Green the glue that holds Warriors’ success together

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Memphis — At times, the defending champion Warriors don’t seem like they have a lineup based on reality, almost as if they concocted their players in a video game lab.

Shooting guard Klay Thompson has the size (6-foot-7), shooting touch and versatility to be more than difficult to guard and then put the clamps on an opponent’s best shooter.

Shooting guard Stephen Curry is a paragon of a shooter, ranked this week among the best point guards in league history in his seventh season. He has become a virtuoso, averaging 29.7 points and becoming as much of a heralded star as LeBron James or Kobe Bryant with his deft dribbling and almost-unguardable distance shooting.

But, former Michigan State standout Draymond Green is the glue that holds everything together. He can play all three frontcourt positions, and with eight triple-doubles this season, is garnering comparisons to Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson.

Their record is 37-3 heading into tonight’s matchup against the Pistons at The Palace.

While the Warriors continue their ascent toward the elusive 70-win mark, they’ve given most other teams fits in trying to emulate their free-flowing style — and even more difficult, how to try to stop it. The Nuggets succeeded on Wednesday, dealing the Warriors a loss in a game in which Green didn’t play.

“I don’t know that it’s had any real effect on the league because I don’t know that anybody else has the personnel to play that way,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “They’re different than everybody else.

“The way you play them is part of their success. The way you play them has to be so different than the way you play everybody else, so I don’t know that there’s a lot of carryover.”

Green has masqueraded as a point guard when Curry has been limited (injury) and slides to center for a small lineup that can run-and-gun with five perimeter players. He creates a matchup conundrum because he’s too quick for centers and can guard any position on a pick-and-roll.

Warriors interim coach Luke Walton underscored Green’s importance after Wednesday’s loss.

“We miss him for multiple reasons: he’s an All-Star player and the edge and attitude he plays with is one of those things,” Walton said.

As much as Curry gets MVP talk, Green could be just as vital — if not more.

But that doesn’t mean teams will be dumping their traditional big centers in favor of a player of Green’s ilk.

“You see traditional centers playing big roles on a lot of teams,” Van Gundy said. “You’ve still got to rebound the ball and protect the rim, particularly as it’s become an off-the-dribble league. There will always be a place for those guys.

“We’ve gone away from the slower, set-up-on-the-block guy. Mobility is a key thing at that position. But big guys who can run, move their feet, protect the rim and rebound are never going out of style.”

After winning the title last season, the Warriors seem to have gotten better despite coach Steve Kerr taking a leave of absence (back surgery).

Walton, who has learned on the fly, has reinforced some of Kerr’s principles and has guided the ship with a stocked roster of versatile players.

“There’s been a ton of adjustment,” Walton said. “The end-game decisions and how quickly you have to make a decision and hope it works out best for the team is a lot of responsibility, but it’s also a lot of fun at the same time.”

rod.beard@detroitnews.com

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