When Draymond Green arrived at the Chase Center on Thursday night, he was aware of what was required. After being suspended for one game for stomping on the chest of Sacramento Kings center Domantas Sabonis during Game 2, he watched Golden State Warriors’ Game 3 win, which saved their season, from home.
After the Warriors’ win on Sunday, tying the series 2-2, Green shared with ESPN that he felt fully engaged and focused during the game, as if he was studying game footage. He mentioned that he was able to notice things that helped him perform better. In the previous game, Game 3, the Warriors had better spacing in their play with only one big player on the court. The player, Kevon Looney, who is often underappreciated, had an impressive performance, with 20 rebounds, nine assists, and four points, while filling in for the other player.
According to Green, only Looney should start Game 4, not him. He strongly disagreed with the idea of being pulled and stated that he didn’t deserve that. He suggested that if someone has to take the fall, it should be him. This decision would mark a significant change for Green, as he has started almost all of the 597 games he has played for the Warriors since Kerr appointed him to replace David Lee in his first season as coach in 2014.
According to Green, the most significant aspect of his experience is being able to approach his coach and request to be taken out of the game. He attributes this to the support and guidance he received from David Lee, who always showed him kindness and offered helpful advice, even in difficult situations. Green stresses the importance of maintaining this kind of positive attitude and support for others, as it was instrumental in his own success. The foundation of his career was built on the guidance of an All-Star player who showed him the way forward.
During his third season in NBA, Green was striving to make a name for himself. As a second-round pick from Michigan State, he carried a sense of insecurity that could have hindered his progress. However, being given the chance to prove himself as a full-time starter, not just a replacement for injured players, was a significant validation for him. This move by Kerr unlocked the potential of the Warriors that we have witnessed for almost a decade.
Green expressed that the point where he realized the seriousness of the situation was when he understood the magnitude of the task at hand, as it was not a short-term goal. He saw this as an opportunity to achieve all that he had ever desired, and the outcome speaks for itself. Relinquishing the starting position was not an easy decision for Green or Kerr, but it was evident that it was necessary to aid the Warriors in their quest to bounce back in the series.
“The applause our audience gave [him] was amazing,” expressed Klay Thompson, a Warriors’ guard. He added that [he] has altered the way basketball is played, particularly as a big player who can guard all positions on the court. He acknowledged Draymond’s excellent leadership and selflessness, which has been instrumental in the team’s success. Thompson admires Draymond’s exceptional basketball intellect above anyone he knows.”
According to sources within the team, Green’s decision in Sunday’s game cannot be looked at in isolation without considering the turmoil brought about by his suspension before Game 3. Although there was some initial frustration towards Green for putting himself and the team in such a difficult position, this quickly transformed into anger and a strong determination to seek revenge against what many believed was an unfair suspension imposed by the NBA.
Green became the center of the Warriors’ support both publicly and privately, and as a result, they emerged victorious by a single point. The outcome could have been very different if the Warriors had lost Game 3 without Green, as their future is uncertain with an aging and costly roster. However, the team adapted quickly and played a more fast-paced, open style of basketball which led to their victory in Game 3.
It’s not unusual for the Warriors to make adjustments during their successful reign in the NBA. Even though their style of play has been synonymous with this era of basketball, they have made significant changes at crucial times throughout the years. One such instance was during the 2015 finals when they substituted Andrew Bogut with Andre Iguodala in the starting lineup to combat the Cleveland Cavaliers’ big lineups that were effectively slowing down Stephen Curry with their traps.
During a coaches’ meeting, a young assistant named Nick Uren proposed an unusual small-ball lineup when the Cavs were leading the series 2-1, which ended up making basketball history. However, Sunday’s lineup change might not be as revolutionary for the NBA or the Warriors. In fact, Jordan Poole, who took Green’s place as a starter, previously replaced Curry in the starting lineup for four games in the playoffs last season while Curry was recovering from an injury.
It is currently uncertain how permanent this adjustment will be, as Coach Kerr tried to find ways to impede Sacramento’s guards De’Aaron Fox and Keegan Murray by starting Green in the second half. However, the Warriors have been testing out different variations of this strategy throughout the season, sometimes beginning games with Poole in order to generate the necessary room for Curry and Thompson to effectively carry out their roles.
The substitution of players in the team is inevitable and it could be either Green, Looney or any other player who may willingly step down to make room for the change. Green acknowledged this fact on Sunday and appreciated the support he received from Lee in the past. He expressed his confidence in the team’s decision and emphasized the need to reciprocate and avoid getting overconfident. According to Green, winning is the most crucial aspect, and if stepping down can contribute to the team’s victory, then that’s what needs to be done.