Draymond Green's immeasurable worth to Warriors now, for years to come

Draymond Green's immeasurable worth to Warriors now, for years to come

PORTLAND – It was late Saturday night and Bob Myers was trying to slide out of Moda Center and back to the luxury hotel where the Warriors are staying during the Western Conference finals when I asked for a minute, maybe less, to discuss Draymond Green.

The general manager spent nearly seven minutes talking about Green, and his willingness to elaborate might have been related to my first question.

Why are you underpaying Draymond?

Myers burst out laughing. He knows there is some truth to the statement, even if delivered in jest. Green’s $17.47 million salary is the fourth-highest on the team – less than half of Steph Curry’s $37.46 million salary – and the GM realizes the power forward’s value to the Warriors is immeasurable.

“Are you putting this on the record?” he asked after catching his breath.

“The thing about him is he . . . you can write this, and please make it sound better than this. You can quote me that I’m asking you to make it sound better.

“He knows how to win.

“And that’s enough. That’s enough of a characterization of somebody. It’s actually the highest compliment you can give a guy. He knows how to win. That means defending. That means leading. That means intensity. That means confidence. That means all the things that he does.

“Look, it’s rare to see performance elevated in the playoffs. Things tend to become more difficult. It’s a like a hitter who likes fastballs, but now he’s getting curveballs. He finds a way to elevate his game, which is a mark of a really elite player.

“You’ve just got to deal with him all year.”

Myers laughed again. To “deal” with Draymond means coping with challenging times, such as the all-too-public squabble with Kevin Durant last November that the Warriors deemed serious enough to slap Green with a one-game suspension. It means the frequent beefing with officials, which was the genesis of coach Steve Kerr’s caught-on-camera comment in March that he was “so f-----g tired of Draymond’s s--t.”

There is no doubt that Draymond’s teammates also get tired of some of the fire he brings. He can be abrasive. He spares no one.

But there is not a soul in the locker room or the front office that believes the Warriors would be better, or even nearly as good, without Green. And his recent reduction in tantrums suggests he can be even better.

Green’s passion for winning is, once again, on full display in the postseason. Everything is done in full sprint. He’s playing with such zest and each end that his teammates are struggling to keep up. To watch Draymond for a few minutes is to feel your pulse rate rising.

“When I finish the playoffs, every year, I’m exhausted, more so mentally than physically, because I view these games as life or death,” Green says. “I’ll be stressed out the entire playoffs. It’s like a life or death situation for me. That’s how I view it.

“When you have that mindset, when you’re viewing it that way, it’s easy to raise your game because it’s bigger than just that particular game for me.”

The energy has generated impressive numbers. Green this postseason ranks in the top five for assists and in the top 10 for rebounding and blocked shots. He has three triple-doubles and is one of two players (Denver center Nikola Jokic is the other) with multiple triple-doubles. Green has eight double-doubles, the same as Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

With DeMarcus Cousins out of action, Green is more aggressive to the basket. After averaging 7.4 points per game in the regular season, he’s up to 13.3 in the playoffs. With Kevin Durant and Cousins unavailable in the conference finals, Green is up to 16.0.

Yet the numbers don’t properly convey his influence on the games.

“He’s a hurricane of energy out there,” assistant coach Jarron Collins says. “He’s pushing the pace when he gets the ball. He has a unique ability when he gets the defensive rebound and pushes the pace. Sometimes he’ll get the outlet pass and push it. The force he plays with allows us to keep our opponents on their heels.

“On the defensive end, he’s doing everything. He’s defending at the point of attack. He’s calling coverages. He’s helping and recovering, faking and feinting, getting quick closeouts and shot challenges on the perimeter.”

Now we’re getting to Green’s true value. He dictates what happens on the floor in much the same way as, gasp, Antetokounmpo. Neither is a deadeye shooter, but both bring such gravity to the floor that the game bends toward them.

Yet Green was voted in a poll of conducted by The Athletic to be among the league’s most overrated players. He shrugs it off. Curry grinned when reminded of that on Sunday.

“Yeah, him and Russell Westbrook,” Curry said. “But you don’t feel that way when you actually play against either one of them.”

The greater one’s knowledge of basketball is, the more they are likely to appreciate Green. He does things, big and small, that prod his team toward success. The Warriors wouldn’t be three-time champions without Green, and CEO Joe Lacob seems to comprehend that.

“I want Draymond Green to be here forever,” Lacob told The Athletic three weeks ago. “He’s as Warrior as they come.”

Which brings us back to the subject of salary. Green is in the fourth year of a five-year contract he signed in 2015. Though Green has changed agents, going from former Warriors guard B.J. Armstrong to Klutch Sports’ Rich Paul, Draymond insists he wants to stay with the Warriors

The money has to come his way.

Even if the Warriors are uncertain about his durability when he turns 30 next year, they have no one ready to replace him. There might not be a player in the NBA or on the college scene that brings the same package of intellect, awareness, passion for defense, skill on offense and contagious energy.

[RELATED: New, focused Draymond putting his stamp on West finals]

“It might be OK to say he’s just a one-of-a-kind guy,” Myers says. “I don’t know if there’s anybody in the league that’s like him.

“He’s such a big part of us. I’m enjoying it. You can’t not enjoy it. The competitiveness is my favorite part of him. You could compliment a guy a lot of different ways, but the simple fact is you want him on your team. Some people appreciate what he does.

“Now I know he has detractors; you hear them in other arenas. But they would love to have him on their team. Why would they love to have him? Because he wins.”

By that rationale – which is the same as the Warriors applied to Andre Iguodala two summers ago – Draymond will get what he deserves. He can be a pain in the rump, but he’s the soul of the team. No soul, no rings.

Why Mychal Thompson thinks Steph Curry will make 500 3-pointers this year

Why Mychal Thompson thinks Steph Curry will make 500 3-pointers this year

The Warriors' roster turnover this summer has been well-documented, but Mychal Thompson things it will bring out the best in Steph Curry next season.

Curry will have to adjust to life without Kevin Durant next season, after the star signed with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency. The two-time MVP also will miss Klay Thompson -- Mychal's son -- for much of the campaign as the Splash Brother recovers from a torn ACL. Because of that, the elder Thompson thinks Curry has the potential for a record-breaking season in 2019-20.

"Now, they're not going to be as good as they were last year -- and by the way, I predict Steph is going to have 500 3s this year without having to share the ball that much back in the backcourt with Klay," Mychal said Friday on SiriusXM NBA Radio. "So he's going to come back to his MVP form we saw two years ago."

Curry set the NBA's single-season record with 402 made 3-pointers en route to the first unanimous MVP in league history in 2015-16. He did so leading a historic Warriors team that went 73-9, and Klay finished second on Golden State that season with 276 made 3-pointers. 

Klay made 241 -- and attempted 599 -- triples last year, while Curry made 354 and attempted 810. Assuming Thompson returns after the All-Star break, there could be enough touches for Curry to shatter his own record. However, summer acquisition D'Angelo Russell made just seven fewer 3-pointers than Thompson last season. He probably will take fewer shots as the No. 2 option behind Curry to start the season, but Russell's presence probably lowers Curry's record-setting ceiling. 

[RELATED: Steph comments on learning about KD's decision on plane]

Curry unquestionably will have to carry a bigger load for as long as Klay's out next season. But when his son returns, Mychal thinks the Warriors will find themselves on the same level as other Western Conference contenders. 

"[Draymond Green] is motivated to have a great year because his contract year is coming up," the elder Thompson continued.  "So I think [Curry and Green] -- and with the addition of D'Angelo Russell and the other role players that they've signed -- I think they'll be right in the mix. Somewhere between a five [or] six seed until Klay comes back 100 percent, and then they'll be ready to make their move." 

Steph Curry reveals wild prank Warriors vet played on him as rookie

Steph Curry reveals wild prank Warriors vet played on him as rookie

Hazing happens in all walks of life, including the NBA.

Before Steph Curry became a two-time NBA MVP and three-time NBA champion, he was a rookie.

While in Lake Tahoe for the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament last week, he revealed the following story to Chris Simms of NBC Sports on "Unbuttoned":

"I had a vet when I was a rookie -- I had my phone, mind you I'm dating my now wife at the time and I'm going on a road trip so I need my phone obviously -- we had finished practice and we were headed to the airport, and he knew where my phone was.

"He knew I always put it in this little pocket in my backpack. So after practice, I go get in the shower and put my phone in there. I'm kind of late so I'm hustling. He knows after I get out the shower I'm probably not gonna grab my phone.

"Take my phone, locks it in his locker. I get all the way to the airport and realize I don't have my phone. I get off the plane in Oklahoma City, not only did he make me leave my phone at home so I had to go to the store to get another one, he sent me on basically a two-hour errand run to go get video games and snacks.

"This is before Uber or Lyft so I'm in the yellow cab and paying for everything. That's just a headache."

Who was the veteran -- Anthony Tolliver, Corey Maggette, Ronny Turiaf, Mikki Moore or Vladimir Radmanovic? Perhaps it was Devean George?

Unfortunately, Curry did not disclose that information.

We also don't know if it was the Dubs' first or second game in Oklahoma City that season.

[RELATEDCurry comments on finding out about KD's decision on plane]

On Dec. 7, Curry registered 22 points, two assists, four steals and five turnovers in a 104-88 loss (Kevin Durant recorded 28 points, nine rebounds, four assists, three steals and six turnovers).

On Jan. 31, Curry contributed 14 points, five assists and five turnovers in a 112-104 loss (KD racked up 45 points and 11 rebounds).

That likely will remain a mystery, but what we do know is that NBA stars are just like us - pranks and all.

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