When Draymond Green began working with Luke Walton, he knew right away Walton would be someone he could trust.
“He understood what I was trying to do before I really knew what I was trying to do,” Green said. “He helped me out a lot. It was someone I could always talk to about anything. Luke would be the guy who, if something’s not going right, you just go vent to.”
The Warriors and Lakers played for the third time in three weeks on Friday night. Each time Green took a moment to catch up with Walton. During games they often sought each other out for some friendly trash talk. With 10 years separating the two, they behave more like old friends than a former coach and pupil.
“We never miss a beat,” Green said.
That relationship began on the court.
While Green famously clashed with Warriors Coach Steve Kerr as he worked through a contract year, and called his first preseason with the staff before the 2014-15 season “awful,” he found an ally in Walton.
“That’s part of the responsibility of an assistant,” Walton said. “You try to defuse stuff before it ever gets to the head coach, and with Draymond, he’s a very emotional player. … I could tell him what we were thinking from our side if it was something he wasn’t agreeing with. And he’s an intelligent player that if you make a valid point, he’ll recognize it and then move on.”
Green’s faith in Walton came in part from Walton understanding playing forward in the NBA.
“It definitely helps that I think he’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met when it just comes to the game of basketball,” Green said. “He’s brilliant. That definitely helps because I like to think I’m pretty smart. When there’s somebody that I think, ‘Yo he’s just way smarter than me.’ That says a lot.”
The Lakers played without three starters against the Warriors on Friday.
Forward Julius Randle missed the game with a hip pointer injury, point guard D’Angelo Russell missed the game with a knee injury and guard Nick Young missed the game with a sprained toe in his left foot.
To replace those three, the Lakers started rookie Brandon Ingram, for the second time this season, point guard Jose Calderon for the fourth time this season and shooting guard Jordan Clarkson for the first time this season.
Young had an X-ray on his foot that returned negative for a fracture.
Russell is expected to be out for at least another week and a half. Randle had hoped he could play in Friday’s game against the Warriors.
Randle’s and Young’s status for the Lakers next game is uncertain.
“I hope Nick Young can play,” Walton said. “I hope Nick can play, I hope Julius can play, I know D’Angelo’s out, but I hope the other two can play.”