Q&A: Draymond Green seeks All-Star status

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

After a recent game, Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers noted the unpredictability of his job, saying: "I don't have a crystal ball. How was I supposed to know Draymond would be a $16 million-a-year player?"

With a smile, Draymond Green interjected, "Yeah, I was thinking, like, maybe $7, $8 million. Who saw this coming?"

Green has arrived as a crucial player for a championship team and now a man making in excess of $80 million over the next five seasons. The 35th overall pick in the 2012 draft has already exceeded reasonable expectations, but he has a loftier goal in his sights for this season: an All-Star selection.

That objective would have seemed like a joke last season, when ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy was the lone voice in a wilderness still skeptical of Green. This season, Green has been even better, expanding his versatility with more self-generated fast breaks and racking up 6.9 assists per game (up from 3.7 last season) as a result of converting rebounds to dimes.

That's the rare conventional stat that flatters Green's game, as he tends to excel in unsung feats. The greatest arguments in Green's favor are usually made by team-success metrics like real plus-minus, in which he ranked ninth in the NBA last season.

There's no popular stat for, "shot-clock efficiency" or "amount of positions capably guarded" or "quality of screens set." Maybe all this is the purview of "role player," the dirty work that isn't supposed to result in All-Star shine. Yet Green is doing it all so well that he's making a star's impact. As coach Steve Kerr told ESPN recently: "He's so unique. He does everything so well and some things that no one else does."

I caught up with Green at a Warriors practice this week, on a day where he was set to play despite a sinus illness.

I remember you saying that All-Star is one of your goals. What's the first time you started thinking it could be possible, that you could attain that goal?

Green: I remember, my second year in the NBA, I told my Nike rep, Adrian Stelly, I told him, "Yo, I'm gonna be an All-Star in this league." Me and Adrian, we have the type of relationship where it's not player-shoe rep. We're way closer than that. So, he's somebody I talk to all the time about various things. I told him, "Yo, I'ma be an All-Star this year." And he was like, "Why don't I believe you?" He's like, "If you won't believe it, you won't believe it." And I was like, "No, I really think I'm going to be an All-Star in the league." From that point on, it's just been constantly working to get there. And still working to get there. I'd say last year was the first time that I really noticed, it's not only a dream of mine, it's not something I'm speaking and thinking I can do, but it's really a possibility.

Team USA is another goal of yours. You were at the camp this summer. Did you learn anything? I heard that you and Blake Griffin are boys now, that you hang out now. That's just word on the street.

Green: You know, we don't hang out.

That's word on the street!

Green: I definitely say we're way more cordial than we were before, which is cool. Because [when you] go through that stuff, you see a different side of guys, as opposed to me trying to kill you or you trying to kill me, you actually get to see guys' personalities. Because you're on the same team, pretty much. I like to think of that as, when you go through that type of stuff, you really meet who that person is, not the Draymond Green everybody hates when they playing against him because he's doing whatever it takes, or maybe a pest on the floor, whatever it is, or, you know, the Blake Griffin that everybody hates. You meet the real person. And that's what I really like about those things, you really get to see what you really do.

Did you learn anything?

Green: I learned a lot. Any time you're around those guys, all the top guys are there. Number one, just how they work. You've got guys up at 8 a.m. before 10 o'clock practice working out. And then you realize if you're working hard enough or should you be working harder. All that stuff makes a difference. You learn little stuff that people do. It's just great to be around. I was always taught, even as a kid, playing against grown men, you get better. When you play against people that's better than you, you get better.

Who did the most in terms of work there?

Green: Being that we were only there three days, we didn't get to really see the whole experience. For instance, I knew Blake was up every morning working out with Jeff Capel, his coach from college. Just had different guys working. There was KD [Kevin Durant], [Russell] Westbrook, James [Harden] getting their work in, Steph [Curry] getting his work in. It's cool to see.

It seems you've really taken the fast breaks up a level this season. You replaced Magic Johnson as top Michigan State donor. Are you trying to steal from his game too?

Green: Nah, that's a tough game to steal right there. I don't know if I could steal that one if I wanted to. But you know, I just, when you look at the numbers for when I push the ball and how successful we are, it makes you want to do it more, and I know that it's more of a weapon. Whereas it's something that the team has to game plan for, and if that's something they have to game plan for, that's just another thing they're worried about. So, I just try to do a little more of it.

Seems like you kind of change your speeds during the fast break.

Green: It's just kind of a feel. I know when I need to be pushing it full speed, I know when I got to probe and allow the flow to open up, because, at the end of the day, on the basketball court, something's going to open up. You've just got to give the defense time to break down. Just because it's a break doesn't mean it has to be fast all the time. It can be a secondary break, but you've got to allow the defense to break down.

Some of the time, that open shot is going to be because it's fast. And sometimes you gotta let the floor clear out and let everybody move. I think it's just more of a pace and seeing the floor, and also a part of that is helped by knowing where our guys are going to be on the floor as well. I know Steph's running to the wing. I know Klay [Thompson]'s running to the wing or to the corner. I know HB's [Harrison Barnes] running to the corner and cutting in. I know Andre [Iguodala]'s probably cutting in. I know Festus [Ezeli] is running to the rim. It's about knowing where your guys are going to be as well.

Would you say that you're the best screener in the NBA?

Green: I'd like to think so. I'd definitely like to think so.

How does one be a good screener? Is it about knowing what the defensive player's going to do?

Green: I think it's more so about, number one, knowing your teammate, what they like to do. Number two, knowing angles. What angle do you want a person to take on your man who you're screening for.

Like knowing that everyone's going to go over on Steph, so you set the screen accordingly?

Green: Absolutely. So, know that he's going to go over, but also make him have to take a tougher route over, which is all Steph needs is half an inch and he gonna get the shot off. I think a lot of it is about angles.

I saw you mention Isaiah Thomas on Twitter, talking about how it's hard when you don't fit the mold. So you feel like you know what that's like, huh?

Green: I mean, it's happened with me my entire career. He's not big enough, he's not strong enough, what position does he play? So, it's a little different where you're 5-foot-8, but I understand.

And you feel like not fitting the mold is a stigma that's hard to shake?

Green: It's definitely something that's hard to shake. Over the course of time, I don't think you can ever really completely shake it. Because, soon as something goes wrong, they say, "Oh, he's bigger than him." "Well, he's too small." So, I don't think it's something you can ever completely shake.

So even making All-Star might not do it?

Green: Maybe not. Maybe it will. [Smiling] Hopefully we get to find out, right?