Life is different for the Warriors now.
Gone are the days of the most lethal show on hardwood, a collection of talent that allowed the Warriors to dismiss most opponents without breaking a sweat. The days of the Warriors approaching certain opponents with "appropriate fear" are over. They have to approach every opponent with the same mindset, knowing nothing is a given.
These new-look Warriors are learning how to win. Likewise, Draymond Green is learning how to lead in a different way.
Green spent his formative years as the Warriors' heartbeat. His energy, enthusiasm and competitive fire gave championship teams a jolt of life when he felt the need arise. He had veterans like David West, Andrew Bogut, Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala there to contain his outbursts, to channel Green's tenacity and contain it when need be.
All of those veterans have since moved on, and now Green, and Steph Curry, are learning to be the elder statesman on a Warriors team no longer with the firepower of the Galactic Empire, but one still learning to discover what they are and how good they can be.
The latest learning moment in Green's evolution from emotional jet fuel provider to tempered leader came Saturday when he was assessed two quick technical fouls and ejected with nine seconds left against the Charlotte Hornets. Green's emotions boiling over cost the Warriors, who were without Curry, a chance to pick up a much-needed win. Terry Rozier knocked down both technical free throws to tie the game and then drained a 20-footer at the buzzer to give the Hornets the win.
In years past, Green would have been corralled by a veteran teammate and stopped from getting the second technical. But with Klay Thompson out injured and Curry ailing, there was no one to save Green from himself. After two days of reflection, the three-time NBA champion knows he cost his team a win and that it's up to him, a member of the old guard, to be a different kind of leader and keep those emotions in check.
"I'm still a bit disappointed in myself because I think that whole situation bothered me," Green told reporters Monday saying he was more bothered by this ejection than being suspending for Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals. " ...this situation, in particular, I had complete control over. I let that control get away from me and, in turn, I let the game away from myself and my teammates. I think the reason it bothered me more, obviously, as I said, your thoughts are your thoughts on the Game 5 situation and my thoughts are my thoughts. This young team, you know, winning an NBA game is not easy. And this young team has not had, you know, the guys on this team has not had much experience with winning. So to take the game away from my teammates, which, you know, they worked so hard for, was a bit frustrating for me because I let them down.
“Another reason it was a bit frustrating for me when I think of the whole entire picture of all of this – if you type in Draymond Green before Saturday the first clip you’ll see is me talking about the [Andre] Drummond situation. So to go from that situation to what the next thing you see is two completely, totally different ends of the spectrum and that’s where the disappointment for me lies, letting my emotions get the best of me and going from one of the most powerful statements in NBA history to that. It’s embarrassing. That’s where the disappointment comes from for me. Letting my teammates down and then that. The difference in those two situations. I’m much better than that.
"I’m a completely different person at 25 than I am at 30. So, when I look at the person who I am today, that should never happen. So, in saying that, I can admit my faults and when I’m wrong and I was wrong. And I have to do what I have to do to make that up to my teammates. Obviously like I told the guys I appreciate the support of me, but that action does not warrant support. With the support of teammates comes responsibility and I let that responsibility go. To think, just because they are my teammates and I have their support don’t necessarily mean I was deserving of it in that situation because I wasn’t. So, I’m very appreciative to them and I owe them”
Green is confident that he'll be better for this experience. He admitted he was "dead-ass wrong" in getting the second technical. He knows this team, this version of the Warriors -- one that has struggled to find consistency -- needs him on the floor.
The past versions of the Warriors could feed off his passion and emotion, and, when things went overboard, survive if he had to take an early shower. His presence, while vital to their defensive communication and offensive flow, was not as essential as having Curry flanked by Thompson and Kevin Durant. The Warriors could survive a Green outburst, hook it into their veins and let it propel them to a quick five-minute explosion that left no trace of their opponent behind.
These Warriors need Green. They need his playmaking ability, his high basketball IQ and, most importantly, his leadership. One of the standard-bearers of the Warriors' championship culture, it is now vital that Green grow into a new role that he's arguably even more suited for than his last: That of the older vet.
“I think it heavily impacts it," Green said about the absence of other veterans on the team. "Just not having older vets, per se, to give you that perspective, you just kind of have to find it. It’s a completely different situation than I became accustomed to being in or part of but you just have to find it. It’s all part of growth. You’re not going to stay the young guy forever. One thing is for certain in this life is we all get older. That’s just the nature of it and so you just have to make that adjustment.”
He is. So are the Warriors.
The remnants of the NBA's greatest collection of talent are scattered across the league. Durant is leading a new superteam in Brooklyn. Andre Iguodala is now the old vet for the Miami Heat. Thompson is spending his second consecutive season rehabbing a severe injury, while Curry and Green hoist a roster of new Warriors blood onto their backs and try to show them how to win.
Every night is a new experiment for the NBA's former kings. Curry has thrilled with his MVP-level star. Green's chemistry with Curry has been otherworldly and each time he leaves the floor provides more evidence of how important it is for the Warriors to have him on it, no matter what the box score says.
“Every team is different and the leadership sort of develops as the season goes on," Kerr told reporters Monday. "David West was the guy who could literally, physically pick Draymond up and bear hug and wrestle him away from the situation and he had the respect from Draymond to back that up. This team, you got younger guys who might not feel as comfortable doing something like that. So, it’s a different dynamic for sure. I think Draymond understands that, we understand that, but there are going to be times where we’ve got to help him keep from crossing that line. It’s just how he’s built. He’s so competitive and fiery that he’s going to lose it sometimes. We’ve got to all try to keep him from crossing that line but that mostly comes from within."
For Green, that restraint will come in time. Green knows he has it and knows he has to harness it. He's too important to this team, and each win is too critical to give away with an unnecessary emotional outburst.
Draymond Green's new leadership style is still being crafted and perfected. He, like everyone else, is learning how to exist in the Warriors' new reality.