Warriors’ Draymond Green finds ‘peace’ being back in NBA playoffs

DENVER — For the first seven years of his NBA career, the playoffs became a second home for Draymond Green and the Warriors. From being a rookie to turning into an All-Star and future Hall of Famer, he always was a major key in guiding Golden State beyond the regular season.

He has the keys to the front door again, and feels right at home in the 2022 playoffs, a place he never wants to leave now or in the future.

“I feel like I’m in a familiar space,” Green said Saturday at Ball Arena after Warriors practice, one day before their Game 4 matchup with the Denver Nuggets. “I feel so at peace, because all of this just feels so familiar.”

The past two seasons felt foreign for Green and others from the Warriors’ championship core. He always brings it in the regular season, there’s no doubt about that. His accolades from him speak for himself with multiple All-Star selections, being named All-Defensive six times so far and All-NBA twice, along with winning the 2016-17 Defensive Player of the Year.

If we’re being honest, he probably should have a few more trophies on his mantle too.

Playoff Draymond is different, though. The volume gets cranked so high it could blow out the speakers and his laser-focus feels almost superhuman. We’ve known that to be true in the past, and so has he. Through the Warriors’ first three games in their first-round series against the Nuggets — all wins — Green only has reminded himself of the truth above while sending a message to the rest of the league.

He of course didn’t want the Warriors to miss the playoffs the past two seasons. Duh. There just might have been a silver lining to it all.

“A couple years of not doing it, it’s like, ‘Hey man, this regular-season basketball, y’all can have this.’ I’m trying to get to the playoffs and play that basketball,” Green said. “That’s the fun basketball.”

Shortly after, Green then mentioned a tweet sent Friday night from LeBron James expressing his hurt of not being in the playoffs this year as his Los Angeles Lakers had a catastrophically disappointing season.

Draymond felt that same pain the last two seasons, watching the playoffs from home instead of fighting for another title, day in and day out. That’s nothing short of a nightmare for a competitor like Green, and his appreciation of the playoffs and the journey it entails has only grown.

“I saw a tweet from ‘Bron the other day. Damn right, that s–t hurts,” he said. “You put everything you got into this and you go home and you watch the postseason, and guys play for everything? You didn’t go into the season and not work as hard. You still put your work in. So to not be able to flourish on this stage — that’s what it’s all about.

“For me, I’ve been dying to get back here. To be back here, I feel like I have to take more advantage of this opportunity than ever. I just have a much deeper appreciation for it.”

Through the first three games of the Warriors’ series with the Nuggets, that can’t be more evident. After his fourth All-Star season that saw him miss 31 straight games at one point to a back injury, Green is on a mission as he stars at the face of a giant, raising his own game to a level that still feels unfathomable at times .

In the Warriors’ first two games, he shut down reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and was a plus-41 as Jokic was a minus-45. Draymond admits Jokic got the better of him for the most part in Game 3 as the big man put up a much-more efficient 37 points and 18 rebounds. But with the game on the line, Green again got the upper-hand, swiping the ball from the MVP finalist and sealing the Warriors’ hard-fought victory with a signature steal.

Jokic finished as a plus-3, Green was a plus-4. Point, Draymond — good for another Warriors win.

RELATED: Dubs’ core, newcomers show championship mettle in Game 3 road win

Whether it be high school, college, the NBA or the Olympics, one thing has remained true about the now 32-year-old Green: He’s the ultimate winner. Turn up the pressure, all he’ll do is prosper.

Welcome home.

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