DETROIT -- In September, while playing pick-up ball with his new teammates, Warriors rookie Draymond Green brazenly violated an unwritten NBA rule.
"As rookies, you just stand down when there's a foul called," said fellow Golden State rookie Harrison Barnes, who was selected 28 slots ahead of Green. "But he stood up and was like, 'Nah. That's not a foul.'
"It was one of those moments where you're like 'whoa.' ... He hasn't been shy about making his voice heard. That's just how he is."
Green, 22, doesn't hold his tongue. He doesn't back down from a challenge. And he doesn't settle for anything less than winning.
As the Warriors (10-7) begin their first lengthy road trip of the season a 11/2-hour drive from Green's hometown, they are relishing that toughness and competitive drive -- not to mention a high basketball IQ. Those have become Green's trademarks, developed on the blacktops of Saginaw, Mich., and now paying dividends in the Warriors' regular rotation.
"He's one of those guys I don't like, I love," said Tom Izzo, Green's former coach at Michigan State. "I miss him every day."
What makes the 6-foot-7 Green special, what has Warriors coach Mark Jackson raving about him being a steal as the No. 35 overall pick, is that he is as tough as a carpenter's handshake and obsessed with winning. It's what made him an Izzo favorite, too.
"What is he best at? I'd say winning," Izzo said. "I know he's not maybe the most
Green may not ever be an NBA all-star. His numbers don't pop off the page (2.2 points, 2.6 rebounds in 11.6 minutes off the bench). You certainly won't be blown away by looking at Green's less-than-chiseled physique or his underwhelming athleticism.
Yet, every team he plays for -- from high school to college to pros -- feels the impact of his presence. He injects toughness into the locker room, raises the intelligence quotient of the roster, executes the little things every winning team needs.
"He just comes to play," Warriors forward Carl Landry said. "He's a guy that does things that don't show up in the box score. That's something every team needs."
Across the street from the house where he grew up was the Civitan Recreation Center. It was especially alive on Saturdays, when the center held a league for multiple age groups. Green played in the younger group and religiously watched the older guys, including former Warriors guard Jason Richardson (who is the reason Green wears No. 23).
Saginaw's gang scene was thriving back then, but Civitan was one place the violence would stop. The intense rivalries, however, wouldn't.
"It didn't matter if you was from Northside, Southside, Eastside, whatever," Green said. "It was so tough and competitive. ... Going to watch them older guys, they were out there battling. I wanted to get to that position."
The league shut down before Green could play with the big boys, but he picked up their edginess just by watching. He cut his teeth getting knocked around by those same guys in pick-up games, irritating many with how hard he played.
But toughness wouldn't be enough for him to reach highest levels -- particularly since Green wasn't as physically gifted as the other athletes he competed against. He needed to rely on his cerebral game.
"He has an incredible basketball IQ," Jackson said. "That's the biggest reason why he's on this level."
Green always soaked up basketball. He was caught up in Michigan State's three straight Final Four runs as an adolescent. He became addicted to Magic Johnson. At Saginaw High, which he led to two state championships, he learned the value of watching film.
So when Green got to Michigan State, he was in heaven. He learned from one of the all-time great college coaches in Izzo. He devoured film. He frequently picked the brains of Michigan State alums such as Mateen Cleaves and Zach Randolph. Ultimately he played key roles in two trips to the Final Four and one to the Sweet 16.
Now, Jackson said he'd take Green's basketball IQ over most 10-year veterans.
"It shows up every day in practice. It shows up in games. It shows up in huddles," Jackson said. "He's talking about things most players don't see. He absolutely gets it. Even his questions are next-level questions. He sees A and B happening, and he's asking what are we going to do when C takes place."
Most importantly, what Green's approach helps brings to the table are Ws.
"That's what he can do -- win," Izzo said. "Period."
Warriors (10-7) at Detroit (6-13), 4:30 p.m., CSNBA