Four years ago, Danny Green sat on airplanes, shared locker rooms and pulled off ridiculous dance moves with LeBron James. He rode pine while LeBron carried the Cavaliers to the league’s best record. As Cleveland’s second-round pick, not much was expected of the rookie. He played sparingly, just 20 games in all, and didn’t see the floor once in the Cavs’ two-round playoff run. After the season, Green was waived.
Fast forward to this year’s Finals. Green has suddenly launched himself into the spotlight with one of the greatest shooting runs in NBA history. In Game 5, he broke Ray Allen’s record for three-pointers in a single Finals series. He and Gary Neal, complete afterthoughts heading into the postseason, combined to go 13-for-19 from deep in Game 3, carrying the Spurs to a blowout win and a 2-1 series lead. Discounting his rough Game 6 last night (1-for-5, three points), he’s averaged over 19 points a game on the biggest stage.
So, is this recent career renaissance a fluke, or a sign of things to come for the 25-year old? Let’s take a closer look.
*** *** ***
Green spent four years at UNC, logging the most games ever played in a Tar Heel uniform in the process. He wasn’t always known as the lights-out shooter he is heralded as now, hitting an unspectacular 35 percent of his threes through his first three seasons. He spent the next summer retooling his form, and showed enormous improvement in his senior campaign, shooting at a clip of 41.2 percent from downtown. He proved that he can work past weaknesses and turn them into strengths.
His defense, on the other hand, has always been terrific. Green understood early on that he wouldn’t always be more athletic than the guy he was taking on, but his solid length and fundamentals made him one of the best perimeter defenders in the country. His efforts earned him an ACC All-Defense nod.
His play on the defensive end has certainly not gone unnoticed in this postseason. Green has been assigned to guard the guy he watched tear up the league during his rookie season and has done admirably. His impact can be seen specifically on transition plays, where he has been able to singlehandedly stop fast breaks without fouling. (It happened at a critical moment again last night, too.)
After he was waived by the Cavaliers, his next stop was the D-League, even though he didn’t stay long. The Spurs brought him aboard, but after just six days they cut him. Gregg Popovich didn’t think that he fit in with the team culture that led San Antonio to four titles. So Green went back to the D-League and later decided to give Pop a call, to let him know he would do whatever it took to get a shot.
Green swallowed his pride and committed himself to his role, a spark off the bench who could stretch the floor and take on the other team’s best wing on the other side of the ball. He’s now a starter and a vital cog to the Spurs’ machine.