OAKLAND -- Though Draymond Green has spent the past three months enjoying the fruits of his labor, traveling the world, making friends and finding time for family, he still managed to keep an eye on this most intriguing NBA summer.
When the Warriors forward met with reporters Tuesday after the team’s news conference announcing a three-year jersey sponsorship with Rakuten, a Tokyo-based electric commerce and Internet company, one thing rang loud and clear.
Draymond has a new level of admiration for Kyrie Irving.
The former Cavaliers star expressed a desire to escape LeBron James’ massive shadow -- and the accompanying success -- and did what it took to maneuver his way into being traded to the Celtics, another Eastern Conference contender.
“You have to deliver with that,” Green said. “He’s basically saying, ‘OK, I’m ready to deliver.’
“He wasn’t a free agent. So he could have gotten traded anywhere. But he pretty much said, ‘I don’t care where I go. I’m going to make it happen.’ That says a lot about who he is, as a competitor. His character. That says a lot about him.”
It’s a gutsy move, to be sure, for Irving to want out after he and James led Cleveland to three straight NBA Finals appearances, all against the Warriors, with the Cavs winning one of the three trips.
“I wouldn't necessarily say it surprised me. I'd say more than anything, (it upped) the respect level I have for him,” Green said. “That's tough to do. I don't think people take into account that he put so much pressure on himself by doing that.
“But the willingness to do that, knowing the pressure that comes with that, and saying ‘I'm ready to do it. Let’s do it.' That's what stood out to me, more than anything.”
Irving’s departure doesn’t crush the Cavs, who have evolved into the greatest rival of the Warriors. James remains, and All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas was among the players going from Boston to Cleveland.
Irving’s decision to force his way out of a championship contender is not novel, but it puts a new spin on the Eastern Conference.
“It’s not the surprise of, ‘Hey, Kyrie wants to leave.’ That happens all the time; it happened with Shaq (O’Neal) and Kobe (Bryant), and it’s happened with a ton of other guys in the NBA over the course of the years,” Green said. “But for him to be willing to step out and say (I want to do my own thing) is big.”