Warriors' Draymond Green feeling refreshed, eyes DPOY honors

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OAKLAND — After staying sidelined for the past week with a sore left knee, Warriors forward Draymond Green did not feel good enough to return for Monday’s preseason game against the Phoenix Suns at Oracle Arena. After spending his summer traveling and staying away from basketball, though, the All-Star reported feeling rejuvenated and motivated for the 2018-19 season.

So much that Green expressed optimism that he will return when the Warriors play an exhibition game against the Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday in Las Vegas. So much that Green plans to return with a new sense of being.

“It helped me more so mentally just to get away from the game for a minute and miss it,” Green said. “It gears you up, feeds that hunger and want to get back and get better in the thick of things. I think that’s important for everyone.”

It also remains important for Green to reclaim the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award for the second time in his career after being relegated last season to the NBA’s All-Defensive second team.

“That’s crazy,” Green said. “So yeah. I have to get that.”

Did Green believe a panel of NBA media members snubbed him? Or did Green receive a deserving demotion?

“Probably a little bit on me,” Green said. “But I don’t think any voter can tell me five defensive players that are better than me. I’ll wait.”

No one named any other players. They just asked another question. So, perhaps Green made his point. Even on a team with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, the Warriors largely value Green for his defensive versatility, awareness and intensity. Yet, Green admittedly became inconsistent in fulfilling that role in the 2017-18 campaign.

“Just the whole year was a grind,” Green said. “Stuff wasn’t as fresh as it was the year before.”

One, Green missed a combined 12 regular-season games because of right shoulder soreness (seven), flu-like symptoms (two), a sprained left index finger (one), a pelvic contusion (one) and rest (one). He described dealing with those overlapping ailments as “very frustrating.” Two, Green observed the Warriors lacked motivation during the 2017-18 season partly because they had 11 of their 14 players return from the previous year.

Granted, the Warriors still won the 2018 NBA championship and finished with the Western Conference’s second-best record (58-24) partly because of that star-studded roster and continuity. But it also made the Warriors go on autopilot.

“This is going to sound bad, but there was really nothing for us to work on. Nothing to make work. It was like, ‘Oh we know what we’re doing. We played together. We know how good we are. Let’s just go play,’” Green said. “It was really nothing to work toward. We knew the whole year we were just trying to get to April and then May and June. But there was nothing to spark that fire. So it made everything a drag. As much as this is an amazing job we have, as much as you love that job, if you don’t have a fire lit under you or motivating you to do something in your line of work, it’s not going to be as easy.”

This season, Green senses a much different identity.

One, Green said he feels significantly healthier and refreshed after abstaining from basketball for six to seven weeks. He also had a busy itinerary with trips to his hometown (Saginaw, Michigan), Detroit, Greece (Santorini, Mykonos), Israel (Tel Aviv), France (Paris, Bordeaux) and Mexico (Cabo San Lucas).

“My shoulder’s way better and a lot better. It’s really good,” Green said. “Everything else is good and under control. Obviously that (knee) popped up, but I don’t see it being a problem long term.”

Secondly, Green believes the Warriors improved their depth beyond adding a fifth All-Star in DeMarcus Cousins. Though the Warriors have lost veteran voices in David West (retirement), Zaza Pachulia (Detroit Pistons) and JaVale McGee (Los Angeles Lakers), they could benefit from having younger players. The Warriors drafted wing Jacob Evans, and have paved larger roles for second-year forward Jordan Bell, third-year center Damian Jones, fourth-year forward Kevon Looney and fourth-year guard Quinn Cook. All of which gives the Warriors’ core players a homework assignment to tackle.

“This year, we have something to work on,” Green said. “We have a lot of young guys. So that for the time being and even with DeMarcus coming in and making that work. JB, Damian and Loon, they’ll play a bigger role and making that work. I think we got more to work on than what we did last year. That’s why it was all around tough. There was just nothing there to push you and night out.”

Green has another thing to push him. He covets a defensive accolade that he once had and recently lost.

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