Inspired Draymond leading Warriors through troubled waters originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
It was 55 days ago that the Good Ship Dubs ran into an iceberg. The damage was immediate and severe. There was good reason to wonder if the Warriors’ heralded “culture” could keep them from sinking.
There was better reason to wonder if the turbulence might diminish the leadership and playing impact of Draymond Green, as it was his fit of temper that created the iceberg.
Ten days into the second month of the season, with the Warriors looking like a slightly more polite version than the team that won the NBA Finals five months ago, the answer is as loud as Green himself: No bleeping way.
At age 32, despite eight consecutive years of punishment that would steal inches off most spines, Green is playing as well as ever. He might be motivated by the fact that he can opt out of his contract next summer, but he has been highly effective on defense and stunningly efficient on offense.
And it’s important to note, as this was a legitimate concern, the Warriors still are responding to his voice and presence.
Responding positively, that is.
“Draymond has everything to do with our team’s success,” coach Steve Kerr said Friday, after Green kept the team’s second unit upright in a victory over the Jazz at Chase Center. “This guy is just so good at the game. The entire game, he just gets it. He sees it at both ends.”
So Green, for an encore, was even better against the Timberwolves on Sunday at Target Center in Minneapolis. His seven-assist first quarter set a tone that carried the Warriors through most of a 137-114 rout in which they built a double-digit lead in the first six minutes and never lost it.
Draymond in 32 minutes scored 19 points on seven field goals, recorded a game-high 11 assists and blocked a couple shots while being primarily responsible for the Warriors neutralizing Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota’s decorated 7-footers.
“I’ve said for years that Draymond is the heartbeat of our team," Kerr told reporters at Target Center. "He’s the guy who kind of makes everything go. He’s the motivator. He’s the bully who protects his teammates on the floor and talks trash.
“This guy is just so good at basketball. When you just look at the total game -- I know people focus on his defense -- but he had 11 assists tonight and no turnovers. He was all over the place defensively. He looked to attack; he scored 19 points. He is having a tremendous season, All-Star-caliber play.”
Green is averaging 8.8 points (highest since 2017-18) on astonishing 60.2 percent shooting from the field (highest of his career by far, and probably not sustainable), including 36.4 percent from distance (very sustainable). He also is one of two players -- Suns point guard Chris Paul the other -- with multiple games this season of at least 10 assists without a turnover.
But it is Draymond’s numbers in the least glamorous aspects of the game that speak to his raging commitment. He leads the Warriors in deflections and in charges drawn, is second in contested 2-point shots (behind Kevon Looney), contested 3-point shots (behind Andrew Wiggins) and screen assists (behind Looney).
“He does it all,” Klay Thompson said Sunday. “He’s Mr. Everything. He rebounds. He guards five positions. He talks. He hits the open man. He makes commands on defense.
“Steph [Curry], as much as he changed the game at the point guard position and the ability to shoot the ball from anywhere, I think Draymond has also changed the game with what a modern-day power forward looks like. He’s a position-less player. And I think every team would love to have a player like him.”
Perhaps the greatest impression Green is making on the Warriors this season came nine days ago. Displeased with a second unit that allowed the Rockets to open the second quarter with a 13-0 run, wiping out Golden State’s 12-point lead in less than three minutes, Kerr installed Draymond to open the fourth quarter. The Warriors won the quarter and the game.
Draymond stabilized that previously unsettled and ineffective unit and has been steering it ever since. He has not allowed that unit to continue its habit of giving away leads, much less games.
“It's just my role to figure out where we are,” he said on Friday. “It's hard sometimes for a coach to get play calls within the flow of the game. I just kind of look at it like it is my role to initiate the offense and make sure that we're getting good possessions each time down.”
The Warriors spent the first month of the season taking on water. Losses were coming faster than wins. The defense was a soggy mess, the offense losing its compass each time Curry took a few minutes to refresh.
There was an undercurrent of anxiety about where the Warriors were headed -- and whether they had moved Draymond’s punch to the face of Jordan Poole or whether it had introduced rot to their relatively pristine underpinnings.
To look at the Warriors now is to see a squad steering around and through the hazard that endangered their chances of another winning season.
The iceberg is not currently visible, which doesn’t necessarily confirm it has melted. It’s certainly not as imposing as it seemed a few weeks ago, and Draymond is doing his part to keep it that way.