Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) defends Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) during the fourth quarter in Game 5 of the NBA Finals at Chase Center, Monday, June 13, 2022, in San Francisco, Calif. Credit: Santiago Mejia / San Francisco Chronicle via AP


BOSTON — The Boston Celtics have presented a host of headaches to opponents all year long since their second half turnaround led to a trip to the NBA Finals. They have the ability to play with two bigs in the starting five or downsize easily to small ball with Derrick White off the bench. That versatility tested the limits of a lot of their opponents during their postseason run, but the same can’t be said for Draymond Green when he was asked about comparing it to his mentally toughest NBA Finals matchups.

Green didn’t hold back in declaring that from a mental standpoint, one player still stands head and shoulders above the rest.

“Well, it doesn’t compare to mentally playing against LeBron James,” Green said before Game 6, “Who I think is arguably the smartest guy to ever play this game. Not one of, he is arguably the smartest guy to set foot on a basketball court. To say that it compares to that, it’s disrespectful to LeBron and it’s a lie to you.

“Now in saying that, it is a challenge mentally because these guys are super athletic. They are super young and fast and strong, and all the things that we know and have heard throughout the course of this series. They are those things. And then obviously they are super talented, and so when you are facing that, you have to try to out-think a guy. If a guy is faster than me, how can I beat him to a spot? I have to anticipate and I have to think. I have to try to understand what he’s trying to get to. So I think that’s been huge in this series from a mental standpoint and just trying to understand and be a step ahead of them.”

Ime Udoka has made plenty of savvy adjustments during the postseason and could have some more in store for the Warriors in Game 6. However, Green put James in a different category with how he processes the game.

“(Facing the Celtics is ) not as much of a chess match as it is when you’re playing LeBron, who is dissecting every play in that computer of his, like in real time. Like that’s just a skill that not many people possess. Not many people can come and sit here and find a random stretch from seven minutes to four minutes in the second quarter and give you every play like to the T and not miss a beat. There’s not many people that can do that.

“Now in saying that, they do have a guy over there in Marcus Smart who is extremely smart, who it’s like a chess match going up against him. He is kind of the brain of that team. I think every team you kind of have that guy, that’s the brain of that team, and they have that in Marcus Smart, a guy who I have a tremendous amount of respect for and his basketball IQ. So it’s a challenge for sure. Ime is extremely smart. We know his pedigree. So the challenge is there, but you can’t put it up there against LeBron’s. Like I said, he’s probably the smartest guy we’ve ever seen play basketball.”

The Celtics and Warriors face off in Game 6 at 9 p.m. on Thursday night.

Story by Brian Robb,