With Kevin Durant Gone, Draymond Green Has Chance to Prove He Can Win Without Him

Nine months ago, Draymond Green sat a seat away from Kevin Durant along the sidelines at Staples Center as the Warriors entered overtime against the LA Clippers with a simple message, "we can win without you." 

In the ensuing time since the argument, Golden State lost the overtime matchup against the Clippers, a bid for a three-peat against the Raptors in six games, and ultimately Durant - by way of an Achilles rupture and free agency. 

The Warriors responded by signing Klay Thompson to a max deal, two years after Stephen Curry signed a five year, $201 million deal. Golden State's latest transaction was for Green, who agreed to a four year, $100 million extension Saturday, keeping the original core of Green, Thompson and Curry in the Bay Area until at least 2022, giving Green the chance make true on his words in Los Angeles.

In an age defined by star player movement, when six of last year's All-NBA selections have found new homes, the Warriors have simultaneously lost an all-star talent while keeping together their hall of fame level core. Over a three-year stretch, the Warriors drafted Curry, Thompson and Green. As the Warriors ascended, each brushed off trade rumors, injuries to help build the Warriors into a dynasty. All the while, as Curry won unanimous MVPs and Klay Thompson went on historic binges, Green remained the epicenter of Golden State's heart. 

It was Green - the 35th pick in the 2012 draft - who took David Lee's spot early in the 2014-15 season, helping the Warriors win 67 games. It was Green who oversaw the league's best defense for three straight seasons, earning the Defensive Player of the Year in 2017. And it was Green - hours after the Warriors lost in the Finals to the Cavaliers in seven games, despite winning a league-record 73 games - who made a call to Durant, one that would make Golden State a dynasty, as the team would win three titles in five seasons. 

Green's ties to the Bay Area go deeper than championships. Throughout his tenure, he's become one of the East Bay's most popular transplants. In recent years, Green - an avid domino player - has frequently been a guest of Vallejo rapper E-40 house for a game of bones. When the Warriors celebrated 2017 title in front of millions along the shores of Lake Merritt, Green came out to Vallejo's SOBxRBE's single "Anti" when introduced. Days after Oakland's own Marshawn Lynch signed with the Raiders, Green was one of the first to celebrate with Lynch in a backyard party in North Oakland. 

"Same mentality man," Green said. "In Saginaw, they act just like people from Oakland. It's just that same mentality, that get-it-out-the-mud mentality. I feel like, the way I am, you know my demeanor, it's just like them. Real recognize real."

As Durant went through last season with free agency uncertainty, Green - amid reports he'd seek a maximum contract - publically stated his intent to remain in Golden State as long as possible. 

"I'm confident that I'll be here for a very long time," Green said during media day prior to the season. "I'm not looking at this one-sided like, ‘Oh man, I gotta do what's right for Draymond.' It's a partnership and it's a family and doing the right thing for everyone involved is important."

I want to be here," Green added during the Western Conference Semifinals, a day after Warriors owner Joe Lacob told The Athletic he wanted Green to be "a Warrior for life." 

Following a season in which he battled injuries and weight issues, Green - with Durant out nine games with a strained calf - displayed why he's a pillar to Golden State in the postseason, averaging 13.7 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists as he simultaneously brought helped his team to a fifth straight Finals appearance while repairing a relationship with his superstar teammate. 

"Me and Kevin been had a great relationship," Green said in May. "We had the moment we had in November, but I don't have any close friends that I haven't gotten into it with in a major way. I've gotten into with my brother - my blood brother - in a major way. That's just what it is, but tough times build character, and that's what I've done." 

Now, as Green approaches his eighth NBA season, the Warriors are no longer the title favorites, no longer the best team, and no longer the face of the league as Thompson enters the season rehabbing a torn ACL, D'Angelo Russell - one of eight new faces on the roster - finds his way on the team, while Andre Iguodala joins Durant out the door. 

About an hour after the Warriors lost to the Raptors in the Finals, Green called any notion that Golden State was finished "not smart." Now with Durant gone, and the Warriors doubling down on the core that built the dynasty, Green will have to prove his words he told Durant in November to live up to the goal he set for his career following the Western Conference finals. 

 "When it's all said and done, I just want to be remembered as a winner. When I knot my shoe strings up and throw them on the telephone line, if they can say I was a winner, I did my job." 
 

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