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Draymond Green diary: Christmas edition

‘I’ve learned from things from the Finals and continue to push ahead’

Draymond Green has evolved into one of the most interesting personalities in the NBA, and perhaps all of sports — the vocal leader and emotional engine for one of the most compelling NBA teams in recent memory.

Green gave The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears an exclusive look into his life on and off the court through a 2016 NBA playoffs diary that ended with his Golden State Warriors losing in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Green and the Warriors’ return to Cleveland for the first time since the Finals for a marquee Christmas Day matchup.

A week before the game, Green talked to The Undefeated for a special Christmas diary at his Holiday Party & Sneaker Giveaway at the West Oakland Youth Center in California during which he treated 50 boys and girls to a party featuring barbers and hairdressers, food and two pairs of sneakers.

I’m not a big Christmas person. I’m not a big Santa Claus person. But it’s a time to really spend time with your family. It’s Jesus’ birthday. That’s what has always meant a lot to me and my family, the way I was raised. The way Christmas is set up in this country, we think we are supposed to get all these gifts. Just to be able to help in that time for someone else is always special …

“Just to be in a position to give back, it’s just a privilege for me to give back. I know hard times. It might not be the Christmas that you want. Just being able to help make it a little better and put a smile on the kids’ faces is always special to me.

“I was them growing up in the inner city. Parents probably working two or three jobs to keep food on the table. I’m thankful for an opportunity like this. This is a blessing. I remember those days. It wasn’t long ago for me. It is something I’ll never forget. I’m thankful for my mom working the way she did to make sure that even though we didn’t have anything we wanted, we had everything we needed. If we didn’t have it, she’d find a way.

“I was just surprised that they said, ‘Thank you.’ Every kid that came up said, ‘Thank you.’ I don’t do anything [in the community] for attention or for someone to say, ‘Draymond is this or that.’ I do it simply for the feeling that it gives me to see someone smile. It’s always really appreciated. Now, in this day and age, so many kids do not say thank you about things. For every kid that came up to say, ‘thank you,’ that meant a lot. That was special. That shows that they are raising these kids up the right way. They are teaching the right way to go about things. Teaching them the right way to go about life. It’s something that’s so small, but goes so far. You don’t realize it.

“[Playing on Christmas is] a double-edged sword. You enjoy it because it’s prime time. Everybody is watching. You got to be good if you’re playing on Christmas or somebody wants to see you play. So that’s always special. I do remember the days of watching all the games on Christmas Day and that is really a fun thing to do, too. But it’s not anything I would complain about. To have the opportunity to play on Christmas Day is special.

“I’m just excited about it. It’s always a fun game to play. It’s not excitement like, ‘Oh, we get to play them! They beat us in Game 7.’ If we beat them by 50 or they beat us by 60 on Christmas, it won’t matter. It won’t matter. But any time you get to compete at a high level, it’s something special. It’s something I don’t take for granted. I’m excited in that aspect. Not necessarily like this is our ‘get back,’ because if this is our ‘get back,’ then we have a whole other problem. This for sure ain’t the ‘get back.’ It’s a game on the schedule. Nonetheless, when you have a chance to compete at a high level, I’m always thankful for it because it’s not something that’s promised.

“I don’t really think about [the Finals] at all, honestly. It is what it is. What happened is gone to me. I’ve learned from things from the Finals and continue to push ahead.

“If someone walks over me, I’m going to always react. I still look at the play and wonder, ‘Why was I suspended?’ To each his own. It’s out of my control. But I just won’t put myself in that position.

“I wouldn’t say [it affected my friendship with LeBron James]. Basketball is basketball. We’ve never been ones to talk on the phone every day. But it’s neither here nor there. There are no hard feelings there, but I can only speak for me.

“I’m over it already. I’ll never forget it. You can’t change it. I try not to worry about things you can’t change. And I know I can’t change that, but I’ll never forget it. But I’m all the way over it.

“I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about keeping my composure. Not necessarily just the Finals, throughout the course of the whole playoffs and after. Shortly after, some things happened to me that really taught me about myself. Not necessarily control myself. Just stay more on top of things. Stay more ahead of things as opposed to putting myself in certain positions where you’re putting your fate in someone else’s hands. I didn’t like that feeling. It’s a hopeless feeling. I just learned how to keep myself out of situations like that.

“[As a team,] we learned a lot. There is a level that you always have to be at paying attention to the details. Just being strong. All the little details. Those are some of the lessons that it taught us. It’s painful. It’s pain that you never want to feel again, and it makes you work that much harder to never feel that again.”

“We are nowhere near where we want to be. We are further along than where we expected to be right now. But nonetheless, we’ve won a championship, we’ve been to Finals, we know what it takes. We are nowhere near that, and that’s fine. If you look at some of the games we’re having, I’m like, ‘Man.’ The first thing people say is, ‘Are you gelling or clicking?’ I don’t want to sound like the a–h— that says no. Sound cocky. But we’re not. I know that just by having a handle on the team. Knowing where we can go, we are nowhere near gelling.

“There are things that will come with time. The more we play with each other, the better we will get on the offensive end and the defensive end. People always say, ‘When y’all going together, you’re going to be good on the offensive end.’ The defensive end works the same way. I know if I get beat, someone is going to cover me. Building that trust on that end as opposed to, someone got beat, let me foul. Someone is behind me to help me. It’s the same thing on the defensive end as the offensive end. You continue to build that trust. Get that feel for each other. It’s going to take us to another level.

“[The addition of Kevin Durant] definitely changes the way everyone matched up before with us. It’s a little different. With them matching up with LeBron on me, you can’t do that. Not with KD on the floor. You can, but then that leaves other matchups. It makes the matchups honest. It definitely changes the dynamics of the game.”

“There is about to be a little kid in this world that is mine. It’s a surreal feeling. I’m very anxious. I have every possible emotion that you can feel about it. I’m anxious, a little nervous, extremely excited. It’s just all the emotions wrapped in one.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.