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Draymond Green interview: ‘There is definitely a rivalry with LeBron James’

The outspoken NBA defensive player of the year on winning titles with the Golden State Warriors and why hes aiming for the Hall of Fame

Draymond Green, the Golden State Warriors man-of-all-trades, struts through the NBAs European headquarters in London. But youre permitted a certain swagger if you spent the early part of your summer winning an NBA title.

In five seasons, the 2017 NBA defensive player of the year has already won more than most players will in their entire career. What motivates the two-time NBA champion now? I havent won three championships, he tells the Guardian.

To many fans, Green is a series of outbursts masquerading as a basketball player: the run-ins with his frenemy LeBron James; the kicks aimed at opponents; the incessant screams of and-one after every lay-up. But in person, theres a calm to the 27-year-old: the confidence of a man who knows where he wants to go in his sport. Im trying to make the Hall of Fame. That one never goes away until your career is over, he says. If you ever need anything to strive for, you have to strive for that each time you step on to the floor.

Anyone can blurt out cliches about wanting to be great each and every night but thats an expectation Green has put on himself ever since he entered the league, hoisting himself into a generational defender and uber-gifted sweat machine. Hes never played fewer than 76 games during a regular season and rarely takes plays off. But that work ethic wasnt as apparent in college.

The first thing [my college coach] Tom [Izzo] would say is Im in much better shape. I defend better than I did in college and I can shoot far better, Green says. Its just improved, as a player but also when it comes to maturing as a person.

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Draymond Green: People will always try to change you. They will always want you to be who they want you to be. Photograph: Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images

Green neednt have come to this interview in anything more than casual clothing. But today he wears a black shirt and smart trousers, the look of a man who takes his career seriously. A reporter asked the often volatile Green during this years NBA finals how he had managed to restrain himself emotionally. That question triggered a chuckle from team-mate Kevin Durant and Green accused the questioner of making it sound like he was permanently caught up in trouble. Going over the edge wont win us a championship, he said.

Five weeks later, he thinks back to that moment. People will always try to change you. They will always want you to be who they want you to be, Green says. Thats fine because Ill always be exactly who I want to be.

Who Green and this Warriors team want to be is becoming all too clear for the rest of the NBA. They won the title in 2015, won a record 73 games in 2016 before a devastating collapse against the Cavaliers in the finals, then captured the title again this year after acquiring Durant.

Ive always known a lot about Kevin, but I didnt know he was as unselfish as he is, says Green. Playing with him, hes 10 times more unselfish than you expected.

Durants finals averages were outstanding: 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists. He also led the team in blocks at 1.6. He screwed our whole offence up single-handedly in the Western Conference finals the year before, so I wasnt shocked by Kevins defensive presence, says Green.

In other words, Green is glad to have Durant at the Warriors, but its not as if he would be any less audacious and outspoken without him. His relationship with James is proof enough. During the Warriors championship victory parade, Green accused James of launching the super team era in Miami, and wore a t-shirt adorned with the word Quickie across the front. That was a shot at the speed at which the Warriors won this years finals over Jamess Cavaliers, as well as a play on the name of Clevelands Quicken Loans Arena.

Dont get me wrong, when [James and I] are on that basketball court, we take it very seriously, says Green. There is definitely a rivalry there. We are also friends and business partners off the court.

James helped design a $51,000 watch and Warren Buffett described him as savvy and smart about financial matters. His off-the-court business functions at an elite level, and will continue to do so once his basketball career is over. His friend Green is working on a project of his own.

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Draymond Green wears his Quickie t-shirt at the Warriors victory parade. Photograph: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

You can buy the Quickie t-shirts, Green jokes. I was the central designer. In my head I was repeating Im doing something and it went further back than the revenge cookies they [Cleveland] made. You remember the Ultimate Warrior T-shirt they had after they beat us?

The Quickie was something that I came up with, uh, pretty quick, he laughs. The idea that I originally had, I needed someone to draw it up and it was I couldnt get it done in time for when I needed it.

The T-shirt isnt the only dig he has had at Cavaliers fans. They dont seem to be the sharpest people around, was how he described Cleveland fans during this years finals. That opinion doesnt appear to have changed in the off-season. Having just taken in a day at Wimbledon, Green compares the joys of Centre Court with the Cavaliers home. Its a pretty big difference, he says. The fans at Quicken Loans Arena are pretty hostile. They say nasty things. They try to fight our families.

The Warriors are expected to be back in the finals for a fourth straight year in 2018. Meanwhile, Cleveland and San Antonio, their closest rivals last season, have done little to strengthen their line-ups. Green, by contrast, went on another recruiting mission to help the Warriors pick up the Los Angeles Lakers Nick Young, someone he describes as a guy who can come off the bench and just get us buckets.

Golden State also brought back Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and David West on new deals. Green reiterates that this Warriors team is unlike most in that they text one another in a group chat every day. They knew we wanted them back, he says.

His work behind the scenes doesnt end there. Green says he makes it his business to update the Warriors general manager on who he thinks would be a good fit for the team. I usually meet with Bob Myers in Canada after the season to see who we are looking at, Green says. I give my little two cents on who I like and what direction I think we should go in, which probably never matters, but I do it anyway.

Not that the Warriors are the only team adding firepower in the Western Conference. Oklahoma City have added Paul George to play alongside the league MVP, Russell Westbrook, and Chris Paul has signed in Houston with James Harden.

The prospect excites Green. When you see teams making moves trying to dethrone us, it makes us continue to want to improve. We know once you stop getting better, someone is going to catch you. Its definitely fun to see and we accept the challenge. Well be ready to go.

In any case, Green isnt worried about other teams potential. All potential means to me is that you havent proved anything, he says.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jul/20/draymond-green-interview-lebron-james-nba-golden-state-warriors

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