I went to Las Vegas this past week to watch young NBA players develop in the NBA Summer League. Fortunately, one of the players participating there was former Michigan State and current Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, who will be entering his second season in the NBA this fall. I was lucky enough to be able to talk with Green, and we talked about a number of different things.
On the basketball strategy of Las Vegas Summer League
During the normal NBA season, Draymond Green was a role player that came off the bench to provide defensive help in games. In Summer League, he and fellow backup Kent Bazemore have become the number one options on both offense and defense. "It's an adjustment," said Green. "We had a scrimmage before the first game and it took me the entire first half to adjust to that role. It's not going to just come natural. It's like putting myself back at Michigan State, being in that role where I'm the focal point of a team. At the end of the day, it's a role that I love playing and a role that I'm definitely looking forward to."
It's no wonder people are enjoying Green at Summer League (for those of you who don't know, on day one when his name was announced the Las Vegas crowd gave him a standing ovation). Like he reminded the media he was the number one option at MSU, Green's shown signs of great offensive play, shooting a stunning 91.2% from the free throw line and he had a game where he shot 5-9. Of course, there's still a learning curve for Draymond's shooting in the NBA, because in the other two games he shot a combined 3-21 from the field. It's a possibility that he's been shooting poorly because, according to Green himself, he's been shooting more off the dribble and catch-and-shoot plays. I don't think that's led to bad shooting, however, because Green also alluded to the fact that he's been working on shots he normally gets in the regular season.
"The corner three is a shot I get a lot during the regular season, so I have to knock it down." stated Green.
He's also been trying to face up in the post and driving to the bucket. "When you have [Stephen Curry] and [Klay Thompson] out there, guys run over to help defense a lot. You have a lot of chances to drive close outs."
Just like his rookie season, Green hasn't had much trouble on the defensive side of the ball. "If you learn the basic principles," Green said of defensive strategy, "you can pretty much cover anything. You might get caught on a couple plays that you don't know because you don't have enough time to go over everything, but for the most part you know the basic principles."
On MSU preparing players for the NBA
Coach Tom Izzo is a world-renowned basketball coach for a lot of reasons, but something that seemingly always called under question is how he prepares players for the NBA. He's been taking heat for it, since he hasn't produced a very successful NBA player in a long time. Draymond Green tried to silence the critics.
"One thing about Coach Izzo is that he preaches toughness and going hard every day," Green said. "In the NBA, you have to go hard each and every day. You're going to play against guys better than you, you're going to play against guys stronger than you, you're going to play against guys quicker than you. But when you have a good work ethic and you continue to go hard and a guy takes a play off, that's your chance to get in. Coach Izzo definitely taught me how to have a great work ethic and go hard each and every day." Green said about Izzo's NBA preparation.
On Adreian Payne
Of course, I had to talk to Draymond Green about his former colleague at MSU, Adreian Payne and what he brings to the table.
Green had nothing but good to say about him. "He can shoot the basketball, so he stretches the defense out, but he's also athletic. Just like [John Henson], Adreian's length is unbelievable too. He's long, athletic, he can jump, block shots, get put backs and is a pretty good rebounder. I think he'll be like Henson except he can jump out and shoot the basketball."