are high.