It’s funny that on a team full of superstars, with two generational talents in Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant and a premier two-way player in Klay Thompson, the engine that keeps the Warriors running is a chubby power forward who is one of the most volatile players in the NBA.
As Draymond Green goes, the Warriors go. The jack-of-all-trades has the ability to swing a game with his emotions, to make an enormous impact without even making it on the stat sheet and to incite an entire crowd of over 20,000 to chant his name.
The third quarter of Game 4 epitomized the effect that Green has. Make no mistake: Draymond is Public Enemy No. 1 in Ohio, despised more than the Michigan Wolverines or Ben Roethlisberger. It was unnecessary for the Jumbotron at Quicken Loans Arena to display a University of Michigan logo or a picture of Big Ben while Green received what the crowd believed to be his second technical foul in the third quarter — the “Draymond sucks” chant was already loud and clear.
Seven technicals were handed out in total in the Cavaliers’ Game 4 win Friday, and though only one was attributed to Green, he might as well have received all of them, if the crowd had its way.
So when Green squeezed into a crowded auxiliary interview room adjacent to the Warriors’ locker room after the game, there was no doubt he was going to speak his mind, starting with what he believed was weak technical against him for arguing a call:
“I haven’t even been in anybody’s face, and I’ve been getting techs. Some things just never change. I just keep playing basketball. Ain’t no tech going to stop me from being me. If I’m going to get them, let me earn them. Let me get my money’s worth if I’m going to get some techs.”
Next, the fans — err, rather, the entire population of Cleveland:
“I don’t pay much attention to anybody in Cleveland, obviously. They don’t seem to be the sharpest people around.”
Green has been a fighter his whole life. From growing up in Saginaw, Michigan, to being an underappreciated leader of a National powerhouse basketball program at Michigan State, to being an unproven second round pick, this is the way he’s always been. It’s just that now: he’s on the big stage, rubbing elbows with LeBron James and spouting insults in front of the world.
That got him in trouble in last year’s Finals, when he was suspended for Game 5 after tapping James in the groin. That earned him the ire of Cleveland, and it also, in his own opinion, cost the Warriors the championship.
But this time, instead of watching Game 5 from a suite at an Athletics game in the Coliseum while his team played next door, he should be on the floor, much to his relief:
“Thank God I get to play on Monday. Hopefully.”
Very few players possess Green’s versatility — the ability to defend all five positions and to do just about everything on offense from shooting to passing to post play. But few players possess his outlandish temper, the way he storms off after foul calls to yell at officials, throwing up his hands in disbelief.
That’s the fine line he must walk to stay on the court and help the Warriors close out the Cavaliers, to use his basketball talents and be that Energizer bunny without getting him thrown out of the court.
Because Green doesn’t seem to mind the hostility – he thrives on it. Amid the chorus of jeers in the third quarter on Friday, he clapped back at the fans, motioning for them to keep it going, to keep bringing it, all the while bobbing his head to the rhythm:
“It makes me feel good. It shows me how important I am to them. They be thinking about me. If you’re coming to the game chanting at me, you’re at home thinking about me. So shoutout to them. I appreciate the love.”
Green is a throwback, one of the few players on his team willing to go off-script and be completely honest. While Thompson and Shaun Livingston’s media availability lasted a few minutes each, Green stood in front of the media in that cramped interview room for more than eight minutes, seemingly enjoying the banter and ripping officials and the city of Cleveland, saying mid-interview:
“I love ya’ll, I appreciate ya’ll. I’m having a great time right now.”
And when the media ran out of questions, he playfully said:
“That’s it? I never wanted this to end.”