Warriors’ Green: Found ‘love for the game’ again

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SAN FRANCISCO — Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green says he has found “love and joy for the game” again after two up-and-down seasons.

Green, 31, made the proclamation after leading the Warriors — now a league-best 15-2 — to another dominating win against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night.

“I’ve just kind of found that love again,” Green said following the 119-104 victory. “Kind of go through a lot of s— and the love kind of wanes a little bit. But I’ve just found that love and joy for the game and I’m just enjoying playing basketball and controlling what I can control. A point of emphasis for myself this year was simply to control what I could control. That means on the court, that means with the referees, that means off the floor — that’s just a step in my life and I think it shows on the basketball court.”

Green acknowledged that his children have played a major role in his desire to prove that he’s one of the best basketball players in the NBA again. After helping the Warriors reach five straight NBA Finals between 2015 and 2019, some around the league wondered if Green could still play at the highest level after two lackluster seasons in which he battled various injuries and inconsistencies.

For his part, Green said the motivation he has gotten from his family has helped propel his impressive start to the season — he’s averaging 8.1 points, 7.6 assists and 7.5 rebounds while playing high-level defense.

“My son is getting older, my oldest daughter — she’s 7 now — they kind of get on my ass if we lose,” Green said. “So that’s motivation. And I think for me also, I’ve been s— the last couple years, so my kids don’t really understand how good I am. And I want them to see how good I am so they’ll have an understanding. And so that is motivation for me. When I was playing at the top of my level, which I’m getting back to that now, they were like 3 and 1, so that is motivating for me to play well in front of them so they have an understanding of what I do.

“And most importantly I want to win, I want to be a Defensive Player of the Year again, and I want to be an All-Star again. And that is motivating me because a lot of people had counted me out. Same mistake people made before when I first came into the league — but a lot of people doubted me, and doubted me again. And that’s fuel to the fire.”

Green’s teammates and coaches have noticed the extra fire that Green has started the season with — and they know it’s a huge reason why they have had so much success over the first month.

“I think Draymond Green is the best defender in the world,” coach Steve Kerr said. “I think he’s had just an unbelievable start to the season. He’s so motivated. He’s so engaged every single night.”

Green agreed with Kerr’s assessment, while veteran forward Otto Porter Jr. called Green “the anchor of our defense.” Kerr has repeatedly noted how much he felt Green’s run with Team USA while winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics has helped his push to start the season.

“I think he knows as well as everybody else that we go as far as he goes, as far as Steph goes and the rest of our vets,” Warriors guard Jordan Poole said. “The last two years have been a little bit rough and I think he really gets the sense like, ‘All right, we’re back.’ And we got a chance to really do this. And especially the guys with experience, they know what it takes and I think they’re doing a really good job from day one, just trying to put us in the best possible situation to be ready for that.”

Green said he is feeling “incredible” to start the season, a premise backed up by the way he is moving up and down the floor with a lot of energy.

“I take better care of my body today than I ever have,” Green said. “I don’t drink really anymore like I used to. I used to go after it a little bit. I’m 31 years old now so I try to do all the necessary things to make sure my body is in shape and ready to go. Lifting more than I ever have.”

Green underscored his point by detailing how he’s feeling on the road and why he’s confident he can continue to sustain the same level of play throughout the campaign.

“When we play on the road and we got on the plane and we got off the plane, I can run down the stairs,” Green said. “And before I used to creep down them stairs like knees hurting, feet hurting. I feel incredible.”

As for the Warriors torrid start, Green continues to be cautious as the hype around his team builds — but he’s seeing the building blocks coming into place and knows that the addition of Klay Thompson (ACL and Achilles rehab) and James Wiseman (meniscus rehab) will only make them even deeper.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say surprised that it’s going well, but a little surprised that it’s going as well, as fast as it is,” Green said. “Everyone talks about our schedule, there’s some truth to that. I think we haven’t had the toughest schedule in the world, but you can only play who they put out there in front of you, and I think regardless of who we’re playing we’re handling our business the way it should be handled, so I feel good about it, our team feels good about it. We have a lot of confident guys; we got to continue to get better, though. We got a long ways to go.”

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