Warriors

Warriors' Draymond Green wants to be remembered as ultimate winner

Warriors' Draymond Green wants to be remembered as ultimate winner

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Ever since he entered the league, Warriors forward Draymond Green simultaneously has been the NBA's biggest conundrum and one of its best players. 

An undersized big man, Green doesn't necessarily look the part of an elite rebounder (which he is) or defender (which he is) or a player who can command a max salary slot in free agency next summer. But after an 18-point, 14-rebound, 11-assist closeout performance in Monday's 119-117 win over the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals, Green is making a pretty good case for it. 

However, walking out of Moda Center -- into his fifth straight NBA Finals appearance after his injury-riddled Warriors swept Portland -- Green wants to be recognized as something more when it's over. 

"I want to be remembered as a winner," Green told NBC Sports Bay Area. "If I leave this game and you ask somebody, 'What about Draymond?' and they say, 'Oh, he was a winner,' my mission is accomplished."

Over the last two weeks, Green's purpose has been to keep the battered Warriors' title hopes afloat. After Kevin Durant's injury wiped away a third of Golden State's postseason offensive output, Green had to turn his multifaceted game up a notch. Since Durant's injury, Green is averaging 14.8 points, 11.4 rebounds and 8.4 assists -- after he made a conscious choice.

"I just know I had to be more aggressive," Green said. "I knew I had to push the tempo. You're trying to make up 37 points a game. We're not going to make that up walking it up the floor and just passing the ball to somebody like we do with Kevin and say, 'Hey, go get a bucket' and pushing the tempo and giving everybody a chance to. Alfonzo McKinnie may not be able to catch it and rip through and stop on a dime and pull up, but he can slash to the hole if we push the pace."

As the Warriors know, Green's performance comes with a caveat. In an effort to get the most out of everyone around him, the former No. 35 draft pick will unapologetically pry, curse and grind teammates. No better example of that approach than five months ago, when, late in an overtime loss to the LA Clippers, Green cursed out Durant, calling him out during a nationally televised game.

In the fallout, Green was suspended, and a friendship with Durant -- who is expected to test free agency this summer -- was in need of repair. Months later, Green admits the moment was a rite of passage of sorts. 

"Me and Kevin been had a great relationship," Green said. "We had the moment we had in November, but I don't have any close friends that I haven't gotten into it with in a major way. I've gotten into with my brother — my blood brother — in a major way. That's just what it is, but tough times build character, and that's what I've done." 

No one knows the Green experience better than his coach, Steve Kerr. When Kerr was hired to lead the Warriors in 2014, Green, an alpha and by all accounts a basketball genius, would openly challenge his coach, causing strife between the two. 

"Over the years, we've had some knockdown, drag-out near fights because he's got a brilliant basketball mind, and he doesn't always agree with something I've said," Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area. 

However, as Kerr found out, not backing down in a verbal spar is how you gain respect in Green's eyes. 

"They were important," Kerr said. "He needed to know that I wasn't afraid to coach him, and I needed to know that he would respond to me, and after every argument and after every fight we'd get into, there was always a mutual respect and a sort of meeting of the minds and we'd figure it out, and it works. 

"I don't think we've got into a single screaming match this year. It's got to be a record," Kerr jokingly said. "We've become collaborators more than before. We used to butt heads. It was productive but now we collaborate." 

Kerr is a basketball nomad who has seen it all. He's caught kick-out passes from Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan, and has been coached by Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson. Through his travels, Kerr has been prepared to coach someone like Green. 

"The best coaches were the ones who coached and weren't afraid to rub people the wrong way as long as it wasn't personal," Kerr said. "Phil and Pop were the best at it, and the way you have to do it is with respect. As long as you treat someone with respect, you can go at them and challenge them, and they may not agree with you, but if you treated them with respect, then you can move forward, and that's the foundation I have with Draymond." 

Green's journey to postseason success hasn't been smooth this season. He missed 16 games in the regular season, nursing toe, knee and ankle injuries. He shot just 28 percent from 3-point range, averaging just 7.4 points per game and posting a career-low 106.0 defensive rating. Weeks before the playoffs, he had to lose over 20 pounds at the request of Warriors general manager  Bob Myers, which has made Green’s current run all the more impressive.

"It's been special," Green said. "Not many people can go through what the type of season that I've been through and still have the type of playoff run that I've had. ... Struggle builds character. And only the strong is gonna survive, so I love those challenges."

[RELATED: Dubs overcome injuries en route to some much-needed rest]

Now, in the postseason, the Warriors swiss-army knife is averaging 13.6 points, 9.9 rebounds and 8.2 assists, helping anchor Golden State's defense in a virtuoso performance that's even leaving his coach speechless. 

"I don't know," Kerr said. "I've run out of things to say about Draymond. He's just a champion. He can't shoot, but he hits big shots. He's not tall enough, but he gets every rebound. He's not supposed to be doing this, he's the 35th pick in the draft or whatever. A guy who's just the ultimate winner."

Perhaps that's the way Green likes it. With the NBA Finals nine days away, the Warriors are going to need his mindset more than ever to win a third straight title. 

"Every time I step on the floor, if a shot needs to be made, I'm not afraid to take it," Green said. "When it's all said and done, I just want to be remembered as a winner. When I knot my shoe strings up and throw them on the telephone line, if they can say I was a winner, I did my job." 

D'Angelo Russell's potential on display in Warriors' preseason finale

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USATSI

D'Angelo Russell's potential on display in Warriors' preseason finale

SAN FRANCISCO – The wait for D’Angelo Russell to start raising his game is over. He’s coming.

If he brings it in the regular season as he did in the preseason finale Friday night, and continues to build on it, the Warriors will sing his praises and jersey sales will spike during the holidays.

“He’s just such a skilled player that no matter what happens, he’s just going to find his way to 20-plus points,” coach Steve Kerr said after a 124-103 win over a Lakers B-squad team at Chase Center. “He’s a tremendous passer, so putting him into high screens and letting him pick people apart and he’s going to find a flow.

“One thing I really like about him is that he doesn’t get discouraged. He just plays. After the slow start, he really picked it up. He was fantastic.”

Russell shot well, scoring 29 points in 28 minutes on 9-of-19 shooting from the field, including 6-of-11 from deep, and 5-of-6 from the line. He also passed nicely, recording three assists and at least as many secondary assists. He could’ve had more dimes if not for the Lakers reaching to foul shooters found open by Russell.

The real revelation, however, was on the other end of the court. Unlike more than a few moments in the previous four games, Russell was more consistent with his defensive energy and purpose. During one 19-second span early in the fourth quarter, he swiped a Zach Norvell pass and raced in for a layup and also picked up a loose ball off a Draymond Green deflection and pulled up for a triple that cranked up the noise in the building.

Russell's ability to turn defense into offense is one of his more valuable traits, and something that may be an essential component of the Warriors’ attack.

“I just made shots,” Russell said. “There’s a lot of things on the defensive end that I want to get better at, just figuring out the coverages that we’re playing and getting accustomed to those things. It’s easy to make shots in this league. It’s more about doing other things.”

What’s apparent is Russell’s growing comfort on the court. He’s in a new city, with new teammates, many of them young. There were in the first few games far too much confusion on defense and hesitation on offense. All of that is starting to fade.

And much of that stems from the growing partnership between Russell and fellow guard Stephen Curry.

“It’s an opportunity to get to know each other but see the potential of what we can be when we are out there on the floor,” Curry said. “When we’re on the floor together, there is a lot of trust in terms of making the right play, taking advantage of each possession.”

Even with such an encouraging performance, Russell still sees the holes. The areas that need to improve before he can approach All-Star status for the second consecutive season.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, to be honest,” he said. “We’re still figuring each other out. In preseason you make it what it is, for a lot of teams. A lot of teams are set and they know what they’re going to do.

“For us, we need that time to build in the good things and work on the things we didn’t do so well.”

For the Warriors to be a factor in the Western Conference, the Curry-Russell backcourt has to be among the best in the league. Offensively, that’s a given. Defensively, that’s a mystery.

But it has to at least be respectable.

“I’m optimistic that we will get off to a hot start,” Curry said. “If we do run into some road bumps throughout the season, we will build a level of communication that we can adjust as we go.”

[RELATED: Russell eyes superteam with Booker, KAT]

On this night, D-Lo showed that his offense will be there. He also, at times, showed he is capable of being the defender he’ll need to be for the Warriors to get anywhere near 50 wins.

Is he all the way there yet, particularly on defense? No. But he’s much closer than he was two weeks ago. Close enough to glimpse where he has to be.

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 124-103 preseason win vs. Lakers

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 124-103 preseason win vs. Lakers

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors ended their preseason slate with a bang, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 124-103 at Chase Center on Friday night. 

However, the victory didn't come with much star power. While the Warriors played their healthy starters, Los Angeles rested most of their veteran core, including LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard.  

With the win, Golden State finishes preseason play 2-3 and face a myriad of questions, particularly in the frontcourt. 

For now, let's get to the takeaways from Friday's win. 

Curry and Russell shine

After struggling for much of the preseason, D'Angelo Russell played well, finishing with 29 points, three rebounds and three assists, including six 3-pointers. 

Meanwhile, Stephen Curry poured in 32 points, including a four-point play in the fourth quarter. Occasionally this past summer, the two All-Stars trained in Golden State's old Oakland facility hoping to get the chemistry they displayed Friday evening. 

However, playing alongside Curry within Golden State's motion offense, Russell admittedly struggled through the team's first four games. He has All-Star talent and should find his rhythm during the regular season, especially with the spacing Curry provides.  

Rest of the Starters in dress rehearsal 

Playing as close to a regular-season rotation as possible, the Warriors starting lineup quickly found themselves down double digits. Through the first six minutes, the depleted Lakers built a 14-point lead. 

Marquese Chriss -- who effectively made the roster Friday -- air-balled his first attempt of the night, later committing an offensive foul. For good measure, Draymond Green earned a technical foul midway through the third quarter. 

With the season just under a week away, Golden State is a world away from last year's star-studded roster. Worse, injuries to Kevon Looney and Willie Cauley-Stein might linger into opening night. If Monday's performance against an undermanned Lakers team is any indication, the Warriors could be in trouble. 

Youngsters provide a boost

While Curry and Russell combined for 61 points, the Warriors' young core showed signs of life as well. With four minutes left in the first quarter, a lineup featuring Jacob Evans, Jordan Poole, Curry and Omari Spellman helped Golden State cut the Lakers' lead to one heading into the second quarter.

[RELATED: Robinson to start on opening night]

Poole -- who struggled his last two games in Los Angeles -- scored eight points, including two 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Eric Paschall added 11 points and seven rebounds. 

With a new roster, Golden State's young core will be counted on more than past years, meaning performances like Friday will have to be a regular occurrence.