OAKLAND (AP) — His voice can be heard everywhere the Golden State Warriors go.
During games, he antagonizes opponents and challenges teammates. In the huddle, he shouts at coaches one moment and shares a laugh with them the next. And in practice, he barks at individuals not hustling and respects only those who earn it.
Anybody listening to Draymond Green quickly learns this is the way he approaches everything in life. Love him or hate him, it’s that all-out energy and no-nonsense attitude that has carried him from an overlooked second-round pick to one of the most important players on the NBA’s best team.
“One thing I’ve always been taught: you’re not going to shoot great every night, you may have some turnovers some nights, but one thing you can always do is bring effort,” Green said. “No matter what, no matter how I feel, always bring effort.”
While streaky shooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are the stars, Green is the spark for everything else Golden State (31-5) needs.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr has called Green the team’s heartbeat, vocal leader and just about every other sports cliche that the former TNT broadcaster typically avoids. He has simply run out of ways to describe Green, whom Kerr first became enamored with while watching a Warriors game on television.
“It came right through the screen,” Kerr said. “He was the heart and soul of the team.”
In his first two years with the Warriors, Green provided key minutes off the bench and became a favorite of former coach Mark Jackson. But it wasn’t until two-time All-Star power forward David Lee missed 24 of the first 25 games this season with a strained left hamstring that Green got a chance to win the starting job.
Green enters Friday night’s game at Oklahoma City averaging 11.8 points, eight rebounds and 3.8 assists.
The 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward has played bigger than his size, giving Golden State the defensive force it has been missing alongside center Andrew Bogut. He has stretched the floor with an improved 3-point shot, and those around him rave about intangibles that don’t show up on stat sheets.
Green’s game is generated by the same method that helped him win two state titles at Saginaw High School (Saginaw, Michigan), reach two Final Fours at Michigan State and take home Big Ten Player of the Year honors as a senior. It’s the same blueprint that has made him a contender for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award and All-Defensive team.
Green just outworks people — and lets them know about it.
He has jawed with LeBron James, exchanged words with Kevin Garnett and mixed it up with Blake Griffin. His scrappy play and feisty attitude can be so jarring, teammates say, that some opponents don’t like to play against him.
“There’ve been numerous guys that say their strengths are the post game, but they don’t want to post him up. They end up floating to the perimeter, or vice versa, because he’s just annoying defensively,” Bogut said.
What most people don’t see is Green’s pride and passion is not exclusive to NBA games.
During a recent team scrimmage, for instance, Green struggled in the first contest. He increased his intensity — and trash-talk — in the second scrimmage, and better results followed.
“He wants you to engage back with him. You’re getting off your game. It’s almost like a fuel for him,” Bogut said.
Last weekend, Green accompanied Curry and his family to Seattle for an NFL playoff game between Curry’s hometown Carolina Panthers and the Seahawks. At one point, Curry said a foul-mouthed Seahawks fan below the group’s luxury suite “lost his mind for a second” shouting at Curry’s wife and mother.
Green decided to settle the dispute himself. Armed with the only ammunition he had, Green chucked grapes at the fan — who immediately got quiet.
“He’s Draymond on and off the court,” Curry said, chuckling.
But sometimes Green’s emotions go too far.
He has had heated exchanges with teammates in practice and a few expletive-laced confrontations with Kerr during games, which both attribute to their competitive nature. Each time, Green has apologized to Kerr immediately.
“That’s why I love Draymond,” Kerr said.
Green has become such a key piece that the Warriors — the same team that passed on him twice in the 2012 draft, when they selected Harrison Barnes seventh, Festus Ezeli 30th and Green 35th — will likely be heading into the luxury tax next season just to keep him.
Green, who is making a little more than $900,000 in the final year of his rookie contract, could be due a raise north of $10 million annually this summer. As a restricted free agent, the Warriors would be able to match any offer he receives.
Of course, Green’s market value is difficult to measure. The Warriors just know his versatility has been invaluable to them.