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Draymond Green ready to mentor young Golden State Warriors team-mates

Sunday 20 October 2019 20:23, UK

Draymond Green hustles for a loose ball against the Los Angeles Lakers
Image: Draymond Green hustles for a loose ball against the Los Angeles Lakers

Draymond Green is ready to embrace a new leadership role for the Golden State Warriors and mentor the young players on the team’s revamped 2019-20 roster.

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The Warriors, NBA champions in three of the last five seasons, face a new challenge following the free agency exit of Kevin Durant and extensive player turnover in the summer. Ten of the 17 players that represented them last season are no longer with the team.

Green, alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, is embracing the opportunity to provide veteran leadership to the new faces in the Warriors' locker room.

Anthony Davis attempts to block a Draymond Green lay-up
Image: Green lofts a lay-up beyond the reaching Anthony Davis

"It's kind of a new day and age in the NBA. It's a new challenge now, which as a competitor is very exciting," said Green.

"We've been to the mountain top with the previous group and we know how that feels. Can you do it again? Can we bring this team together and get back there? I think that's the most important thing, and I think that will be our focus moving forward.

"On the court, it's just 'play our game', not get too caught up in trying to make people fit in - just play our game, and I think everybody else will feed off of that. Obviously adding a piece like D'Angelo [Russell] to the fold, some things will have to change in order to better suit him, and we're all understanding of that. And that'll happen.

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"Off the court, I think we've got to do a little bit more. The last couple of years, stuff just kind of seamlessly happened because there was so much familiarity. It's not quite that. I think we also have to do a good job of getting to know these younger guys."

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Green will turn 30 during the 2019-20 season, his eighth with Golden State. Once the team's vocal young tyro, the three-time All-Star is now part of the Warrior's veteran core and faces new responsibilities.

D'Angelo Russell pictured during a Warriors preseason game
Image: D'Angelo Russell pictured during a Warriors preseason game

"We've got a lot of new blood. With new blood comes a lot of different things," he said. "The swagger of these younger guys is different. They've lived their lives completely different than what we've grown accustomed to. But that's fine, you get a chance to know these young guys, mentor them, kind of show them the way. I'm excited about it.

"But it's definitely different. It's crazy, I went to the Janet Jackson concert like a week ago, whenever it was, and I hit a few of the young guys up, and they were kind of like, 'Janet Jackson? Who the hell is Janet Jackson?

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"That just kind of showed me I'm getting old. None of them wanted to go with me. That kind of explains it for you right there. They didn't want to see Janet Jackson. I was super-excited to see Janet Jackson. I'm sure if it was Gunna, they would have all run here!"

Green signed a four-year, $100m extension with the Warriors in August and believes cementing his future with the Warriors at the earliest opportunity was important.

Draymond Green shoots over Kawhi Leonard in Game 1 of the NBA Finals 1:47
Draymond Green notched his third successive playoff triple-double in the Golden State Warriors' loss to the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals

"I didn't want to come into this season dealing with all of that stuff. It kind of becomes a headache, he said. "I think I've said a million times now, I want to be here for my entire career. What makes that possible? What makes that more realistic? I think [signing the extension] did.

"We've got Steph, Klay coming back, myself, original guys who kind of started this whole thing, adding D'Angelo [Russell] for four years. That was something I just wanted to get behind me and move forward."

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Green has provided the defensive identity throughout the Warriors' title-laden recent history but, with so many new faces around him, he understands the need to adapt the approach that earned him the 2016-17 Defensive Player of the Year award and accept even more defensive responsibility.

"I think I will definitely have to step it up," he said of the challenge ahead. "We don't have as good defenders as we've previously had. I don't think that's any surprise. But at the same time, we've just got to find our identity. You know, before our identity was switching. That may not be our identity anymore. We've got to figure out and kind of toy with different things and figure out what works best for this group.

Drake and Draymond Green share a heated exchange after the Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals 0:42
Drake and Draymond Green had a heated exchange at the end of Game 1 of the NBA Finals following the Raptors 118-109 win over the Warriors

"I don't think it'll just be your typical status quo, oh, somebody is coming off a screen-and-roll, switch, or how we've been playing in the past because it's not the same team. It's not the same personnel. We've just got to figure out what it is. Once we figure that out, we'll be fine.

"I don't think there's just going to be one person who leads this team. I lead in the way that I lead, Steph leads in the way that he leads. It may not seem like it, but Klay leads in the way that he leads. You know, that's important - for us to continue doing that. I have no doubt in my mind that we will.

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"It's really funny to me just to see Steph as the oldest guy on this team, then I think it's Klay and myself after that. Not too long ago, we were the youngest guys on the team. So it's a pretty interesting turn of events. But it's fun, it's exciting.

"I think when you're putting a team together, that's kind of how you envision it going. You want to start with some younger guys and you want to grow with them, and as they get older and you kind of start to bring in a new wave and start to prep guys to get ready to take the reins, that's kind of how this has gone.

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"I think that's a great sign. It means that there's been a pretty good amount of success if you're still trekking along with those guys. I think that's great."

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