HOUSTON — Draymond Green looks forward to the pregame texts from his mother. The messages are typically words of encouragement and love. But lately, Mary Babers-Green has preached to her son to stay focused on the game, not the referees.
One hour before Tuesday’s Game 4 between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, Babers-Green sent a text to the three-time All-Star that read:
“Love you STAY FOCUSED, CONTINUE TO LEAD & do as you said JUST PLAY bump [don’t worry about] those refs… NO DISRESPECT TO ANYONE BUT THE COURT! SHOW EM WHAT YOU CAME TO DO! Muah!”
The Warriors forward texted back, “Indeed. Love you too.”
Babers-Green said she felt compelled to talk to her son about leaving the referees alone when officiating became the major storyline after the Warriors’ 104-100 victory over the Rockets in Game 1 of their second-round series. The fiery Green earned his third technical foul of the playoffs during the first quarter of Game 1. Babers-Green told her son afterward to take his frustrations “out at the game, not on the refs. The refs have more power than you.”
Since then, Green received one technical during Game 2 after he tangled with Rockets center Nene. But it was later rescinded by the NBA, keeping Green’s total at three.
In the playoffs, a player will be suspended for one game after accumulating eight technical fouls. Such was the case for Green during the 2016 NBA Finals, when he was suspended for the Warriors’ crucial Game 5 loss against the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers after earning his eighth tech in Game 4.
Babers-Green told her son after Game 1 against Houston that he will never win battles with the refs.
“When they first started the series and everybody started complaining about the refs and saying they were dominating the game, I told Dray, ‘Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Don’t worry about that. Your job out there is to stay on the floor,’ ” Babers-Green told The Undefeated. “ ‘All them techs, the refs are going to do what they’re going to do. Anytime I played, anytime you played, the refs are a part of the game. So what? Just go out there and play the game. Shut up.’
“It was getting bad. We need you. We know who is who and all that, but we need you to play. And he’s been doing good. He hasn’t been arguing with the refs or nothing.”
Green has a reputation for having words with referees and opposing players on a nightly basis. He and Chris Paul had some words and physical moments in Game 4. And while Green hasn’t totally silenced his displeasure during games, it does appear that he has listened to his mom’s advice.
“In their defense, this ain’t an easy series. James Harden is not easy to officiate. Chris Paul isn’t easy to official. Kevin Durant is not easy to officiate,” Green told The Undefeated. “If I wanted to bitch, I’d be bitching all day. It’s a complete waste of time. It’s a complete waste of energy.
“And that is what my mom has been stressing to me: ‘Lock in. Focus on what you have to do. Forget the refs. Forget everything else and focus on what you need to do. Everything else will take care of itself.’ I’ve been just really focusing on that and making it a point of emphasis to not focus on the wrong s—.”
The Warriors will host the Rockets in Game 5 on Wednesday with the series tied 2-2. Green pointed a finger at himself for the Warriors’ lack of intensity during their 112-108 loss in Game 4. But, statistically speaking, he has been playing well.
In Game 4, Green had 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field, a team-high 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, only 2 turnovers and zero technicals in 40 minutes. Green has also had two triple-doubles in the playoffs after zero in the regular season. While Green’s playoff statistics have been well-rounded, he is far from satisfied.
“I’ve played decent,” Green said. “[In Game 4], I could’ve played a lot better, and I got to do that. I picked it up in the second half, but I have to be a lot better.”
When asked whether there was reason for concern in the series against Houston, Green said, “Hell no.” He said the Warriors’ mentality in the locker room “was great” after the Game 4 loss and “everyone is focused on the task at hand.” He added that if the Warriors match the physicality and effort of the Rockets in Game 5 and beyond, they “should be able to beat everybody.”
When you listen to Green’s mother, you can tell where his confidence and swag come from.
“All I have been telling him lately is to leave it on the court. Blood, sweat and tears. You practice every day for this game and then you go out there and disrespect yourself? Just play. Let us trash-talk,’ ” Babers-Green said.
Green gets countless texts a day. But when it’s game night, inspirational pregame texts from his mother as well as his fiancée, Hazel Renee, mean the world to him.
“Both send me texts lifting me up,” Green said. “It’s helpful because typically it’s the last thing I’ll see before I head on the floor. It helps my mindset before I go on the floor.”