Programming note: Coverage of Game 5 between the Warriors and Clippers begins Tuesday at 7 p.m. on CSN Bay Area (Channel locations)
OAKLAND – It’s a move Warriors coach Mark Jackson was thinking about and may have made anyway.
But when center Jermaine O'Neal volunteered to step aside, that made it very simple for Jackson to reprogram his team before Game 4 of its first-round playoff series against the Clippers.
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Jackson replaced the 18-year veteran in the starting lineup with the younger, fresher but shorter legs of second-year forward Draymond Green – and received the handsome reward of victory.
"I was thinking about making the switch,'' Jackson said after a 118-97 Game 4 win at Oracle Arena, "and Jermaine came up to me and said, 'Coach, what do you think about starting somebody else and bringing me off the bench?' ''
Green played 41 minutes, while O'Neal was on the court for 10. But Green's numbers – 4 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals, two blocks – were typically unrepresentative of his impact.
He was instrumental in the offensive ball movement that led to 32 assists on 41 baskets. And on defense, he frustrated Clippers star Blake Griffin. After burning the Warriors for 67 points in the past two games, Griffin was held to 21 in Game 4.
"He helped put me in position to help the team early,'' Green said of O'Neal. "And I have to not only make (good) with my play, but also let him know that I appreciate it. I honestly feel like I can help this team, and to give me that opportunity you have to be thankful. Not every 18-year vet is going to do that for a second-year guy. I shows the humility and the substance about Jermaine.''
O'Neal noticed in film study that any time he was on the floor, Clippers big men DeAndre Jordan and Griffing anchored themselves in the paint. So he went to Jackson, who had made the same discovery.
"Just an unselfish true professional that I don't take for granted and I appreciate,'' Jackson said of O'Neal.
O'Neal said he was doing what he should do. If he's going to set an example for selflessness, he'd better do it now. He is considering retirement after the season.
So he submerged his ego for the sake of the team.
"Ego is for losers,'' O'Neal said. "There's no ego in winning. We talked a lot about that coming into the season. We talked about coming out of the (All-Star) break. What are you willing to sacrifice for this team to win?
"I don't care if I play five minutes or if I play 30 minutes.''
O'Neal was smiling when he said this, perhaps because the Warriors had won, or maybe because he played a significant role simply by making it easier for his coach.