Draymond Green has been a winner for as long as he can remember.
To maintain that standard, he has used a forceful, unapologetic style, often riding his star Warriors teammates — sometimes to their chagrin — on their way to three NBA titles in five years.
These days, his approach is tamed. With Kevin Durant out of town, a 2-12 start to this season and seven players injured, Green must reconcile himself with a new Warriors era while mentoring a young group.
"It's frustrating," Green recently admitted to NBC Sports Bay Area. "I've never lost at this rate in my life, but I just got to look at the bright side. Just try to make sure that I'm leading these young guys the right way."
Since he entered the league eight seasons ago, Green has unabashedly pried, cursed and grinded teammates in an effort to get the most out of them. There’s no better example of that approach than a year ago, when Green cursed out Durant during an early season loss to the Clippers, calling him out during a nationally televised game.
Green was suspended in the fallout, and his friendship with Durant -- who signed with the Brooklyn Nets in July -- needed repair, further perpetuating a narrative he'd built around the league.
"I thought he was going to be an a—hole," said Marquese Chriss, who joined the Warriors this season. "I'm not going to lie."
Golden State Warriors
Of the eight new Warriors, Chriss might have been the biggest beneficiary of Green's refined approach. Chriss was drafted No. 8 overall by the Kings in 2016 before being sent to the Suns in a draft-night trade. He spent two seasons in Phoenix, before stints in Cleveland and Houston, with some reported character concerns along the way.
"He was immature," former Suns teammate Jared Dudley told NBC Sports Bay Area last month. "But it's not a bad immaturity. He just had to grow up, and they threw him into the fire and sometimes kids aren't ready for that."
When Chriss signed a non-guaranteed deal with the Warriors in late September, Green had a message for him.
"This is your opportunity to f--k up," the veteran forward said. "You're going to have an opportunity to show yourself. Take advantage of it."
Chriss heeded Green's words, averaging 9.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game during the preseason, forcing the Warriors to add him to their cash-strapped roster by cutting Alfonzo McKinnie. But it was Green's defense of the former first-round pick's journey after a preseason loss to the Lakers that earned Chriss' trust.
"[People] always want to blame the kid," Green said that night. "It's not always the kid's fault. He's getting older now, so he's not a kid anymore. But he came into this league as a kid, but it's never the organization's fault. It's always that guy. So I'm happy he's gotten the opportunity to show what he can really do because it's a prime example.”
Chriss' social-media mentions received a notable uptick after Green’s comments, to the point that his mother, Shawntae, reached out to check on her boy, who was grateful for his teammate’s statement.
"To have somebody like that who is willing to take the backlash for saying things like that is pretty dope,” Chriss said.
Green's leadership tendencies remain apparent, but with a twist. In the second half of his team's latest loss Sunday to the Pelicans, he yelled at guard Jordan Poole as he walked off the floor, getting in the rookie's face as he made his point. Toward the end of the conversation, Green tapped the 20-year old's chest in encouragement, displaying his tough-love relationship.
"I can go to him for anything,” Poole said. "If I have any questions or we want to hang out, want to go get food. If I do something wrong, he'll tell me. If I'm doing something good, he'll encourage me. It's just kind of like a big-brother, little-brother relationship."
Added Warriors coach Steve Kerr: “He knows he has to be the guy, and he does a great job of it. He's doing a good job of being patient because these are trying times for our team and for him."
While injuries have all but erased the Warriors’ playoff chances, Green's imprint on the next generation has been evident. Rookie Eric Paschall has averaged 17.3 points and 6.0 rebounds and shot 48 percent from the field over his last five games. With Stephen Curry and All-Star guard D'Angelo Russell out of the lineup with injuries, two-way guard Ky Bowman had 19 points and four assists in 28 minutes in his latest outing.
"I like them a lot," Green said of the Warriors’ young players. "They're not backing down from anyone. They got a lot to learn, which is to be expected. But one thing you can't really teach is confidence. And they don't lack in that area, which is important for them moving forward in this league."
Green's change in demeanor comes as the Warriors embrace a new chapter. Over his first five seasons, Golden State won 78 percent of its games, capping the best run in NBA history by winning three titles in five NBA Finals appearances. Now, with Durant gone and Curry and Klay Thompson shelved until at least February, Green is aware of his team's new reality.
"It's different," he said. "Because it's like people don't expect us to win, but teams don't play us like they don't expect us to win. Everybody still wants to beat our a--."
Indeed, teams around the league are relishing this new era. After the Warriors’ season-opening loss to the Clippers, LA guard Patrick Beverley boasted to Yahoo! Sports: "Y’all a little different without KD, I see. Uh-huh, y’all cheated long enough. It’s OK. Y’all had a good run. Back to reality.”
Beverley essentially verbalized the league's attitude toward the new Warriors, which amuses Green.
"We put them down, so they're trying to kick us while we're down too because we've put them down for years," Green said. “But we didn't have to take shots while they were down. We just put them down, so it's a difference."
Green’s push for another title is coming at a cost. Last season, he missed 16 games in the regular season while nursing toe, knee and ankle injuries, forcing him to lose more than 20 pounds by the playoffs. He blamed the rough start on compounding injuries piling up the previous season, which forced him to prioritize rehab over basketball activities during the summer of 2018. He admitted he didn't play pickup until his “Grind Week” -- his invite-only camp at Oakland's Holy Names University -- just prior to the season, something he was able to change entering his eighth NBA campaign.
"This offseason was different because I was healthy,” Green said, “so I was able to be in the gym, get my work in, just kind of typical offseason as opposed to that offseason before I was so beat up."
The summer also brought a four-year, $100 million commitment from the Warriors. Still, Green hasn't had a clean bill of health through the first month of the season. A torn ligament in his left index finger -- which Green insists is fine -- forced him to sit out five games, begging the question: Could his current contract be his last as a pro?
"No," Green deadpanned. "I get a lot of nicks and knacks, which part of it just comes from the way I play. But I'm not going to act like I'm just the most beat-up guy. There are guys that have had three, four major surgeries and they say like, ‘Thank God.’ Knock on wood, I've never had a surgery. It's all relative."
Even in Golden State's current state of peril, there's still hope for the future. Curry and Thompson are expected to be healthy to start next season, reuniting Green with the group that started the Warriors’ run five years ago. Additionally, a $17 million trade exception -- acquired when the Warriors dealt Andre Iguodala to Memphis -- is expected to bolster the team's depth, potentially building another Western Conference contender.
But for now, Green has his eyes on something different.
"I take this league one day at a time," Green said. "I'm not sitting here looking forward to next year. Next year will get here soon enough. I'm taking this season one day at a time because I'm trying to get better and trying to improve myself, trying to help these young guys improve. Whenever that time gets here, that time gets there."