Accustomed to winning at every level, Draymond Green isn’t enduring this humble Warriors season to polish his personal stats or reach such a modest goal as the NBA play-in tournament, lower-case intentional.
Draymond is laboring through this out of professional obligation. He’s a man of immense pride. He’s out to give the organization its money’s worth. He’s determined to advance the development of his younger teammates.
Perhaps most of all, Draymond is committed out of respect and admiration for Stephen Curry, who over the last three weeks has inserted himself into the MVP race and inspired his teammate of nine seasons.
“If it doesn't, you should probably hang 'em up, because you're probably a little soft and it probably doesn't matter enough to you,” Green said. “And in order to win in this league, it has to matter.
“When you've got a guy playing like that, you owe it to him to give everything that you've got in order to help win these basketball games. When he's playing at a level like this you want to do everything right to help, whatever it is. One hundred percent.”
Green and Curry are more than teammates that can read each other on the court with the slightest glance. More than two players with three rings from shared championships. They’ve spilled blood for each other. They’re co-conspirators that have each other’s backs.
And each would find it difficult to gather his best self without the other.
“When you go to battle with somebody like that year after year on the biggest of stages, it brings the best out of you and lifelong bonds are created,” Curry said. “That’s special.
“The fact that we’re still trying to evolve and elevate our game, and find ways to keep this thing going, it speaks to again, the mutual respect, the chemistry, the ability to not be complacent and feed off each other. There’s a huge confidence boost when I’m out there with him. I know for him, vice versa. That’s not something that happens overnight and that’s not something that breaks down overnight either.”
On a team with no realistic chance to win it all, Curry is having the most impressive scoring month of his career. With two more games before the calendar moves to May, his 85 3-pointers represent a new NBA record for any single month. He’s averaging 38.1 points per game, shooting 53.6 percent from the field and 47.0 percent beyond the arc.
Curry, 33, is using shooting, toughness and sheer will to lift the Warriors as high as they can go in a season where so much has gone wrong.
And Draymond, 30, is right beside him, busting his backside because he wants no part of seeing his brother’s work go to waste. The most recent example came Sunday night, in a 117-113 win over the Kings.
Curry scored 37 points, draining seven 3-pointers and the game-clinching free throws. He added seven rebounds and four assists. Yet this was not an evening of splendor. He missed three free throws for the first time in forever. He committed seven turnovers, including three in seven fourth-quarter minutes.
Draymond’s numbers were impressive enough -- 14 rebounds, 13 assists, team-best plus-13 over 37 minutes -- but his defensive work was as good as his coordination of the offense. Steph’s imperfections were not fatal because Draymond was there to patch the holes and clean up the spills.
“Draymond Green was just phenomenal,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Some of the plays he made were just mind-boggling. He's so good at both ends. Defensively, obviously, just a superstar and then offensively just one of the smartest players I've ever been around.
“The assist, the put-back rebound after Steph’s layup missed -- it was a huge play. He had an assist to Kelly (Oubre Jr.) late. I thought Draymond really carried us in a lot of ways. No disrespect to Steph who had 37 points -- he kind of does that every night -- but to me, this game felt like Draymond's game.”
Curry’s nuclear month has obscured Green’s contributions, and they have been essential. His April has included one triple-double, five games with 10 or more assists, five games with at least 10 rebounds and four games with double-digit scoring. His defense, with a few exceptions, has ranged from solid to stellar.
If Green is this team’s engine, Curry its fuel and infinity tank. They are twin touchstones, setting the bar and playing for each other.
And on those nights when Draymond’s body is howling from the beatings he takes from the mastodons of the NBA, he has a tonic. Steph.