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Warriors vs. Blazers: How Draymond Green's son led him to honest introspection, and the best stretch of his NBA career

Green took a good, hard look in the mirror after seeing himself through his son's eyes
 

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Draymond Green's face lights up when he talks about his son. Sure, he smiles and laughs when he rips on Steph Curry's fashion choices prior to speaking with the media the day after yet another phenomenal playoff performance led to a Golden State Warriors Game 3 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. But when he starts talking about his family, it's different. The bravado and swagger melt and give way to sincerity and astonishment when Green proudly gushes about Draymond Jr.

They say parenthood forces you to grow up quickly, and Green's son has directly contributed to a shift in focus this postseason that's led to one of the best stretches of his career. He's averaging 13.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.3 steals this postseason, and has been pretty close to the best player in a Western Conference finals featuring Curry, Damian LillardKlay Thompson and CJ McCollum.

So what did Draymond Jr. do to make his father take a hard look in the mirror? He mimicked his dad's negative body language.

"Yeah, he plays on his little hoop and then he'll stomp around. It's like, I like the intensity but slow down, young fella," Green told reporters on Sunday. "I realize how impressionable the kids are at the ages they're at. I just really want to be a good example for them and show them the right thing. My son was playing, he was shooting and flopping. I was like, 'You've got to stop watching the NBA.' He'd fall on the floor: 'Oh, Daddy, help me up.' What are you flopping for?

"Just really impressionable at this age. I want to make sure I'm setting a good example for them as well."

Green tied for the league lead with 16 technical fouls during the regular season after finishing second last season. But with his influence on his son and other young fans at the forefront of his mind, Green has made an active effort to rein in his infamous tendency to argue with officials and outwardly display his negative emotions.

While studying film, Green would watch himself reacting to calls or arguing with refs, and the embarrassment would set in.

"It was disgusting to me," Green said. "I remember one time earlier this year, I got into it with [NBA official] Zach Zarba. After the game, it was just like, 'Wow, that was embarrassing.' And so it's something I really wanted to be mindful of, especially coming into these playoffs."

Perhaps Green's most recognizable blow-up came during the 2016 NBA Finals, when he got caught up with LeBron James and ended up striking James in the groin area. Green was assessed a flagrant foul, which placed him over the postseason limit and earned him a suspension that many feel cost the Warriors that season's championship.

"I've been a victim of that type of scenario before, and I can't make the same mistake twice," Green said. "I also realize how much energy I was wasting on something that I can't change. I can go cry and complain about a call all I want. It's not changing. So why even focus my energy toward that? It's pointless. So I just try to really be more mindful of it."

Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who has seen the good and the bad of Green for years, has also noticed a change in the player he calls the "emotional leader" of the Warriors.

"I've definitely been aware of the improvement just in his focus. I mean, I think that's been really obvious over the last couple of weeks, and I think it's important because, when he gets upset and emotional, it costs us. We lose our focus as a team," Kerr said on Sunday. "I mean, he's our leader. He's our emotional leader out there. So if he can play like he did last night in terms of just moving on to the next play after something goes wrong, that's a huge boost to our team."

A perfect example came after one of the most pivotal plays of Game 3. With the Warriors in the middle of their third-quarter run that eventually erased the Blazers' lead, second-year center Jordan Bell missed a wide-open, breakaway dunk. The mishap threatened to reverse the momentum the Warriors had gained over the course of their run, and Green's initial reaction was to throw his hands in the air and drop his head. But he quickly regrouped and offered words of encouragement to Bell to get his young teammate's head back in the game.

"My teammates always tell me, 'We follow your body language,' " Green said after Game 3. "So in that moment, I just wanted to make sure my body language stayed positive."

Despite his reputation for in-game outbursts, Green thinks the rationale that he's simply an emotional player is a cop-out. He cited the biggest chemistry blip of the Warriors' dynasty, the blowup between himself and Kevin Durantthat earned Green a one-game suspension earlier this season, when discussing his ability to control his emotions.

"It's funny because when the stuff happened with Kevin earlier this year, he said everybody kind of thinks, 'Oh, that's just Draymond; he's emotional,' " Green said. "But he said to me then: 'You're not emotional; I've seen you locked in and not say a word to the referees. I'm not giving you that pass.' And that's kind of stuck with me, too."

Whatever Green has been doing, it's working. As crucial as he's been to this Warriors dynasty over the past few years, this recent stretch without Durant could be Green's most impactful so far, considering the load he has to shoulder on both ends of the court while playing huge minutes and constantly pushing the pace to seemingly unsustainable levels.

"I just know he's playing unbelievably well right now," Kerr said after Game 3. "He's playing with force. He's playing with discipline. He's playing under control. He's not letting anything bother him. You know, officiating, bad shots, turnovers, he's just moving on to the next play. So from that standpoint, as good as he's ever been."

If this Warriors group does end up winning title No. 4 in a few weeks, they might have to make an extra child's size ring for Draymond Jr. as a thank you.

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