The Ukiah Daily Journal

Draymond Green calls out lack of will to defend

- By Madeline Kenney

LOS ANGELES >> Draymond Green isn't one for excuses, especially at this point in the season.

That's why he was quick to squash the suggestion that the Warriors' underperfo­rmance at this stage of the season was the result of a proverbial championsh­ip hangover. Instead, he identified the team's lack of effort on defense as being a major culprit in the team's shortcomin­gs.

“You're not hungover at .500, 60 games into the season,” Green said Tuesday after the Warriors' 134-124 loss to the Clippers dropped them to 29-29 this season. “You're a loser if you're still hungover at that point. So there's no hangover. It's the will to defend, to stop and guard your man, and sink and help and trap the box and rotate. Defense is always one or two steps extra. I'm gonna take that extra step to get there or not. And that's all will. And we don't have that as a team.”

The Warriors lost three of their last four games heading into the All-star break. Their latest defeat was an appropriat­e way to end the first chunk of this rollercoas­ter season in the team's eyes and gave the Warriors plenty to think about over the next eight days.

“We've been up and down and right in the middle of the pack on offense, right in the middle of the pack on defense,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We feel like we could be better.”

The Warriors aren't worried about their offense. Between Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins, Golden State has plenty of firepower to outscore opponents. In fact, the team has averaged the secondmost points per game in the league this season.

Instead, as Green noted, it's continuall­y lackluster defense that's more pressing.

This championsh­ip era of the Warriors has long been defined by tenacious defense powering high-scoring offense. But it's been a different story this season.

“Our defense isn't very good,” Green said. “It's kind of been the story all year and you got to do something to fix it.”

The Warriors' 114.1 defensive rating is the 11th-worst in the league and the worst the team has posted since Green was drafted.

Golden State has struggled with dribble penetratio­n and locking up ball handlers at the point of attack. The Warriors have fallen into the trap of fouling, which has led to them having the largest free-throw discrepanc­y in the league.

The Warriors brought Gary Payton II back via a four-team trade that sent former No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman to the Detroit Pistons last week in an attempt to bolster their perimeter defense. They will have to wait to feel his impact, though, for at least another month as he's out with a core injury.

For Green, diagnosing the problem is fairly simple.

“Defense is all about a will, a want to defend. Defense isn't fun, you just got to want to do it if you want to win and we haven't,” Green said.

That eagerness to put in the extra effort on that end of the ball comes naturally for some players like Green. Pulling it out of his teammates is part of where the challenge lies now.

“We've talked about it a lot but you got to do it,” said Green, who credited his high school coach as well as his time at Michigan State for making him into the defensive anchor he's been for the Warriors. “You can talk 'til you're blue in the face. But if you don't put that effort out there because defense is 90% effort, if you don't put that effort out there, it doesn't work.”

Golden State's title hopes — scratch that, its playoff hopes — hinge on the team restoring and maintainin­g its defensive identity.

Green said he's optimistic the team can do it. With 24 games remaining after the All-star break, though, the Warriors don't have time to wait much longer to figure it out.

“It's now or never,” Green said. “We're at .500 at the break. Middle-of-the-pack team with those middle-ofthe-pack stats. So you got to come out of the break and win and do it at a high level or you go home at the beginning of April… I wouldn't be happy with that but that's what will be the result if you don't get there.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States