JaMychal Green's impressive return shows why Warriors coveted him

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JMG shows why Warriors coveted him in impressive return originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Over the offseason, the Warriors lost a combination of veteran experience and toughness with players who have had to fight and claw to make a name for themselves in the NBA. Those components are vital to a championship team, and have factored into the Warriors' slow start this season.

That's where JaMychal Green was supposed to fit in.

Green is 32 years old, is with his fifth franchise and is in his ninth NBA season after going undrafted out of Alabama. The Warriors have a long history playing against him and jumped at the opportunity to sign Green to a one-year, $2.6 million contract when he became a free agent over the summer. Golden State's 120-114 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse without six players and four starters showed why.

"For him to come back after a month and bring that type of force, knock down three threes," Steve Kerr said to reporters in Cleveland after the win, "... JaMychal played a huge role in [the win]."

At the 7:49 mark of the first quarter, Green checked into his first game since Dec. 18, 2022. Two minutes later, Green grabbed a defensive rebound, ran down the court and nailed a 3-pointer at the top of the arc. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, who all were in street clothes after Thursday night's overtime loss to the Boston Celtics, rose out of their seats and threw up three fingers in celebration.

All three have played over a decade in the NBA and have the utmost respect for Green. They respect his hustle and wanted him in San Francisco. They also know how much he was missed over the last month, for his mentality as much as his skill set.

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It didn't take long for Green to show his value in a multitude of ways. Green scored eight points in the first quarter alone, along with four rebounds and two 3-pointers. By halftime, Green had tied his season high of three 3-pointers. He also had three fouls in the first half, with the third being on a screen where Lamar Stevens grabbed at his ribs and had to gingerly walk to the sidelines.

"Shout out to JaMychal," Jordan Poole said. "He gave us some huge boards and he's just a different force out there."

The Warriors' dynasty forever will be remembered for star power and changing the game from behind the 3-point line. Along the way, enforcers found their role and rode it to a ring. They needed the Warriors and the Warriors needed them.

Green can be that this season. He lost to Golden State in the playoffs three different times with three different teams. At 32 years old, Green snarls as he smiles and takes joy in intimidation, willing to do what it takes to win a title.

After missing 14 straight games, first to being placed in the league's health and safety protocols and then to a lower right leg infection, Green played 16 minutes off the bench in the Warriors' six-point win. He scored 13 points, his second-highest this season. His eight rebounds also were his second-most this season.

"It feels great, feels great," Green said when asked about his performance. "I didn't know. I was worried about the rhythm and my touch and just everything out there. It feels great to finally be out there, to play well and to get the win."

This was a long time coming after a frustrating last month for Green. He was hit with COVID during the Warriors' six-game road trip near the end of the year and had to stay back in New York for about a week. Standing 6-foot-8 and bored out of his mind in a little room, Green wanted to buy a ticket home and put an end to an unfortunate situation.

As he watched movies and binged shows, teammates and coaches checked in on Green all the time. New to the Warriors, that went a long way. Then came his leg infection, another bump in a tough season for the veteran.

"Don't pop a bump, don't pop a zit," Green said. "It was crazy, it was unexpected. I thought it was something that could go away quick, but it just flared up on me and got worse. Just glad we stayed on top of it before it got worse."

Not too long ago, Green was having trouble walking and had to be hospitalized for a night and missed a month. The season hasn't gone as planned. Going into Friday night, he was averaging 5.8 points and 4.0 rebounds while shooting only 26.5 percent on 3-pointers. Green's 112 defensive rating entering the game was the worst of his career, and his 108 offensive rating was his second worst.

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But in his last game prior to being shelved for so long, Green scored 15 points with seven rebounds and two 3-pointers in a win against the Toronto Raptors. He also scored 15 points two games before that in a loss to the Indiana Pacers, a game where he added five rebounds and was a perfect 3-for-3 on 3-pointers.

Adjusting to a new team isn't easy. Green began finding his stride, and with freedom. That's the feeling Kerr pushed on him more than anything. The message was heard loud and clear.

"Before I got COVID, I was playing free," Green said. "I got out of my own way, wasn't thinking too much in the game or mistakes. Just coming out and playing free.

"Tonight, Steve told me to just 'Go out there and play free. I know you missed a few games, I know you might make mistakes, but just play through it.' I needed to hear that.' "

Role players have been sorely missed this season. The importance of Green's role was apparent in his first game back, an improbable win before a happy flight home.

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