Sports Basketball

NBA FINALS

Golden State will benefit greatly from Green's return

By Ryan Wolstat, Toronto Sun

CLEVELAND — Nothing Draymond Green says is ever surprising, because the Warriors big man is not afraid to speak his mind.

So, we all should have expected the declaration that came Wednesday in his first media appearance since being suspended: “I have strong belief that if I play Game 5, we win,” Green said.

“But I didn't because I put myself in a situation (picking up another flagrant foul, for a low blow aimed at LeBron James) where I wasn't able to play. I think my teammates fought and didn't play well, but still with six minutes to go, down six points, continued to battle and battle,” he said, adding that he felt he had let his teammates down.

“It's on me to come out and help that battle. Not come out and try to be the superstar, try to be the hero, try to be the saving grace, none of that stuff, because being a superstar saving grace hasn't gotten us this far Being a great team has gotten us this far.”

Golden State looked wretched defensively without its ace defender, a sharp communicator both on and off of the court, in the 112-97 Game 5 drubbing.

Without Green's traffic directing, smart positioning and second line of resistance, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James scored at will, each notching 41 points.

Green said it was “brutal” and “one of the weirdest days ever for me,” having to watch the game in a suite at the Oakland Athletics game next door.

“I can't put myself in a position where I can't be there for my teammates on the floor. I do my teammates no justice in street clothes watching the game at the A's game,” he said.

Those teammates are understandably thrilled to be getting Green back for Game 6, especially with starting centre Andrew Bogut lost for the series due to injury.

“He anchors us — just like Bogut does, he anchors our defence,” guard Shaun Livingston said. “He's one of the smartest defenders in the league, his IQ, his rim protection. And then also I think being able to switch, that's our strength, our small lineup … He allows us to be able to switch one through five.

“He's one of the most versatile players and defenders in the league.”

Added Klay Thompson: “At the same time, we can't just relax and let our guard down because Draymond's coming back. We have to go out there and win the game and put in great effort.”

They will also have to play smart basketball.

Another Green flagrant foul or two technicals would mean he would be suspended again for a Game 7, should the Warriors lose.

Green knows he can't step over the edge again, but can a player that tiptoes so close to the abyss to be at his best every night rein himself in and still be effective?

“I think I've got to come out and play my game regardless,” Green said.

“But there are those little fine lines where you just know you can't cross them. It's not every play that you're close to that line. It's a basketball game, so there are only certain plays where you are. I just have to make sure that I'm well-composed when those situations come about, that I control my emotions, that I channel that energy and use it in a positive way to help my team and not in a way to where I may feel like it helps me as a person, me as a man, but hurts my teammates. That's irrelevant.

“So just really channeling that energy and bottling it all up to use it for my teammates in a good way.”

The Cavs say they don't plan to goad Green into doing something stupid.

“No, I think you just play the game, and I think you play hard, you give it everything you've got,” said Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue. “You compete for 48 minutes, and whatever happens happens. We're not going to go in trying to make him pick up a technical foul or flagrant foul. You've just got to play the game the way it's supposed to be played.”

Steve Kerr, Lue's counterpart, isn't worried.

“I'd be shocked if anything happened on that front. I think he feels bad enough as it is about missing Game 5,” the Warriors coach said. “He's not going to put himself at risk of missing another game.”

Green's plan is to make sure he and the Warriors don't even have to worry about another game anyway.

“It's an amazing feeling when you can quiet 20,000 screaming fans,” he said, referring to the Game 6 clincher in Cleveland in 2015. “We know the formula. We know the blueprint. We know that it's not easy, though.

“We've got an opportunity to do something that I don't know if it's ever been done to where someone - maybe it has with the Lakers and Celts and all those guys — wins a championship on someone else's floor two years in a row. We've got that opportunity. It's a fun one. It will be tough.”

BOGUT GONE FOR GAMES 6, 7

Golden State's fears were confirmed when an MRI revealed that starting centre Andrew Bogut would be lost for the rest of the NBA Finals.

The MRI revealed bruised bones in Bogut's left knee, the result of a collision under the basket with Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith in Game 5. Bogut was on the ground in agony for some time after getting hurt and the minimum recovery time for his injury is 6-8 weeks, according to the team.

He will not require surgery and traveled to Cleveland.

Bogut led the Warriors in field goal percentage in the playoffs and was second in blocked shots per game and third in rebounding, despite playing limited minutes.

“It's tough not to have Boges out there. He anchors our defence a lot of the time,” Draymond Green said before practice on Wednesday. “Very smart, very good passer, great facilitator. It's not like a loss where you say, 'Oh, it doesn't matter.' It definitely matters.

“We're going to miss him, but one thing we always talk about is our depth. So it's an opportunity for someone else to step up. One guy goes down, another guy has to step up. I'm not sure what the rotations or none of that stuff will be, but whoever touches the floor, it's an opportunity to step up and give to this team what — nobody will be Bogut, but give to this team what you can give.”

The Warriors will likely go smaller, starting Green at centre, Harrison Barnes at power forward and Andre Iguodala at small forward, though the team wasn't giving anything away on Wednesday. Starting centre Festus Ezeli but subbing him out only a few minutes in also could be an option.

“He's been great for them. He's a rim protector in the NBA. So guys attacking the rim and him just being there and being a presence, it definitely makes you cautious of where he is and aware of his shot-blocking ability,” Cavs forward Tristan Thompson said of Bogut.

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