Nets are ‘team to beat’ in Eastern Conference: Draymond Green

Draymond Green has won three NBA titles with Golden State, including two alongside Kevin Durant, so he knows a thing or two about successful super-teams.

After falling Saturday night to his former teammate and Brooklyn’s newly assembled Big 3, the Warriors’ three-time All-Star forward believes the Nets should be considered the favorite to reach the NBA Finals out of the Eastern Conference this season.

“They’ll be really dangerous in the East. I think there are some other good teams in the East that pose a threat to them, but they’re the team to beat in the East, if you ask me,” Green said after the Nets’ 17-point victory Saturday in San Francisco. “It’s my opinion. That doesn’t mean anything, but that’s my opinion, they’re definitely the team to beat in the East.”

The Nets (16-12) currently are third in the conference standings under first-year coach Steve Nash — behind Philadelphia and Milwaukee — entering Monday’s game in Sacramento. But they also have played only seven games (5-2) so far with Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden together in the lineup.

Nets Kevin Durant Draymond Green
The Warriors’ Draymond Green (l.) and the Nets’ Kevin Durant on Feb. 13, 2021.
NBAE via Getty Images

Durant, who won consecutive MVP awards in the NBA Finals with the Warriors in 2017 and 2018, scored 20 points with six assists and five rebounds in 33 minutes Saturday night in his first game back in the Bay Area since suffering a ruptured Achilles in the 2019 Finals.

Asked afterward what stood out to him about facing Durant and how he’s looked during his injury comeback, Green replied: “Just how no one in the world can stop him. And after playing him, I still don’t think anyone in the world can stop him. But also I think what always stood out to me was his work ethic. When you watch Kevin work out…every single move that he makes is at game speed. Which I think is absolutely insane, just so hard to do. If there’s something that stood out to me more than anything it’s his work ethic and how much he loves the game of basketball.”

Green also believes that the three seasons Durant spent with Golden State before his injury — and signing with Brooklyn as a free agent — made KD an even more well-rounded player than he’d been earlier in his career with Oklahoma City.

“He was already a monster, so I don’t think any of us can take credit for that. I think being here definitely probably helped his IQ, for sure. But that guy’s been a monster,” Green said. “One hundred percent. You can even hear him out there talking on the floor and the things he’s telling people to do, is kind of a completely different perspective than before he came here.

“I think his time here definitely helped him as a basketball player. Obviously, it helped us as a team, but you can definitely see and feel the difference. Whereas you would play him before, and everything was kind of ‘attack, attack, attack.’ It’s not that anymore. You can definitely, see, tell, feel, hear, the difference.”

Durant is averaging 29.0 points per game through 19 appearances after missing the entire 2019-20 season, perhaps lending optimism for the Warriors that All-Star guard Klay Thompson can come back fully from a similar injury suffered in November.

“I don’t think playing against Kevin necessarily made me more hopeful that Klay can return. I’ve been hopeful that he will return at full strength,” Green said. “But nonetheless, to see where Kevin is today, it’s pretty impressive. Coming off an Achilles injury, we’ve seen Achilles injuries end some guys’ careers. He doesn’t look like he’s missed any time.”

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