SAN FRANCISCO -- The gang finally was supposed to be back on the court together Sunday night at Chase Center. That lasted all of seven seconds.
Klay Thompson's return to the Warriors didn't just mean the best team in the NBA was getting back a five-time All-Star and one of the greatest shooters the game has ever seen. It meant the return of the Warriors' Big Three of Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Thompson, a trio that changed franchise history and how basketball could be played.
All three were drafted by Golden State. They got better by the year. They won a championship and broke the NBA's regular-season wins record before Kevin Durant ever put on a Warriors jersey.
But as Chase Center was erupting every time Thompson touched the ball during pregame warmups, it was announced moments before the start of the game that Green experienced calf tightness in his warmups and wouldn't play past the opening tip.
"It was kind of out of the blue," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after Golden State's 96-82 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers. "He scrimmaged yesterday and felt fine and was so excited to play, then went out for warmups to his pregame shoot and he just felt a twinge in his calf and there was no way we were going to risk playing him and he was devastated.
"He's been looking forward to this as much as anybody."
There also was no way Draymond wasn't going to share the court with Klay, no matter how short that stint might be.
Golden State Warriors
“I don’t think my calf injury is a big issue, but it was important for me to be out there for Klay’s first game back,” Green told The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears. “I’ve been waiting on this moment for almost three years. I wanted to feel the energy, but more importantly, if he was going to walk out there and be there for this moment, I was going to do it.”
As the Warriors finished up their pregame warmups and began getting ready for player introductions, there was Green and Thompson, side by side sitting together on the sidelines. Green had his blue Warriors sweatsuit zipped up, hood all the way over his ears. Thompson, headband and all, stared straight forward counting down the seconds to hearing his name called for the first time at Chase Center.
Then came Curry, sitting to the left of Thompson, with Klay right in the middle of Steph and Draymond. The three-headed monster was back. A message was sent to the entire NBA before the game even started.
Kerr said he called Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff and general manager Bob Myers called Cleveland's GM Koby Altman to tell him Green's plans of being on the court with the starters before quickly coming out. They understood the situation and agreed without hesitation. Seven seconds into the game, Green jogged down the court and intentionally fouled Cavs guards Darius Garland before being replaced by Juan Toscano-Anderson.
"Draymond wanted to be a part of the starting lineup, so it was good to get him part of the festivities, but it was tough to see him not be able to play but hopefully this is a short-term thing and we got a lot of games left," Kerr said.
Those seven seconds, Green shouting at the top of his lungs during pregame introductions and being just as hyped up as anyone else while still knowing he wasn't able to fully play meant the world to Thompson. It showed him again just who Draymond is, was a reminder how special of a night Sunday in San Francisco was and truly what a once in a lifetime trio Klay, Draymond and Steph have formed in the Bay Area.
"So much," Thompson said when asked what it meant to know Green still wanted to be on the court for the opening tip. "I can't wait to play with Dray again, he makes my life so much easier as far as hunting shots and playing defense. We've been at the mountain top together, we've been through some crazy battles together and I love Draymond's competitiveness. It just felt good to have a nearly fully squad together again.
"I have such a history with Steph and Dray. It just felt really cool to sit together with those two before the game and soak it all in."
It's just one game, but as stats are dissected to the nth degree, Green's selfless act again show his priorities. His stats are debated as much as anyone, and playing seven seconds with no stats aside from one foul certainly won't help him in the long run.
Green came into Sunday night's game against the Cavs averaging 8.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 7.6 assists. After a game where his stat line had a whole bunch of zeroes, he now is averaging 7.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game. Even with just seven seconds of play, it's no surprise that Draymond was part of another Warriors win.
The Warriors are 28-6 in games that Green has played this season. They're 2-3 when he hasn't suited up.
"I think Draymond only cares about one thing, and that's winning," Thompson said. "He does things that don't show up in the box score, and I think real basketball heads know that. Draymond is a winner, he has been at every level. He's very selfless as a teammate and it just felt right to have him out there for even a second.
"I appreciate him and I can't wait to compete with him. He's such a great, cerebral player."
Even though he was stuck to the sidelines in his sweatsuit, Green still found his ways to contribute to another Warriors win. He stood up all game long, constantly shouting out guidance to his Golden State teammates, was an extra coach during timeouts and soaked up being a cheerleader when Thompson hammered down a poster dunk on two Cavs.
The night belonged to Klay, but it was another reminder of who Draymond is, what matters most to the Warriors and how special it is to see these three as teammates after two and a half years of waiting to be complete again.