It took Draymond Green only four NBA seasons to represent many things to observers. He’s loved and hated, scrappy and dirty, a stain on the game and a coach’s nightmare of a dream.
If anyone can understand Green’s white-hot passion for basketball, and for the defensive component, it’s Hall of Fame guard Gary Payton, who embodied many of the characteristics that have made Green an All-Star forward and an indispensible member of the Warriors.
Payton appreciates Green’s deep desire and those displays of rage that sometimes result in technical fouls and have made Green a polarizing figure.
“I like it,” Payton said Tuesday, as a guest on The Warriors Insider Podcast. “I don’t care what they say. I think he gets overboard a little bit, but I like what he does. He reminds me of myself when I was doing it. I would control it a little bit; I would get a tech and I’d get the referees to get on my side after a while.
“But I still love it, because he has a lot of fire and a lot of passion in the game. And when he does that, he takes people out of their basketball game. And then they worry about him.”
Payton, who retired after the 2007 season, was notable as a defensive ace specializing in on-ball tactics, acquiring the nickname “The Glove” for his ability to wrap himself over an opponent. Though he was a 6-foot-4 point guard, he expressed clear appreciation for Green’s ability, at 6-foot-7, to defend all five positions.
“He takes on the challenge to guard everybody,” Payton said of Green, comparing him to Hall of Fame forward Dennis Rodman. “(Green) is not scared of nobody. I don’t know if he can guard 94 feet, but when you get him in the half court he’s a very difficult player to get around.”
Payton also was a polarizing presence, the kind of player his teammates respected but opponents – and their fans – loved to hate. Payton was quick to yap, as is Green. Payton was quick to infuriate opponents, as is Green.
Payton does, however, have one piece of advice for the man Warriors coach Steve Kerr refers to as the “heartbeat” of the team.
If he can indulge the refs a bit more and invite give-and-take and instead of me-against-the-stripes, there are benefits to be had.
“If he can master it with the way he needs to master it,” Payton said of Green, “he can win with that fire that he has.”