Draymond Green's full greatness dependent on rediscovering 3-pointer


Draymond Green's full greatness dependent on rediscovering 3-pointer

SAN FRANCISCO -- I lobbed the question a few feet over the head of Draymond Green, with no idea what to expect.

He caught it with one hand and dunked it.

Q: “Do you have a focus, for you, this year?”

A: “To be great.”

If those three words come true, Green’s impact will take the Warriors to a higher standing, from likely playoff team to possible top-four seed. There’s a wide expanse between the two.

But Green’s greatness encompasses everything a coach could want in a player. He’d play multiple positions. He’d defend at his customary elite level. He’d probably, for the fifth consecutive year, lead the Warriors in assists per game. He’d probably, for the third time in five seasons, lead the team in rebounding. He’d help guide the progress of the team’s influx of youngsters. He’d limit his technical fouls and disqualifications.

He’d also, to punctuate his production, rediscover his 3-ball.

The one aspect of Green’s game that has declined over each of the past four seasons is his accuracy beyond the arc. He went from 38.8 percent, to 30.8 percent, to 30.1 percent to, last season, 28.5 percent. His total attempts also have, for the most part, gone down. After launching at least 250 3-balls four straight seasons, he attempted only 165 last season.

Asked Friday if he plans to bring back the triple, he implied it is likely.

“It’ll just happen as it happens,” Green told NBC Sports Bay Area. “But I probably do need to shoot more. You know, when you shoot two 3s a game, it’s kind of hard to shoot 39 percent.

“So, yeah, I probably do need to shoot it a little more.”

He definitely does. It was logical for Green to limit his 3s when his teammates were Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Durant left for Brooklyn. Thompson will spend most of the season rehabbing after ACL surgery. Only Curry remains.

Historically, when opponents respect Green’s 3-ball, it adds an entirely different dimension to the Warriors’ offense. With the current roster, only Curry is clearly superior to Green from deep. D’Angelo Russell, expected to be the team’s No. 2 scorer, is a career 35.3-percent shooter from deep. Glenn Robinson III is at 36.1 percent, while Alec Burks is at 35.5 percent. The rookies straight from college are still trying to adapt to the additional distance.

Green is motivated to make opponents regain respect for his deep shot because he knows, otherwise, it’ll be far easier for defenses to back off of him and cover more of the floor, tilting toward such teammates as Russell, Burks, Robinson and rookie Jordan Poole. Curry is another matter because he’s always the priority, no matter who else is making shots.

The challenge, then, for Green is to find his 3-point shot while still doing the other things that have made him a three-time All-Star -- all as he serves in his usual capacity of unofficial assistant coach. The youngsters on this roster need his experience and expertise. He knows it and he is optimistic about reaching them.

“There’s a lot more teaching,” he said of training camp. “For us guys who have been here for a while, it’s a little difficult, some of these practices. But that’s the reality of it. We kind of knew that coming in. We’re kind of playing in a players’ role but also coaching a little bit as well.

“You can teach some things about basketball, but you can’t really teach IQ. You can teach people what to do. However, this seems to be a pretty smart team. There’s not really any idiots. You know, on some teams you’ve got some idiots.”

So, for Green, it’s about finding a balance. Shoot a few free throws before teaching Eric Paschall defensive reads. Jack up some 3s after explaining NBA floor spacing to Omari Spellman and Alen Smailagic. Impress upon Willie Cauley-Stein the importance of video study, while studying video. Green need not worry about the defense, because that’s his natural inclination.

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He’s already figured out his system for this season.

“While playing, you teach. While on the sideline, you teach. During film, you teach,” Green said. “But the No. 1 thing is always going to be working on your own game.”

Green is finding time to do that; he was the last man off the court Friday, finishing his individual workout by shooting triples all around the arc and then putting up free throws.

Most of them went in. That’s what the Warriors will need once the games matter. And if that shot is falling, and Green is indeed great, it will alleviate a lot of concerns this season.

NBA rumors: Mavericks' Luka Doncic could miss two weeks with ankle sprain

NBA rumors: Mavericks' Luka Doncic could miss two weeks with ankle sprain

The Dallas Mavericks (17-8) enter Sunday as the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. But they soon could see a stumble in the standings. 

The Mavs are one of the best teams in the NBA this season as guard Luka Doncic has turned into an absolute superstar. Doncic is averaging 29.3 points, 9.6 rebounds and 8.9 assists through 25 games in only his second year in the league. 

Doncic, however, is expected to miss at least two weeks after spraining his ankle in Saturday's loss against the Miami Heat. This would put him in line to miss the Mavs' next meeting with the Warriors when Dallas comes to San Francisco on Dec. 28. 

The last time Doncic and the Mavs played the Dubs, the 20-year-old put on a show. He recorded a triple-double with 35 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. 

Oh, and Doncic didn't even play the fourth quarter during a Dallas blowout 142-94 win over the Warriors. 

Luka had more points, assists and rebounds than the Warriors in the first quarter back on Nov. 20 in Dallas. It's no surprise this was Golden State's worst loss in the Steve Kerr era.

[RELATED: Kerr says Dubs' Russell hasn't let trade rumors affect him]

Doncic has played the Warriors five times now in his career. He's averaging 25.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 7.0 assists over 30.1 minutes per game. Kerr and the rest of the Warriors never wish for an opposing player to be injured, but they won't miss seeing the young star on the floor later this month.

Willie Cauley-Stein opens up about time with Kings, how things ended

Willie Cauley-Stein opens up about time with Kings, how things ended

SALT LAKE CITY -- Warriors center Willie Cauley-Stein bunkered up in a corner of the visitor's locker room at Vivint Smart Home Arena under unusual circumstances before Friday night's loss to the Utah Jazz. 

For the last four years, he has sat in a similar area twice a season, with "Sacramento" across his chest. Now, two days before his first matchup against his former team, Cauley-Stein is still reconciling his emotions. 

"It's going to be weird," Cauley-Stein said to NBC Sports Bay Area. "It's my brothers over there, and I went to the battle with them dudes and for them four years. So it's going to be cool just to see my guys again and be on the other side of it, it's going to be cool to just to see how different it is." 

Cauley-Stein’s time in Sacramento came as the Kings were in peril.

Six months before the Kings drafted Cauley-Stein, the team fired coach Mike Malone after a year-and-a-half on the job. Sacramento opted to hire George Karl midseason, reportedly to the dissatisfaction of the roster.

By the end of his tenure, Cauley-Stein had two head coaches in three years. The Kings never made the postseason, holding true to the perception he heard about Sacramento when he was drafted. 

"Before I got drafted there, [University of Kentucky] coach [John Calipari] kind of warned me what that organization was like already,” Cauley-Stein admitted. “So, I mean, I just went in there just trying to get better. Every year just try to keep on getting better, and that's the way I approached the game and every day.”

All the while, Cauley-Stein garnered the reputation of inconsistency, much to his chagrin. While he posted respectable numbers, local observers complained about his propensity to occasionally disappear during games. 

Nonetheless, prior to last season, with solid numbers in tow, Cauley-Stein stated his goal for his fourth season was to “get paid.” Despite him averaging 11.9 points and a career-high 8.4 rebounds per game, the Kings missed the playoffs, leading to the center’s former agent Roger Montgomery to tell The Sacramento Bee that his client needed a “fresh start.”

According to Cauley-Stein, his agent’s comments came after the team had all but given up on their former first-round draft pick. 

‘Yeah, because they decided to go a different route,” Cauley-Stein said. “So like we tried to jump the curve and be on top of it.

“I might as well move on and show my work somewhere else. That’s the way me and my agent approached it was just like, 'They really don't want us, so we might as well take our talents somewhere else.' That's the kind of way we went on with it.” 

The prospect of leaving Sacramento left Cauley-Stein with a conundrum. The capital of California gave him the center the luxury of living on the West Coast, while providing a hometown feel similar to his small-town Kansas roots. 

“Sac was home,” Cauley-Stein admitted. “I was here for four years. Like, I lived there. I didn't go away for the offseason. I could go to the same neighborhood and go to my little like corner store and jones with my guys there and it's all love.” 

On the business side, the Kings decided to extend a qualifying offer to the center, giving the team the first right of refusal on any contract tendered from another organization. The Kings relented in late June, pulling the offer on the eve of free agency in a move Cauley-Stein believes hindered his options. 

"I feel like that kind of screwed things up for me a little bit," Cauley-Stein said. "Because people didn't know. So, then it was just a waiting game after that, all the deals was gone by that time."

A little over a week later, he signed a one-year contract with the Warriors, equipped with a player-option, giving him an opportunity to make true on his proclamation last season. However, his performance hasn't helped so far.

Despite flashes, Cauley-Stein is averaging just 7.7 points and 6.4 rebounds, the lowest output since his rookie year. Nonetheless -- with Steve Kerr coaching -- he says he wants to stay in the Bay Area long-term.  

"He wants to build a relationship with you," Cauley-Stein said of Kerr. "I think, in the past I hadn't had a relationship with my coach. [Former Kings coach Dave] Joerger, me and him had a pretty good rapport, pretty good, like cordial, but we never had like in-depth conversations about life and stuff like that, and the first couple of conversations I had with coach Kerr was real-life stuff and that hit home with me like, 'Damn, he really tried to get to know me.'"

[RELATED: How Warriors' players recruited Cauley-Stein]

Until the decision about his future is made, the center remains fond of his former home, even if it's not his current place of employment. 

"I'll always have a place for Sacramento in my heart," Cauley-Stein said. "Like I said, it's never, it was never bad blood. It was just like a business decision on their side. So, I had to make one on my side."