Hi, Draymond, and welcome back to our world, really to your world, the one where you didn’t so much work basketball as play it. The world from where you mysteriously left sometime during Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference Finals at Oklahoma City and then voila, returned Thursday night in Game 5 at the “Roaracle.”
Where was the passing, the rebounding, the leadership? Where were you? Someone suggested you had gone to a parallel universe. Even you conceded, “I was on another planet somewhere.”
One where there are no rebounds or blocked shots. Or smart, intelligent basketball. One where a kick against an opponent, accidental or intentional, became an issue, besides a Flagrant 2 technical.
But yes, as you, said, you’re back, and so are the Warriors, survivors, winners of Game 5, 120-111, preparing to play on — although still trailing the best-of-seven series, three games to two. It doesn’t look good to the rest of us, since the next game is on OKC’s home floor, where the Thunder slapped the Warriors but good.
You don’t think that way. Nor do your teammates, who listened to your pre-game exhortations, the ones that like so many shots — yours and others — had been missing.
“Sometimes you need a little shoulder to cry on,” said Green. “To call somebody to talk to. I approach this like life or death. It’s not just a game to me. I love this. This is what I do. When I don’t live up to who I know I am, it bothers me.”
He knows. Again we know. There was a technical on him in the opening minute of the second half.
“After that,” he said, “then I’m going to be me. I’m not going to try to be sensitive to this or that. If I’m going to get a tech for that (a gesture) I might as well be me anyway.”
And he was.
“You know Draymond set the tone after the last game,” said Klay Thompson. “He’ll never doubt our ferocity or our toughness. We all know we’re not ready to be done.”
Green’s contributions were not necessarily in numbers, although those weren’t awful, 11 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots. Stephen Curry, also a returnee to the efficient, had 31 points and the reliable Thompson 27. Andrew Bogut had his best game, 15 points 14 rebounds.
Maybe this was last hurrah for a group that won a record 73 games, that had the burden and honor of defending an NBA title. Or maybe, somehow, the Warriors make it to a seventh game.
“We’ve done it before,” said Green. “We know what it takes.”
What it took for Green to return to the place he used to be, the inspirational voice of the Warriors, was text messages from men he had played with and against, Matt Barnes, Glenn “Big Baby” Davis, Nate Robinson and surprisingly — or maybe not so — the recently retired Kobe Brant, who texted Draymond
“Yeah I texted him back,” said Green, then suppressed a laugh, as if dealing with someone out of his sphere — and that doesn’t mean the moon.
“I actually talked to [Kobe] on the phone [Wednesday]. “That’s a guy that’s been through it all. He’s been through having fans love him, and he’s been through having fans hate him. And when they hated him, he used it as fuel.”
As Draymond Green used his failings of the few games before Thursday night to fuel the Warriors to the win they had to have. “We can’t let each other down,” he said.
He won’t forever more.