OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Not even Kevin Durant is spared Draymond Green’s running mouth.
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”I saw him actually playing volleyball, beach volleyball, in Brazil. He was bad,” Green said matter-of-factly, then grinned, ”really bad. Yeah, he was terrible.”
Green has taken his trash-talking to another level this postseason along with his defense. They tend to go hand in hand, and he pushes it right to the limit with the referees – to the delight of Durant and the rest of his teammates who are fueled by his ferocity. Green has also blocked a jaw-dropping 19 shots in just five playoff games.
”Hey, K, you told `em you love my trash talk? Respect, bro!” Green hollered to Durant the other day as KD fired up shots on the court some 15 feet away. ”Tell `em how I was talking to you today. … I locked him up one play.”
”I think it definitely fuels the team,” Green said. ”It just brings that energy, that life, that competitive nature to the game. Already playing with a team full of competitors, not like they need much anyway. But everybody needs that boost every now and then.”
Months ago, coach Steve Kerr predicted Green would have the biggest adjustment with the addition of Durant. Instead, Green relished his role of stopper even more while settling for fewer shots. In February against Memphis, he even became the first in NBA history with a triple-double that didn’t feature double-digit points: 12 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals.
That is Green’s style, and he is thrilled with his production while establishing a defensive mindset for the Warriors. He isn’t concerned his constant chatter could potentially motivate the opponent, saying, ”I never worry if it’s going to make a guy play better or not.”
While Durant insists he prefers to dunk than to swat shots, Green is the opposite.
”I’d rather have a block any day,” Green said, ”because that’s what I love to do. I love to stop someone else. That’s my thing. That’s what I take pride in. You can get a one-handed power dunk and you can celebrate but unless you just punch on somebody, you can’t really talk much to them about it. If you block their shot, you can say a lot. So I love saying a lot.”
And he has had ample chances. Green blocked 17 shots in a four-game sweep of Portland in the first round, an average of 4.25 per game, then two more in Tuesday’s Game 1 win against the Jazz in the Western Conference semifinals.
”That’s pretty amazing,” Green said. ”It’s a pretty cool thing. Somebody sent me a stat I was leading some teams.”
His teammates are blown away, too.
”Wow, he had 17? That’s remarkable,” Klay Thompson said. ”That’s incredible in four games, sheesh. I just see him take it to another level by trying to make a statement. He thought people around the (league) thought we were a finesse team. He wanted to reaffirm to them that we are a bunch of defensive stoppers and we play with great grit.”
With the multi-talented Green taking charge, defensive coach Ron Adams said, the Warriors have upped their focus and intensity during the playoffs to become more consistent on both ends of the floor.
”Draymond starkly exemplifies that perhaps more so than player X, but I think everyone in their own way has to do that,” Adams said. ”Here you have a guy who’s relentless, aggressive and smart and proactive, and just like in watching him, if you are playing with someone who does some of the things that he does I think you in turn get a better idea of how to do those things. Certainly you improve because you’re with that guy at the work bench every day, so you see it happening. That’s how we all learn.”
Green learned his own hard lessons a year ago when he was forced to sit out Game 5 of the NBA Finals while serving a suspension after being assessed a Flagrant 1 foul for his swipe at LeBron James’ shorts in Game 4. That landed the emotional Warriors forward next door at an Oakland Athletics game rather than helping his team close out the Cavs. The Warriors never did, squandering a 3-1 series lead and a chance at a repeat championship.
Yet Green is no longer looking back, despite all the months of scrutiny.
”Just craving the postseason,” he said. ”It’s a different level of basketball, one that you really can’t simulate during the regular season. I was definitely craving that and looking forward to getting to the playoffs, but no clean slate or whatever really matters to me.”