A long road to the Finals for Danny Green
AMERICAN AIRLINES ARENA — It’s been a long, strange trip for Danny Green. After all the disappointment that comes with bouncing around the D-League, Europe and the end of an NBA bench, Green is set to start Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.
You know the story. After four years at North Carolina, Green went in the second round of the 2009 draft and then explored the back alleys of professional basketball. He spent time with the Reno Bighorns of the NBA D-League, was LeBron James’ dancing partner on the Cleveland Cavaliers bench for a spell and waited out the NBA Lockout a couple of summers ago in Slovenia.
But let’s not get this story wrong. It wasn’t luck that put Green where he is. Sure, there’s always luck involved, but it’s much more than that. It’s about a guy who put in the work, put in the time and figured out what it took to stick in the NBA. That it came with the Spurs, a team that once cut him, makes the story that much better.
According to Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, it took a sort of double team from himself and Green’s college coach, Roy Williams, to guide the Spurs swingman to become the player he is today.
“He’s going to keep getting cut if he doesn’t do A, B and C,” Pop said after shootaround on Thursday about what he and Williams told Danny.
To his credit, Green learned from the pair of Hall of Fame coaches and did the things necessary to stick in the league. It also got him a nice little contract and the comfort in life that comes with guaranteed income.
“Defensively on the floor is what my main role is and why my importance with this team is,” Green said earlier in the playoffs, explaining what either the A or B is. “It’s easier offensively to just wait, spot up at the 3-point line and knock down shots.”
Improving in those areas is what kept Green in the league, as well as the Spurs rotation, and his ability to do them well is a major reason why the Spurs are battling for their fifth NBA title. After a horrific Western Conference Finals last season, Green’s confidence never wavered this season.
“He’s progressed more mentally than anything else,” Coach Pop said.
Now Green is tasked with his toughest challenge yet. On one end he’ll have to check Dwyane Wade who, while not quite performing like the player he was just a couple of seasons ago, is still a dangerous offensive player. On the other, Green will have to knock down perimeter shots on the league’s brightest stage against possibly its most manic defense.
That’s just one of the battles to take place when the NBA Finals tip-off on Thursday night. For Green, it’s one a long time in the making. If he can continue his 43 percent shooting from the 3-point line in this Finals, what one could already consider a happy ending might just get even better.