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NBA AM: Green’s Camp Confusion Led to Success

How Draymond Green turned his training camp struggles into a monster contract year for the Warriors.

Jessica Camerato profile picture
Updated 10 months ago on
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Green’s Camp Confusion Led to Playoff Success

Draymond Green has made it look easy this season. The hustle plays and the grind on both ends of the floor, he has taken his contract year by storm as the Golden State Warriors head into the Western Conference Finals.

The improvement from his sophomore year was not coincidental. Last summer, he returned to East Lansing, MI, where former Michigan State University teammate Travis Walton was waiting with a workout plan. Walton had poured over Green’s game film and compiled a routine for his friend. Five to six days a week, Green went through variations of lifting weights, putting up shots and scrimmaging. At night, he’d return to the gym to work out again.

DraymondGreenInside1“There are countless numbers of hours in the gym,” Green told Basketball Insiders this season. “All summer, I never really took time off.”

Green knew what was at stake this season. He was entering the final year of his contract, a fact that can hinder or fuel players depending on their mindsets. Before he averaged 11.7 points, before he pulled down 8.2 rebounds, before he earned praise for his defense, before he established himself as a key component on the most winning team during the regular season, Green – for a brief time – got into his own head.

The Warriors fired Mark Jackson at the end of last season and hired Steve Kerr as head coach. Green wanted so badly to show Kerr the strides he had made.

“Coming into training camp, I knew how much I had improved, I knew how much I had worked on,” he said. “New coaching staff, here we go, proving yourself all over again.”

Green tried to put his entire arsenal on display. Instead, he ended up trying to do too much. Kerr took notice.

“I’m out there shooting threes, full court off the dribble, everything,” Green recalled. “Coach was getting after me and for a while I felt like, ‘This dude is picking on me. He’s just picking on me.’ I felt like he would tell me to do something, I’d do it, and then he’d say, ‘No, that’s not right.’ So I’m like, ‘I don’t know how this is going to work out.'”

Green estimates four games into training camp, Kerr and assistant coach Alvin Gentry sat down with him and showed him clips. They were highlights from games in which he played well last season. The coaches pointed out times he moved without the ball and set screens. They reminded him those were the things he wasn’t doing anymore.

Green soaked up the feedback. He was determined to execute the positives the coaches had noted. Given how successful his season has been, he was able to laugh as he recounted the confusion that ensued.

“The next game, I said, ‘I’m going to make a concerted effort to go out there and do this,'” Green said. “I went out there and did what I thought they showed me I wasn’t doing, and he’s like, ‘No, that’s not it.’ … I’m going to set these random screens and he was like, ‘Draymond, run to the block.’ I’m like, ‘You just showed me a clip of a screen you wanted me to set, that was the exact situation.’ So then I started messing with myself.”

He had improved over the summer, he was doing what he thought the coaches asked, but the results weren’t translating on to the court as much as he had expected. A few days later, the coaches met with him again. There was more going on with Green than his skills.

“A part of that was I was coming into a contract situation. It’s normal for that to be on your mind,” Green said. “(Kerr) and Gentry sat me down and they said listen, ‘We know the situation you’re in. We know you’re in a contract year, and you better believe we’re going to do everything we can to help you in your contract year.’ Coach Kerr said, ‘I’ve played in this league 15 years, I’ve been a GM, I understand all that stuff.’ That kind of helped me settle down. It was like, alright don’t go out there worrying about that. It’s the completely wrong thing to be worried about.”

Green shifted his mindset. It was only October and free agency wouldn’t come until July. He had an entire season to take care of before he had to address the issue.

Rather than over analyzing his own performances, he found a new way to improve: studying others. He began analyzing San Antonio Spurs veteran Boris Diaw. He saw similarities between their roles on offense as it pertained to ball movement. Observing it from another perspective made a positive impact.

With a clearer focus, Green attacked the regular season. He nearly doubled his scoring and assist totals from last year and, at only 6’7, led the team in rebounding. Green finished second for the Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player of the Year awards.

This postseason, he is averaging 13.8 points, 10.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists. He has recorded a double-double in seven out of 10 playoff games, including the entire first-round sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans.

Unlike training camp, there was no confusion over Kerr’s message in the playoffs.

“It’s hard to put into words what Draymond means to the team,” Kerr told reporters during the first round. “He does everything, he’s a jack of all trades. On top of that, he’s one of our leaders and the guy who talks the most trash to the other team, to the refs, to his teammates, to me. He’s kind of our life line.”

Seven months ago, an eager Green wondered how his season would turn out. As the Warriors begin their Western Conference Finals series against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, his hard work helped answer that question.

“I was pressing so much that I was hurting myself early on,” Green said. “Once I just settled down and let everything come to me, you know what, this contract situation isn’t going to happen until July anyways. Why am I going to sit here and worry? Everything started to flow.”

Basketball Insiders’ Combine Coverage

The 2015 NBA Draft Combine wrapped up toward the end of last and Basketball Insiders was on the ground in Chicago doing interviews, shooting videos and producing content.

Be sure to check out our NBA Draft section for our in-depth coverage of the event.

All of our combine-related articles and videos are on that page, so you can see what the players had the say as they go through the pre-draft process. Keep an eye out over the next few days for even more articles and analysis.

Jessica Camerato is a bilingual reporter who has been covering the NBA since 2006. She has also covered MLB, NHL and MLS. A graduate of Quinnipiac University, Jessica is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association and the Association for Women in Sports Media.

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