Green proving mettle with energy, defense


Green proving mettle with energy, defense

The highest compliment Warriors rookie Draymond Green has been paid this season – and he has collected quite a few – came from Indiana Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough, who asked Green to meet him at the Pacers’ team bus after the game.

What prompted the invitation? “I told him he was soft,” Green said.

Hansbrough, of course, doesn’t hear that very often, having one of the most bruising playing styles in the entire NBA. But during the Warriors’ 103-92 win over the Pacers last Saturday, Hansbrough apparently complained that Green was illegally grabbing him.

The complaints, as well as the challenge to settle their differences by the bus, indicate that Green got under the skin, and into the head, of one of the league’s more accomplished agitators. Green, in effect, Hansbroughed Hansbrough.

Pacers point guard George Hill saw some of himself in Green as well. “I noticed him because he made an impact,” Hill said. “He made what we call the scrum plays – get the loose balls, rebound, make stops, bring energy. As a rookie in San Antonio, that was my job.”

Those are heady comparisons for a second-round pick, 35th overall, who is 11th on the team in scoring (2.4) and eighth in rebounding (2.9). Green probably wouldn’t even be playing right now if small forward Brandon Rush hadn’t sustained a season-ending knee injury and his back-up Richard Jefferson had hurt his calf. But those two losses forced Green into the rotation and he has steadily gained coach Mark Jackson’s trust, culminating in the decision to start Green for the second half Saturday night against the Brooklyn Nets. Green responded in his season-high 28 minutes with a season-high 10 rebounds and a season-high three assists to go with six points.

“He’s not particularly athletic,” said one Eastern Conference GM. “He’s just a winner. He has great competitive spirit and he knows how to play the game.”

Green, despite being listed as a 6-foot-7, 230-pound small forward, has been utilized by coach Mark Jackson as a defensive stopper on everyone from Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love to the Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson.

He credits his college coach, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, for developing his defensive versatility. “I was the voice of the defense,” Green said, “so I had to know where everybody had to be and what they had to do.”

Despite raising his scoring average every one of his four years with the Spartans – from 3.3 as a freshman to 16.2 as a senior – he knew that his dream of playing in the NBA would only be realized if he could impact the game at the other end.

“Guys don’t stick at this level if they can’t defend unless they can really stick it in the hole,” he said. “My role is to bring some defense and energy. Scoring is not my role.”

As for Hansbrough’s invitation, Green smiled at it and told Hansbrough, “I would, but I can’t afford the fine.”

Proving that Green is willing to take any challenge – but smart enough to know when it’s not necessary.

Rewind: Despite 6-1 preseason record, Warriors 'still have a ways to go'

Rewind: Despite 6-1 preseason record, Warriors 'still have a ways to go'

OAKLAND – The Warriors, AKA Super Team, closed the preseason Friday night with the same super look exhibited in two previous games, informing the NBA that they are ready for games that matter.

For the third consecutive game, Warriors starters routed those of their opponent, this time blasting Portland starting five 80-56. Taking an 18-point lead into the fourth quarter, the reserves took over and held on for a 107-96 win at Oracle Arena.

It was a fairly simple formula. After playing some sleepy defense early, and falling behind 22-6 less than five minutes after tipoff, Steph Curry snapped awake and began putting the Blazers to sleep.

“They came out firing and we weren’t ready to play,” coach Steve Kerr said of the opening minutes.

But with back-to-back 14-point quarters, Curry almost single-handedly gave the Warriors a 57-56 halftime lead before handing the scoring baton to Kevin Durant.

Putting together a 14-point third quarter of his own, Durant powered a 22-4 run that netted an 86-65 lead with 2:03 left in the third, ending Portland’s night.

“For the most part of in the first half, it was a really good basketball game,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “An understatement is the game got away from us in the third quarter. They got hot.”

On a night when Klay Thompson (9 points, 3-of-13 shooting) never found his shot, Curry and Durant combined for 63 points on 23-of-42 shooting from the field, including 13-of-21 from beyond the arc.

“We’re continuing to build chemistry and flow of where shots are going to come from and everybody (is learning) the little nuances of our offense,” Curry said. “Like when to cut, when to come off the dribble and when to screen for somebody, just based on where you are on the court. Those aren’t set play calls; it’s just organized chaos.”

That’s precisely the way Kerr wants the Warriors to play. Defend ferociously to trigger transition, run at every opportunity, take every open 3-pointer and keep the ball and the bodies moving at all times.

“I thought what changed the game was Andre (Iguodala),” Kerr said. “His stat line may not look like it, but he changed the game with his defense, started getting deflections and playing the passing lanes. I thought he and Draymond (Green) kind of picked up the intensity and got us back in the game.”

That’s the thing about the new-and-improved Warriors. They’re dangerous in a dazzling variety of ways. They use defense to disrupt and speed up the game to their liking, and they have a seemingly relentless supply of offensive weapons – with the 3-point shot being their nuclear dagger.

They made 17 treys, in 43 attempts, on Friday – while holding the Blazers to 8-of-26. Picking up the slack for Thompson was Ian Clark, who came off the bench for 17 points in 18 minutes, including three bombs from deep.

It’s not midseason, or even regular season, but it’s what Kerr and his staff hopes to see beginning with the opener on Tuesday night.

“Going 6-1 and winning the Pacific Division preseason title is a big deal; I don’t know if we’re going to hang a banner,” Kerr said, tongue in cheek. “All in all, things are coming together.

“But we still have a ways to go. We’re not there yet. But we probably shouldn’t be there yet. We’re only a few weeks into this thing. We’ll keep working.”

The Warriors may not be “there yet,” but it’s hard to imagine more preseason action would get them any closer. Bring on the regular season. They’re nothing more to prove in games that are not official.

Warriors' Durant exhibits entire scoring arsenal vs Blazers

Warriors' Durant exhibits entire scoring arsenal vs Blazers

OAKLAND – In the final preseason game on the schedule, at his new home of Oracle Arena, Kevin Durant entered the highlight zone.

The team’s newest superstar exhibited his entire scoring arsenal, dropping 3-pointers, soaring in for dunks and swishing mid-range post-ups.

The most impressive dunk came with 9:02 left in the quarter, when Durant took a pass from Draymond Green and finished the fast break by taking off from about 10 feet and throwing it down.

[POOLE: Instant Replay: Curry, Durant light it up in win over Blazers]

The most impressive trey came with 5:43 remaining in the third quarter, when Steph Curry came down in transition, slipped a pass to Durant, who threw it in from 32 feet.

Durant scored 14 points in the third quarter, 5-of-7 shooting, including 4-of-5 from deep.

Durant’s line: 28 points (11-of-21, 5-of-8, 1-of-2), seven rebounds, six assists and one block.