Snub on draft night motivates Warriors’ Green

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Toronto — It was supposed to be Draymond Green’s night.

June 28, 2012 — a date that held great promise for Green, the All-America from Michigan State. It was NBA draft night, and Green seemed destined to be a first-round pick.

He watched as the Pelicans picked Anthony Davis first.

Then Harrison Barnes went seventh to the Warriors.

Tick, tick, tick.

The Pistons picked Andre Drummond ninth, Maurice Harkless went 15th to the 76ers, and Perry Jones 28th to the Thunder.

After a while, the wait started to weigh on Green.

The friends and family gathered in Saginaw waited impatiently, starting to pay more attention because the first round was ending and Green had slid beyond the initial projections.

The smiles in the first hour turned into strained smiles — and the great expectations turned into great anxiety.

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When the Warriors ended the first round by selecting Festus Ezeli, the allure and guaranteed contract of first-round picks turned the party dour.

Green finally heard his name — 35th overall — from the Warriors.

Evidently, he had something to prove — and he’s starting to make all the other teams rethink their initial assessments as he earned his first All-Star selection this year.

But that draft-night experience still sticks with him.

“People never let me forget,” Green said Friday. “Looking back at that night, it was tough sitting there, then. I always tell people being in the first round, it didn’t fit my story. For everything I’ve been through as a player, going in the first round didn’t fit my story.”

It was a story wrought with hard work and sacrifice. In four seasons at Michigan State, Green established himself as one of the school’s icons, leading the Spartans to a pair of Final Four appearances and a Big Ten championship in 2012. He’s the career leading rebounder and fifth in blocks.

But Green has accelerated his progression since draft night, when many thought he wouldn’t be able to stick.

The joke’s on the teams that bypassed him.

“It validates the hard work” Green said. “You put all the hard work in and you obviously want to see the payoff. There aren’t many greater accomplishments than being an All-Star. I definitely don’t take it for granted; I’m thankful for this moment and this opportunity.

“I’ll continue to put the work in and work as hard as I possibly can. Hopefully, this is the first of many.”

The throngs of media gathered around a small table on a dais to just get a few words from Kobe Bryant, in his final All-Star Game.

In another corner, a group just as large bandied about to hear from Warriors guard Steph Curry. Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant, among many of the NBA superstars were scattered around the different parts of the Sheraton Grand Ballroom for their All-Star media availability.

Green had his own small group. But he had a seat in the room.

“It’s exciting. Draymond is a very hard worker; the man’s never satisfied,” teammate and fellow All-Star Klay Thompson said. “He’s one of the toughest competitors I’ve ever played with.”

Green has become one of the most versatile and valuable players, and his 10 triple-doubles this season leads the league. He’s also regarded for his ability to excel on offense and defense at all five positions. And, he was earned all-defensive honors last year.

“He deserves to be here — and this won’t be his last game,” Thompson said. “He’s one of the best two-way players in the game. He’s unique in how he can be a playmaker and shoot. He’s shooting a great clip from 3 now and he’s so tenacious on both ends.

“He’s what makes us go and he’s going to be a huge part of our team for a long time.”

rod.beard@detroitnews.com

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All-Star Game

Tip-off: 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Air Canada Centre, Toronto

TV/radio: TNT/WMGC

Outlook: The West has won five of the last seven meetings, including last year’s matchup, 163-158. ... Lakers G Kobe Bryant, a four-time All-Star MVP, is playing in his final All-Star Game.