LOS ANGELES -- Warriors rookie forward Draymond Green is an on-the-grind type of player, bred at Michigan State. He's heard the horror stories about Golden State's history of porous defense.
Still, he said he's seen something that makes him believe things are changing. He called it a defensive mentality.
"Since the day I stepped foot in the Bay, we've been working on defense," Green said. "Guys want it. Guys are actually putting the work in. The effort is there."
Yes, you have heard it all before. Every year, talk out of training camp is the team will now be good on defense. Why should you believe this year's bunch?
How about the fact the Warriors have been one of the best defensive teams this exhibition season. Through Sunday, Golden State was leading the NBA in field goal percentage defense (39.4 percent) and holding opponents to just 92 points per game.
What? You aren't convinced by exhibition stats?
Of course, the first half of Monday's game didn't help. The Los Angeles Clippers' key players had their way with the Warriors, who were playing without point guard Stephen Curry (sprained right ankle) and center Andrew Bogut (left ankle rehab). Golden State gave up 52 points on 46 percent shooting in the first half and trailed by 13 en route to an 88-71 loss.
"At the end of the day, the board will be erased and we'll have to do it when it matters most," coach Mark Jackson said. "But we are certainly an improved
Those in the locker room believe this will be the year they back up the defensive talk. Because they have size now, including a couple of capable shot blockers. Because they are committed. Because they have depth, which means fresh legs and multiple looks.
Everything starts with Bogut and his health. If he's in the lineup, Golden State will have a proven defensive presence anchoring its defense.
"He blocks a lot of shots," said forward Brandon Rush, who in his Indiana days played against Bogut several times in the Eastern Conference. "He's a big guy who takes up a lot of the paint."
In addition to Bogut, 6-foot-11 rookie center Festus Ezeli gives the Warriors size, bulk and shot-blocking off the bench. Golden State added more size in forwards Carl Landry (6-9), Green (6-9) and Harrison Barnes (6-8).
In addition to the size, several in the locker room said the team's commitment to defense is key. Perhaps the best example is the starting backcourt.
Second-year guard Klay Thompson said he and Curry have been working on their defense all summer together. He said they'd spend at least 11/2 hours a day on defensive drills.
The result: Jackson said the duo has been best perimeter defenders for the Warriors in the exhibition season.
"That's been our main focus," Thompson said. "Our defense is already leaps and bounds ahead of what it was last year. Both of us have improved, learned some new things."
Perhaps the key, though, is depth. Jackson -- on paper, at least -- can throw multiple looks at opposing offenses. He can go big and tough, small and quick, long and athletic.
Depth allows Jackson to bench players who aren't cutting it, and it allows the starters to go hard on that end of the court knowing they will get rest.
Of course, that all sounds good now. The question is can they do it during the regular season? Jackson said he is encouraged because the building blocks are there.
"You don't stumble into being a very good defensive team," Jackson said. "It comes through repetition and drilling it. I've got a great group that totally buys in and is committed."
Phoenix at Warriors, 7:30 p.m., CSNBA