Sports

Green on big night: Not revenge, ‘making it right’

SAN FRANCISCO — Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green set a career high with 19 assists in racking up a triple-double during a 130-121 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

That the win came against the same team that beat the Warriors less than a week ago, on a night when Green got ejected in the final seconds and apologized to his teammates after the game for his actions, made the whole performance a little sweeter for the veteran leader.

“A revenge game would be a bit of a stretch,” Green said. “I would say it’s just me coming out and making it right. Trying to do whatever I can to help this team get a win. Can’t just forget about what happened last week, so I wouldn’t call it a revenge game.”

Green, 30, took responsibility for his emotional outburst in last Saturday’s loss to the Hornets, telling reporters on Monday how much he felt he had let his teammates down. While Warriors coach Steve Kerr said in the immediate aftermath of his meltdown that Green had “crossed the line,” both Kerr and Green’s teammates were confident he would rise to the occasion and perform at a higher level.

Green has backed up his words, combining for 30 points, 42 assists and 30 rebounds since the loss in Charlotte, leading the Warriors to their first three-game winning streak of the season.

“It means my teammates are playing well and it means we’re getting better,” Green said while discussing his career-best assist night. “I think earlier on in the year there were things that I would see that other guys weren’t seeing, but with the repetition, with the time together, guys are starting to see that. Kelly Oubre‘s been fantastic cutting off the ball, [Andrew Wiggins], obviously, I can always find Steph somewhere. [James Wiseman] coming and putting that pressure on the rim. So just me and my teammates are playing well.”

Kerr, who has repeatedly stood by Green throughout the season, had high praise for his forward in the wake of his best game of the season. When asked if Green’s skill set, notably his ability to defend multiple positions at a high level while also running an offense, was comparable to anybody else’s in the game, Kerr named the most accomplished player in the league.

“Maybe LeBron [James],” Kerr said of the Los Angeles Lakers star. “When you talk about a guy with size who handles the ball and controls the game and then can defend at the other end, but there aren’t many players. That’s the only one that comes to mind. And obviously LeBron and Draymond are very different players, but just in terms of making an impact on both ends, having that size and that brain to control the game and understand everything that’s happening, Draymond is really special.”

Green’s teammates always expected that he would turn things around after Saturday’s episode and really seem to be enjoying playing with a player who seems reenergized this year playing alongside Curry and a variety of young players.

“He’s just a natural leader,” Warriors swingman Oubre said of Green. “He’s somebody who can do multiple things on the basketball court. He stars in his role, and he’s been doing that for his whole career. And that takes a lot of pride — it takes a lot of selfless energy, and I think he’s really the glue. And he continues to just put us in our spots, continue to speed the tempo of the game, and that’s very rare when somebody his size, somebody who plays the 1-5, he can just dictate the game like that, so it’s great.”

Green struggled to find a rhythm at the start of the season because of a combination of a foot injury and COVID-19 protocols that forced him out of most of training camp and the first four games of the season. He said he finally feels like his old self again on the floor after putting in extra work with Warriors staffers and his own personal trainers in the offseason.

“I feel amazing,” Green said. “I’ve been doing a lot of work with Rick Celebrini every day just really getting the body right. … I was coming into the season in the best shape I had come into the season in years. And then, obviously, with the injuries and all of that, after sitting for a month, [conditioning] gets a little dicey, and trying to get my wind back and all of that stuff. … It’s all starting to come together for me.”

It’s not a coincidence that everything is starting to come together for the Warriors at the same time. The group is playing its best basketball of the season and is playing with an edge that grows sharper after each win.

“I kind of like the fact that nobody in the locker room was really that happy with the way we played,” Kerr said after Friday’s win. “We had some good moments and some good individual performances, but it was a wild game and an awkward game. The locker room was quiet and that’s a good sign. We’ve won three in a row and nobody is that happy. We know we can play better. It’s a sign that we think there is more to come.”

Green feels the same way. The Warriors feel like they’re hitting their stride at a nice time heading into the second half of the season.

“You can feel the confidence growing,” Green said. “When we step out there on the floor, you just feel better about it. Going into the game, everybody’s understanding the game plan better and executing the game plan better. So I definitely think we’re starting to build some momentum. We got to continue to do that.”

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