Draymond Green has always been and will forever be the beating heart of whatever team he is on. The future Hall of Famer plays with his emotions on his sleeve, as if the fate of civilization rests on his ability to race from end to end. He is reviled and revered, and not in equal measure thanks largely in part to his own open embrace of the villain role.
But times and people change.
The Golden State Warriors forward recently had an epiphany. Watching game tape of his histrionics and seeing his young son emulate some of his worst tendencies caused him to reconsider his demeanor. He’s made a concerted effort to channel his emotions into positivity.
And it’s made a huge difference.
Green’s on-court actions have always been maddening. At Michigan State, where he transformed himself from a pudgy glue guy to a superstar, he would toe the line of what college players are allowed to do when it comes to interacting with officials. He’d bark at his own teammates. He’d pout and whine while dominating the game.
The act got exponentially worse in the NBA. He turned into a part-time, often full-time lawyer in between most possessions. His combustible nature and short fuse was instrumental in costing his team a title. The Butterfly Effect of his ill-advised kick of LeBron James changed history.
And yes, some of this is just the new nature of the NBA. But the referees, faults and all, are human. Withstanding a non-stop verbal assault does not make them want to give that player the benefit of the doubt. A player’s credibility is also weakened when he complains about obvious calls. The guy who cries wolf is a lot harder to believe when he actually has a case.
Green’s DNA will always be that of a fierce competitor. He challenges teammates, opponents, and officials alike. The person he challenges the most, though, is himself.
He wouldn’t be the player he is without embracing the golden chip on his shoulder. He is not a silver spoon type of guy. Saginaw is in his blood.
There is so much to admire about the guy as a basketball player underneath what has been a long-running and tired act. Even at his worst, it was hard not to give him begrudging respect for his will to win and willingness to anything to achieve that goal.
But if he’s going to do a face turn and set aside all the annoying parts of his on-court demeanor, that’s a game-changer. How does he not immediately catapult up to a fan favorite, even outside of the Bay Area? How does he not immediately become a more enjoyable and enjoyed basketball player?
The thing standing in his way was himself. He played and loved the heel role. And one can wonder how long this new and improved Green will last, but while it does, oh my is it going to be fun.
The early results speak for themselves. In a four-game sweep over Portland, the forward stuffed the stat sheet to the gills (16.8 points/game, 11.8 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 2.8 blocks, and 2.3 steals). He shot 54 percent from the field and averaged a +10.3. Then there are the intangibles.
The veteran picked up a sulking Jordan Bell after a missed dunk, a viral and bite-sized version of a weightier dish of leadership Green cooks up behind the scenes.
Kevin Durant may return for the NBA Finals. His absence has sparked a debate over who is most important to the Warriors’ success. Jokes aside, it may be Green.
And the new Green is even better than the old Green. He’s not expending energy toward dead-end, selfish goals. He’s using every drop of his impressive reserve for the ultimate goal of winning.
This is a remarkable face turn and a spectacular metamorphosis. It’s not hyperbole to say that if he sticks with it, he’ll totally change his legacy for the better.