Dismiss most everything the Warriors presented in the first four games. The breathtaking promise of James Wiseman, the lows and highs of Kelly Oubre Jr. and the tantalizing glimpses of a revamped Andrew Wiggins were a mere prelude to what comes next.
After missing the first four games, two losses followed by two wins, all on the road, Draymond Green is expected back for the home opener Friday night against the Portland Trail Blazers. The impact of his return needs no embellishment.
Draymond changes everything the Warriors do. Offense, defense, communication, conduct, energy, the volume of the music playing in the heads of teammates and coaches.
He also gives Stephen Curry that familiar and trusted ally he has been missing.
“Draymond is going to help in every regard,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the team scrimmaged Thursday. “He's our verbal leader. The scrimmage today had a completely different vibe to it because Draymond was back. He brings a competitiveness and an edge and a fire that most teams don't have. He's such a dominant personality and emotional person, and an energetic player, that he literally lifts the whole gym up with all of that.”
The Warriors without Draymond were in disarray on offense and defense. There were glaring non-communications and miscommunications and too often a lack of vitality. Even the spurts of proficiency in Chicago and Detroit were aided by the ineptitude of their opponents.
Now, the Warriors can begin to know what they are and what they are not. Playing without Draymond is not unlike having an empty chair at the end of the team dining table opposite Curry. There can be a productive conversation, but there is little illuminative debate because that empty chair is silent.
There can be theories and ideas, but there is little chance for resolution.
“It's going to be huge,” Curry said of Green’s return this week. “We understand what he brings defensively and even for our offensive patterns how great of a playmaker and passer he is. So, it's going to be huge.”
The Warriors in recent years have been led by two Alpha males possessing a similar mentality but expressing it differently. Curry is the velvet-glove Alpha, Green the bare-knuckler whose heart is in the right place.
These personality traits combined to pull and push the Warriors to elite status. There always were other great players -- Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, to name three -- but even they understood and accepted Curry and Green were the team touchstones.
What’s different now is that this is a different group of Warriors and Green, while still thirsting for victory, is moving into the tutorial phase of his career. At 30, he embraces the idea of mentoring and polishing the next generation.
“He’s vocal, he's a leader, he’s going to point us in the right direction,” Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson said of Green. “We all trust in him; he has everyone’s respect, obviously. The vet, very successful in this league, has established himself. His voice is one we listen to. Everybody is excited to get him back.”
Green, 30, sees the immense possibilities of rookie center James Wiseman and wants not only to be the man beside the 19-year-old on the court but also the man behind the youngster reaching his full capacity as a player.
“Draymond recognizes James’ potential and he understands the impact that James can make on this franchise,” Kerr said. “And as someone who has been a cornerstone, a foundational part of the franchise, Draymond wants to not only play with James so that we can be as good a team as possible but even to pass on what he's learned to James so that James can carry this forward into the next generation of Warriors basketball.”
Beginning Friday, the evolution of this Warriors season gets real. Draymond’s return will provide a microscopic view of the assets and liabilities required to fall into place.
There is no knowing how high or low that place is. We do know the first week of the season, without Draymond, never could offer an accurate vision.