The Hamptons One: How Draymond Green is navigating his new Warriors world

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The Hamptons One: How Draymond Green is navigating his new Warriors world

Post by admin » Sat Dec 28, 2019 8:07 am

STEPHEN CURRY IS writhing in pain underneath the basket.

It's Oct. 30, the fourth game of the season for the Golden State Warriors -- just the second inside San Francisco's brand-new Chase Center. And with 8 minutes, 31 seconds remaining in the third quarter, the home team is staring at its third blowout loss in seven days.

Curry's left hand has just borne the weight of Aron Baynes, the 260-pound Phoenix Suns big man collapsing on top of the Warriors' two-time MVP after a driving layup attempt.

A few tense seconds pass as more than 18,000 fans hold their collective breath. Curry finally uses his right arm to signal he is ready to be helped off the floor.

Warriors guard D'Angelo Russell and forward Eric Paschall spring to action, but it is forward Draymond Green who emerges, pushing through his teammates to be the first by Curry's side as he is gingerly helped off the hardwood.

Less than 20 minutes later, as the rest of the NBA world waits for an official diagnosis, general manager Bob Myers appears from the tunnel to deliver the message first to Green and Klay Thompson.

Myers leans over toward his two stars sitting at the end of the bench: It's a season-altering fracture to Curry's left hand.

Thompson tilts his head back and laughs at the absurdity. After all, Golden State had already suffered Thompson's ACL and Kevin Durant's Achilles tendon tears in the NBA Finals just four months prior.

As Green hears the news from Myers, his response is succinct.

"I just said, 'Damn, that's f---ed up," Green says now. "That's just f---ed up."

Curry and Thompson are both injured. Durant and Andre Iguodala had already changed teams in the offseason. The famed "Hamptons Five" lineup was no more. Before Curry's injury, Golden State had held out hope that two of the five remaining healthy members of the franchise's Death Lineup -- immortalized in framed drawings lining the Chase Center hallway -- could help navigate the Warriors back to the playoffs after five consecutive Finals trips.

Now, Myers returns to his seat behind the Warriors' bench as Green stares across the court, his new reality unfolding in front of him as the last healthy leader left for the five-time defending Western Conference champions.

The Hamptons One.

GOLDEN STATE HAD lost every game but one in the two weeks after Curry suffered his hand injury. Green and the Warriors had already sunk to last place in the West by the time they arrived in Los Angeles for a mid-November game against LeBron James' Lakers.

After all the years of high-stakes battles against James, this matchup feels flat as the Warriors spiral down the standings, while the Lakers roar out of the gate led by the familiar brilliance of James and Anthony Davis. Still, Green insists his preparation isn't going to change.

"I got the same mental preparation for a game that I've ever had," the 29-year-old says. "It's the same. I don't [prepare differently] in terms of who's playing, who's on the court."

With Davis sitting this night due to a sore right shoulder, James needs only 23 points in 26 minutes to help dispatch a Golden State squad that provides nothing more than a speed bump in 120-94 rout.

After the game, coach Steve Kerr sheds light on just how much things have changed for Green and his younger teammates.

"We had a shootaround today that might have qualified as a training camp practice for last year's team," Kerr says.

"We went through defensive drills and got after it a little bit [with] pick-and roll-coverages. So we've changed our routine quite a bit this year to try to help guys catch up. ... We're throwing them into the fire."

In the hallway outside the visitors' locker room, a small smile creeps across Green's face as he tries to explain how much differently the morning workout unfolded. "It was crazy," Green says.

"It's different, but you've got to teach. And the thing about the NBA is you don't have a ton of practice, so I kind of teach on the fly."

Despite another early beatdown, the frustration of the season hasn't set in yet. Green even debates his favorite pasta spot with two Warriors staffers. (For the record, the spicy rigatoni at Carbone in New York and Las Vegas is Green's choice.)

As the Warriors continue to grapple with life without the Splash Brothers, it is Green who seems the least rattled.

"You can't have the same expectations [after the injuries]," Green says of the Warriors' choppy early season. "That's not realistic. So you got to adjust, same way you got to do with anything else in life."

Green has won at every level, so he takes a moment to remember the last time it didn't happen.

"Last time I lost? Probably my junior year of college," Green says, recalling the 2010-11 season, when Michigan State actually went 19-15. "We still made the [NCAA] tournament, but we had a bad year. But other than that I've never really lost in my life."

It's an adjustment that has sparked interest both within the Warriors' organization and all over the league: How will a player as accomplished as Green handle a season in which the Warriors are headed for the draft lottery?

"I think he's handling it just fine," Kerr says. "He's a realist like I am. Nobody is preordained to get to play in the Finals every year. It just doesn't work that way.

"So I think we sort of look at it the opposite way in that how lucky we've been to be a part of this group over the last, for me five years, for Draymond the last seven years, and have this wild success.

"And maybe we were due for a year like this."

WARRIORS PLAYERS AND coaches huddle in the film room inside the Chase Center practice facility, where three rows of theater-style seats face a huge flat-screen TV. On this morning, though, every set of eyes in the room is fixed on Green.

He needed to say something the day after the Warriors had blown a fourth-quarter lead to Chris Paul and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Nov. 25. It was their fifth loss in six games since being routed by the Lakers, and it sent Golden State's record plummeting to 3-15.

"We need to step up," swingman Glenn Robinson III says of Green's message. "We can't control what's being talked about in the media, we can't control the fans, anything [other than] how we approach the game. ... Ignoring the negativity and just competing."

"I've never really had anybody sit us down and talk to us like that," rookie two-way guard Ky Bowman says. "Just to help us understand what was happening."

Green, who impressed his younger teammates by not being afraid to call himself out to play to a higher standard, wasn't taking aim at individual teammates, according to those in the room. His message, though, was clear: Getting this team full of young, inexperienced players on the same page was key if they were going to get out of this rut.

"Most guys in general struggle with communication," Green says. "It's kind of amplified when you're dealing with younger guys.

"Half the battle is just getting people to say something."

Damion Lee, another two-way guard, calls Green the "heartbeat" of the team. During last season's run to the Finals, Lee watched as stars such as Curry, Durant and Thompson and veterans such as Iguodala and Shaun Livingston led alongside Green.

Now that Green is in a leadership role by himself, Lee says Green's greatest ability is being able to connect with teammates from every corner of the locker room.

"We have a lot of guys that are introverts. Not a lot of guys talk up. So the way that Draymond's leading this year is more guiding guys along." Lee says.

In the Warriors' gap year, it is Green who has become another coach on the floor and a sounding board for his teammates.

"The coaching staff's voice can get kind of tired sometimes," center Kevon Looney says. "They want the best for us, but when you hear it from a player, [there is] more accountability ...

"He wasn't a guy who was highly touted as a superstar like maybe a KD or a Steph or even a Klay. He was a guy that was a role player that made himself into an All-Star, into one of the best players in the league, so having him as a role model means a lot more.

"He's been in our shoes, he knows what we're feeling."

Some around the league wonder if Green is on his best behavior this season because he just signed a four-year, $100 million extension in August, but those who know Green best within the organization all agree that he has taken his new leadership role to heart. He appreciates the responsibility he has to help his younger teammates grow.

"Draymond is the most, in a sense, relatable person that we have on the roster," Lee says.

Less than 24 hours after Green's impromptu words of encouragement inside the film room, the Warriors put Green's charge into action, using a 16-2 fourth-quarter run to close down the Chicago Bulls. Golden State walks off the Chase Center floor with its fourth victory of the season.

GREEN'S LOCKER IS farthest from the interview room and, more important, closest to the private players' exit.

There are theoretically nights when star players around him would've taken the opportunity to sneak out the back -- as he did in recent years at Oracle Arena. Those days are gone.

Green has become the de facto public -- and postgame -- face of the franchise this season, alongside Kerr.

After a two-point overtime defeat to the lowly New York Knicks on Dec. 11 -- the second leg of a five-game losing streak -- Green, wearing a green hoodie and sipping from a cherry smoothie, leaves his seat and makes the 14-step journey up the stairway to the Warriors' media room.

Now, game nights don't end until Draymond talks.

"A loss is a loss," Green says, delivering the type of clichéd playerspeak he hasn't exactly been known for throughout his eight-year career. "It doesn't matter who it's against."

Warriors senior vice president of communications Raymond Ridder has privately praised Green for how he has handled himself in this setting. Green has long been one of the NBA's most quotable players but has never carried the responsibility of giving a nightly state-of-the-team address after each painful loss.

Green can take solace, though, that the locker room he oversees still has an air of ease, even after the disappointment of falling to the worst team in the Eastern Conference and seeing Golden State's record fall to 5-21. Players and coaches credit the franchise's stalwart for keeping the team together as the losses pile up -- even with seemingly no end in sight to an injury-riddled season after years of success.

"Draymond's the one guy who hasn't been able to kind of decompress after the five-year run," Kerr says. "Everybody else -- Shaun [Livingston] retired, Andre [Iguodala] hasn't played -- they would all tell you the same thing: That five-year run is just exhausting.

"And so literally everybody else is getting to recharge their batteries, one way or the other, but here's Draymond.

"I call him the lone survivor."

CHRISTMAS DAY MIGHT have delivered the two loudest moments in Chase Center's brief history.

With chants of "Let's go Warriors" reverberating from the crowd, Green, camped out in the corner in front of the Houston Rockets' bench, had just delivered the 3-pointer that put Golden State up by six with 5:48 remaining. The arena erupts.

Green sprints past the bench with a confident swagger on his way to give Kerr a low-five, then jumps into the waiting arms of Curry as the Rockets call a timeout.

As rehab schedules and doctors appointments pile up, it's rare that both Curry and Thompson have been together on the bench to witness their team's games, but both beam at the sight of Green and the rest of their teammates bringing more pain to a Rockets group they have owned in previous seasons.

Minutes later, with Curry, Thompson and the Golden State bench now nearly spilling onto the court -- Green takes a pass from Robinson at the top of the 3-point line with Rockets guard Russell Westbrook closing out.

Dagger.

Green drills the jumper with 1:54 remaining to put an exclamation point on the Warriors' 116-104 victory, their season-high third straight.

Green sprints down the court, hands behind his back and tongue out as he gazes into the crowd. "I was actually looking at [Warriors owner] Joe [Lacob], celebrating with Joe and [co-owner] Peter [Guber]," Green says.

Fittingly, it is Green with the ball in his hands as the clock expires. Handshakes and high-fives are exchanged as Green picks up assistant coach Bruce Fraser, who warms him up prior to every game, with a giant bear hug.

Green finishes the game with a season-high 20 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists, adding the kind of defense that has become a calling card throughout his career. Green pauses for a postgame television interview and signs a ball for a fan before making his way off the floor to roaring applause.

"I think Warriors fans are used to just seeing him do that," Kerr says.

Green takes pride in this particular win because of whom it came against, and whom it came without. He rejects the idea that teams are overlooking these Warriors because of the injuries to Curry and Thompson and the offseason departures of players such as Durant and Iguodala. Opponents are just returning the favor.

"For five years or so, we've been kicking a lot of people's ass," Green says. "Now that we don't have certain guys out there, they don't care. ... They see a Warriors jersey and they want to attack us."

Down the stairs from Green's postgame news conference and inside the locker room sit personalized bottles of 2011 Coup de Foudre Cabernet Sauvignon for each player, including Curry and Thompson, delivered pregame by Lacob and his wife, Nicole. A holiday message written in gold pen graces each label.

On this night, it's a time for celebration for Green and his Warriors teammates. During this trying season, there haven't been many.

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