Unless they played close attention to the Warriors’ first-round series against the Clippers, most casual fans don’t know about Draymond Green. Too bad. But the reserve played an increasingly important role for Golden State throughout the regular season. And when center Andrew Bogut got sidelined heading into the playoffs and veteran backup Jermaine O’Neal went down midway through the series against LA, the second-year forward ended up starting the final four games. Green’s postseason averages of 11.9 ppg and 8.3 rpg almost doubling his regular-season numbers.
The 6’7” forward doesn’t really have a position but succeeded because he’s mastered the little things and doesn’t know how to back down. That allowed then-Warriors coach Mark Jackson to assign him to defend both seven-footers and point guards. Green’s versatile, cerebral game is quickly carving him a niche in the league.
That even-keeled approach carries over to off the court, too, as the Saginaw, Mich. native gives back to his home state in offseason charity efforts and mentors the current players at his alma mater, Michigan State, including likely first-round pick Gary Harris. Already highly regarded in the league for his character, instead of splurging on the typical early-career purchases, Green’s biggest vice is indulging his sneaker habit, making up for lost time after a blue-collar upbringing.
It isn’t necessarily the glamorous lifestyle one imagines when thinking of an NBA player—working out on campus with his old college team instead of Vegas or Cali, making appearances at community functions instead of jet-setting somewhere to party, copping new kicks instead of a new car—but as you’ll see, staying true to his roots has always been Green’s M.O.
I’m that same kid who comes from the north side of Saginaw, who people said wouldn’t make it or I wouldn’t be able to live this dream. But with a lot of help along the way and being blessed from God, I’m living that dream.
WHAT HE’S BEEN DOING SINCE THE WARRIORS’ SEASON ENDED:
I’m actually back here in East Lansing, Mich. already. That’s where I train throughout my offseason. It’s always good to get a chance to be back home, although it’s bittersweet. You always want to get a chance to spend time with your family, but you’d rather be playing. I’m taking a couple weeks off and getting back to the grind. I still [work out] with Coach Izzo and them, but for the most part, I do individual workouts. Travis Walton, my former [Michigan State] teammate, he’s actually really good with workouts, so I do a lot of workouts with him. I still lift with the guys when they lift. I do some stuff on my own, as well. I try to stay in touch with the guys and sometimes I get one or two of them and work out with them a few times a week. So it’s gonna help them, but it’s also gonna help better me, as well, because you’re gonna play some one-on-one or two-on-two.
ON WHETHER HE SEES HIMSELF AS A BIG BROTHER TO THE CURRENT MICHIGAN STATE TEAM:
Absolutely. All of them are my little brothers. Obviously there’s still some guys on the team that I played with, so that always keeps you close. But I’ve even become close with the guys who came after me—Denzel [Valentine], Gary [Harris], Alvin [Ellis]—all those guys and I love Michigan State. I’ll always look at those guys like they’re my little brothers because they are. Blood couldn’t make us any closer. At the end of the day, we sparked and I’ve been through the same grind they’re on and I’ll always appreciate it, and I love this school with all my heart. So for them to grind the same way I grinded, to give their all for Michigan State the same way I did, I love those guys.
ON GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY:
I try to do as much charity stuff as possible. My financial, business management group, it’s called Compass Management and we did a gala. It was to raise money for underprivileged youth and also raise money for PAL [the Police Athletic League]. So I try to do what I can to give back. I’ve actually got another charity event coming up next weekend with Compass. I try to go to charity golf tournaments. Lamarr Woodley [a fellow Saginaw native and veteran Oakland Raiders pass rusher], he does one in my hometown. So I always try to attend those things and help out in any way that I possibly can.
I’m gonna start to do more of that stuff on my own. I really want to try to solidify myself to take care of what I need to take care of first, before I start doing all those things on my ownI’m never gonna forget where I came from and what Saginaw gave me. I’ll try to give back because there’s so many kids like me, not only in Saginaw, but in the state of Michigan. It’s like, you’ve got that hoop dream, but can you really make it? I’d just like to show them and tell them that yes, it is possible. It’s not even all about basketball. Whatever your dream is, whatever your goal is, it is possible because I’m that same kid who comes from the north side of Saginaw, who people said wouldn’t make it or I wouldn’t be able to live this dream. But with a lot of help along the way and being blessed from God, I’m living that dream. Whether you’re that kid from Saginaw, whether you’re that kid from Flint, Detroit, Pontiac, it’s possible.
We already get out and do charity stuff in the Bay with the Warriors. I would like to help the Bay Area, as well, because Oakland is just like Saginaw. It’s some good things about Oakland, just like it’s some good things about Saginaw. But it’s so many negative things, that that’s what’s gonna get the pub. You’ve got guys from Oakland like Marshawn Lynch and Damian Lillard, that are doing some things out there, as well. But that’s where I play and those people embrace me, so I embrace the area.
ON PEOPLE DOUBTING HE WAS A FUTURE PRO AFTER SEEING HIM PLAY IN HIGH SCHOOL:
I’m not gonna lie to you: A lot of people didn’t. People told me I wouldn’t make it in college. That’s what continues to make me want to do more, people saying I can’t do it or what I can do. I respect that because a lot of people will lie. They’ll say, ‘I knew you were gonna do this, I knew you were gonna do that.’ It was the same person that was behind my back like, ‘He ain’t gonna do nothing.’
I’ll be real about it: I was fat. I was out of shape. I had some skill, but it was like, ‘Man, this dude is undersized. He’s too big.’ Obviously you didn’t know I could move like I move now with all the weight on me, so it was like, ‘He’s too slow.’ I mean, I understand. One thing I’m not is a fool. I’m not a fool by far and I knew there were some things I had to do to put myself in a position in order to make it.
ON BEING A SNEAKERHEAD:
I have a pretty good collection, especially that I didn’t really start—I’ve always loved shoes, but I couldn’t afford them. So a lot of the top shoes would come out and my older brother, he used to get me some J’s. But if he got me some J’s, it was like that’s my pair of shoes. So I’m trying to find whatever I can to wear with them because I’m wearing these every day. I wasn’t able to just say, ‘Yeah, I’ve got these. These will start a collection.’ I didn’t have a collection! If I got some J’s, that was my everyday shoe. So it wasn’t like you’re fitting to keep them clean or anything like that. I’m hooping at lunchtime in those, I’m wearing them to school, I’m doing whatever I’ve gotta do in those.
Some of my homeboys, they used to do have all the kicks and even sometimes, their parents would miss out on paying bills to make sure they were fresh in school and have the new kicks coming out, new Forces. My mom would never do that and I’m like, man, she wouldn’t do any of that and it really made me appreciate it because she was struggling. She did whatever she could for us, but it also made me realize there’s priority and there’s want. You’ve got some things that you want and then you’ve got some things that we need, and whatever we needed, she made sure we had. But the stuff we wanted, we couldn’t get it.
So my senior year [at Michigan State], when I learned how to budget my money right, I started really collecting, and then going into my rookie year last year and even this year, I caught up on old stuff. I’ve got old stuff in my collection. Some guys, it’s like, ‘Oh, I want this crazy car. Because I couldn’t get it then, I want that now.’ My thing is I’ve always loved shoes; I could never afford them. I can catch up now and I’ve got a real nice collection. My senior year of high school, I remember I had two pair of J’s and my brother bought both of them. It was the Jordan Aqua 8’s and the playoff 8’s. That’s all I had my whole senior year, so I’m trying to find whatever—I got shirts made, airbrushed, printed for $10, $15 from dudes hustling—trying to come up around the city to go with those shoes.
My favorite pair? I’ve got the Melo 2’s, that’s one of my favorites. The Anniversary 4’s. The Rising Sun 12’s and the Red Octobers, and the LeBron 10s. That’s probably my top five. But I’ve got a lot of stuff, though. I’m talking about going back, like heat.
ON MAKING A NAME FOR HIMSELF IN THE LEAGUE:
I’ve made a name for myself, but I have to thank Coach Jackson a lot for that because he gave me an opportunity. When there were guys he could have easily played in front of me, he gave me an opportunity and let me show what I can do. So I’m not sure if I was on another team, I would have ever got that opportunity. I would probably still be more of an enigma: ‘What position can he guard?’ All those questions would probably still be sitting there. Coach Jackson, he gave me the opportunity to showcase everything I could do. He put me on point guards, he put me on centers. He would switch me from Blake Griffin to Chris Paul in one play. Just all those things that were helping the team, but was also allowing me to show what I was capable of, that a lot of coaches wouldn’t do.
I took advantage of the injuries [to some of his Warriors teammates], I definitely did and you have to because you never know what your opportunity is gonna be, whether you’re a top-20 pick and you walk into some minutes just because you were picked that high, or you’re the 35th pick and you’ve just gotta grind your way up, and that’s been my entire life. One thing I said on draft night, I was supposed to go first round and I was like, ‘Man, I fell out of the first round. They doubted me again.’ But I said, ‘You know what? I’m happy I went second round because if I went first round it wouldn’t fit my story. From playing [on the freshman team] as a freshman to starting every game as a sophomore in high school, to going on to being one of the best players to playing at that school and winning two state championships. To going to Michigan State, hardly playing my freshman year—everybody told me I was stupid for going there because I was gonna be playing behind Delvon Roe—to being the all-time leading rebounder at Michigan State, being a consensus All-American, [NABC] national player of the year.
Being a first-round pick? That doesn’t go with that. That doesn’t fit my story. So I definitely took advantage of the injuries. I never wish that on anybody and I love my teammates. But if a guy goes down, you’ve gotta be ready to step up. When David [Lee] went down, I was ready to step up. [Andrew] Bogut goes down, I was ready to step up. No matter who it was, I had to be ready. Coach Jackson, I’ll never forget, right before the first game of my rookie year, he pulled me to the side and he told me, ‘Hey, I don’t know how much you’re gonna play or if you’re gonna play, but one thing I know about this league, stuff always seems to happen. Make sure you’re ready when your time comes.’ The first game, very first game of my rookie season, I played 19 seconds. In the second game, Brandon Rush tore his ACL. We all walked over to check on B-Rush and [Jackson] said, ‘Man, I told you, crazy stuff happens. Make sure you’re ready.’ That game, I still played three minutes and 21 seconds. So I was like, ‘Man, all right. So I’m gonna stay ready.’ So this year with the injuries, I had already made a name for myself, Coach Jackson knew what I was capable of and when those injuries happened, I got more and more comfortable in roles, whether it was starting or playing increased minutes off the bench and just took advantage of it.
ON GOLDEN STATE FIRING MARK JACKSON:
I’m not Steph Curry. I can’t really sit here and say, ‘Hey, I want this out of the next coach. [Golden State owner] Joe Lacob, go get this or [GM] Bob Myers, go get that.’ I’ve just gotta be ready to adjust to whoever comes next and make my mark with that coach. As far as Coach Jackson, it’s disappointing because I support Coach Jackson to the fullest. I feel like he’s been great, but at the end of the day, it’s a business and it’s like a Fortune 500 company. Everybody’s gonna do what they feel is best, and I guess ownership and the front office, they felt like that was the best move.
One thing I do know about our ownership and our front office is they want to win. I know that for sure, just by the moves they’ve made over the past two or three years. They want to win. Joe’s so just intense on the sideline, and I can say this because I’m the same type: He wears his emotions on his sleeve. If something’s not going right, you can see it on the sideline on our owner’s face and I’m the same way on the court. If it’s not going right, you can see it and I don’t fault people like that because I’m the same way, so I know for sure our ownership and our front office want to win, and they’re gonna put us in the best position possible. I think Coach Jackson was great. I know he’ll continue to do great wherever he ends up and they’ll end up with a great coach.