The Draymond Green-Little Caesars story: 'I chewed him out...'

The Draymond Green-Little Caesars story: 'I chewed him out...'

DANVILLE, Ca. -- Draymond Green’s sprint toward NBA stardom began when he was 12 years old and able to grasp and apply the concept of help-side defense. It could not reach full speed, though, until he cooled his friendship Little Caesar.

Green and LC grew up together in Michigan. They were tight, according to former Saginaw High basketball coach Lou Dawkins, who was the most influential coach of Green’s adolescence. Green was the budding athlete, and LC and his nefarious allies were doing their part to prevent him from reaching full potential.

Green was a large, chubby teenager. LC was his buddy in a box. Pizza.

“I remember when he was a junior in high school,” Dawkins recalled Wednesday, glancing over at Green, the newly crowned NBA Defensive Player of the Year. “We started class at 7:40 in Michigan, and he would come with a Hot-n-Ready pizza. At 7:40 in the morning. I caught him doing that, and I chewed him out. I laid into him.”

To be sure, Green’s food friend wasn’t enough of a burden to keep him out of the NBA. As a second-round draft pick by the Warriors in 2012, he clawed his way into the league even with his weight pushing 250 at certain points of his rookie season.

But a steady diet of pizza would not have allowed Green to become the player or the man he is today: 6-foot-7 on a good day, weighing about 230 pounds, an NBA All-Star, an Olympic gold medalist and Defensive Player of the Year

“When he changed his diet, things took off for him,” said Dawkins, now an assistant at Cleveland State. “It made him quicker. It made him smoother. He always had the IQ. But not being a premier athlete, he knew that he would have to do more for him to exist at this level. And he did it.”

Told about the pizza-in-the-morning story, Green broke into a grin at the memory. He liked to eat, with pizza and tacos among his favorites, almost as much as he liked to play basketball.

He had to take a break from LC. Create some distance. Green had a choice to make, and he realized he had to push away.

“It was very necessary,” he said. “I couldn’t play at the level that I’ve played at without changing my body. That was one of the most important things. And it was hard.

“But I know if I want to be great, there are certain things I have to do.”

The NBA has many tales of men whose careers were affected by the inability to control their appetite: Robert Swift, Eddy Curry, John “Hot Plate” Williams, Jerome “Big Snacks” James, Khalid El-Amin and former Warrior Victor Alexander, among others.

Charles Barkley was that rare exception, someone whose bulk did not imprison his talent.

Green opted out before weight had a chance to threaten his career.

“He wanted to show everybody that he could be one of the top players in the NBA,” Dawkins said. “And showing it. He couldn’t do that if . . . do you remember Oliver Miller? The other ‘Big O?’ He had talent, but . . . Dray knew that for him to reach the highest level, everything had to be on point physically.”

Green not only manages his weight but also is one of the league’s most consistently energetic players. He runs the break as a point forward, then sprints back on defense. He takes it upon himself to generate enough energy that it rubs off on his teammates.

All this comes from a guy that two-time Warriors coach Don Nelson, a bench legend who routinely ridiculed players he considered “fat,” almost certainly would not have drafted.

“I always knew he was going to be a star, I saw it when he was a youngster,” Dawkins said. “But I didn’t know he’d become a megastar.

“All that means is the time he put in outside of practice, improving his nutrition, the way he has changed his diet, getting in the gym putting up shots and grinding, has paid off.”

Now that Green has grown accustomed to his physique, which changed for good before July 2015, when he signed a five-year extension worth $82 million, he has gotten used to it. It was, for him, a lifestyle choice that has now become the norm.

“Absolutely,” he said. “You start to look at your body and you see the changes, and you feel good about that. You see the changes on the floor. You feel much better. You have more bounce. You can go longer.”

Green still dabbles in the occasional slice of pizza. It’s a guilty pleasure now, rarely enjoyed and he may never again hang out with Little Caesar at 7:40 in the morning.

Four biggest takeaways from Warriors media day

Four biggest takeaways from Warriors media day

OAKLAND -- The Warriors on Monday practically glided through media day. It was relatively tranquil, a welcome respite from the sensory assault of the last two years, and for that, they can thank LeBron James and the Lakers.

While national media descended upon Los Angeles, the Warriors still had plenty of issues that required addressing. Here are four takeaways from Warriors Media Day.

Is this the end?

The theme of the day seemed to underscore the possibility that the Warriors we’ve come to know are soon to part. From general manager Bob Myers and coach Steve Kerr and down to the players, there was a faint sense of finality.

The one thing we know for certain is that this is the final season at Oracle Arena.

“The goal is going to be to enjoy this journey this year -- all of it, the highs, the lows, the in between,” Myers said.

"We're not going to go this whole season talking about how much uncertainty it is as far as contracts,” said Draymond Green, who will be eligible for free agency in 2020. “We've got the team that we've got right now you've got to win with that team.

“When all that stuff comes up, it will get handled. But right now we're all together, and that's the most important thing is trying to be the best that this team can be.”

Kerr spent most of last season conveying the difficulties of winning back-to-back NBA titles, as well as chasing The Finals for a fourth consecutive season. His approach to this season is more, um, relaxed.

“Last year, we made it through,” Kerr said. “It was a grind, and we won. And I think we should look at that as its own experience, and this year as a brand new one. And there's no doubt if we can get back to the Finals and it's another nine-month haul, we're going to have some bumps in the road and it's not going to be easy.

“But I do think there should be a slightly different theme this year. We are playing with some house money. We won three of the last four championships. Our place in the history of the league is pretty secure.”

Block out the noise

Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson will be asked about their futures. Green will be asked about his. The Warriors will have to contend with sideshows in every town.

Stephen Curry, the lone All-Star whose future is not up for discussion, would like to shut down the “future” questions that began Monday.

“That doesn't matter right now,” he said. “We have five preseason games, 82 regular-season games and hopefully 16 wins in the playoffs. And then you can ask all the questions you want.

“I think KD is going to have that perspective, DeMarcus [Cousins] had that perspective, even Draymond and Klay with their contract situations, you can nit-pick everything, and that's what's going to happen. It's part of what we do for a living.

“But the best teams and the best individuals are able to shut that out when it comes to playing basketball and enjoy the opportunity that we have as a team to do that.”

Thanks, LeBron

As mentioned earlier, much of the low-key atmosphere at Warriors Media Day can be traced back to the events in L.A., where James sat before a room of hundreds.

The Warriors were cool with that. They don’t mind the some of the attention being diverted from the Bay Area to Southern California.

“Everybody loves something new,” Durant said. “This is our third year together now, so you guys kind of know who we are and have shown things. Obviously us having DeMarcus, but I think him not playing early on is taking away a little bit of allure of us as a team from a media perspective, I guess.

“But it's the same ol' story with us, same ol' personalities, and we are who we are when you walk in here. Just having a whole new team down in Los Angeles, just gutting that whole team out and bringing in the biggest face in basketball and sports, obviously that's going to be a sexier story.”

Shaun Livingston, drafted by the Clippers in 2004, knows what it’s like when the SoCal media comes out in full force. He welcomes the relative quiet.

“Definitely takes some of that spotlight away,” he said. “But it's good, it's great for the league, it's great for the Lakers, even better for the Western Conference, with obviously L.A. being more competitive now with a guy like LeBron coming to play.

“So I think it's positive. It's only positives. Talked to my guy Luke [Walton, Lakers head coach and former Warriors assistant], wished him the best, incredible opportunity for all those guys down there. It should be fun. Definitely should be fun this year.”

Fun with in-laws

Curry’s sister, Sydel, got married in August. Her name now is Sydel Curry-Lee, as her husband is Damion Lee, who aspires to become Stephen Curry’s teammate with the Warriors.

Lee signed a two-way contract and will be present when training camp begins Tuesday.

“It's fun,” Stephen Curry said of being around Damion. “He's part of the family, obviously. We spent a lot of time the past two years especially working out. He's been out here in the Bay with Santa Cruz and whatnot, and I've been rooting him on when he was in Atlanta last year playing. To have him obviously in training camp as a two-way player back and forth, the opportunity he has to impact our team, it would be fun, and obviously I get to keep close eyes on him.”

Lee, a Drexel product, appeared in 15 games with the Atlanta Hawks last season, starting 11. The 6-foot-7 wing is hoping to impress the Warriors enough to at some point see his two-way deal converted to a standard NBA contract, as happened with Quinn Cook last season.


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Kevin Durant keeping his 'options open' with latest one-and-one contract

Kevin Durant keeping his 'options open' with latest one-and-one contract

OAKLAND -- Kevin Durant’s decision in July to sign another contract that allows him to leave the Warriors after one more season generated a stir of anxiety within the fan base, and he said nothing Monday to calm anyone’s nerves.

Ultimately, Durant said, the direction he chose was about self-belief and maximum flexibility.

“It was one of those things where you’re just confident in your skills, and you just kind of want to take it year by year,” he said at Warriors Media Day. “To keep my options open, it was the best thing for me.

“I could have easily signed a long-term [contract], but I just wanted to take it season-by-season and see where it takes me.”

Insofar as Durant is expected to opt out next summer, as he has in the previous two summers, Warriors CEO Joe Lacob acknowledged the team would have to “re-recruit” Durant throughout the season and again during free agency.

General manager Bob Myers, a former agent, reiterated that Monday.

“For any player -- and having had that history as an agent -- what players want, in my experience, is they want to get paid fairly," Myers said. "They want to win, and they want to like going to work, just like all of us. We want to be successful, make fair money and have fun. That’s our job, to create an environment for our players. And I think we do a pretty good job of that.”

Durant will be eligible next July to sign a super max deal worth $220 million with the Warriors, who will have his Bird rights.

“I hope Kevin’s here,” Myers said. “I hope he plays until he’s 50. He’s fantastic, obviously what he’s done for us, and what I hope he continues to do goes without saying.”

Durant clearly wants to keep his mind on the upcoming season, the only one he knows for certain will be spent with the Warriors.

“This whole year is going to be a fun, exciting year for us all, and I’m looking forward to just focusing on that,” he said. “We’ll see what happens after the year.

“If you take it a day at a time, just stay in the present as much as you can, that’s what I try to do.”


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