HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Told of his 3-point shooting percentage — 44.0 — Danny Green quickly silenced the messenger.
“I really don’t want to know the numbers to be honest with you,” the San Antonio Spurs shooting guard said. “When you hear the numbers, as a shooter, you kind of think it jinxes you.”
Only three players — Jose Calderon, Kyle Korver and Stephen Curry – are shooting the 3-ball at a higher percentage than Green, and just four — Curry (247), Ryan Anderson (202), Klay Thompson (197) and Korver (183) — have made more 3s than Green’s 173.
“That’s great,” Green, 25, said. “The biggest thing for me is to be a presence on the floor for my team and be able to help them, not just by knocking down 3s, but defensively. It’s good that they can count on me, to find me in a corner or from the top to knock down a shot when we need it.
“Hopefully it can continue when we need it most in the playoffs.”
Ah yes, the playoffs. Green’s memories of the 2012 postseason, of the West finals when he suddenly couldn’t throw it in the River Walk, linger. The Spurs lost four in a row to the Oklahoma City Thunder after taking a 2-0 lead.
A 43.6-percent 3-point shooter last season, Green went 4-for-21 as a starter in the first four games against OKC. Coach Gregg Popovich benched him in Games 5 and 6.
It was Green’s first foray into the pressure-cooker of the playoffs as an integral role player.
“I learned a lot,” Green said. “Every game is a learning experience. I learned in order to be effective, help my team more, is to do more things than shoot the 3-ball because a lot of times it won’t be there. My biggest keys is being more consistent behind the [3-point] line and doing other things consistently for my team.
“Defensively, holding my man, helping each other out. Offensively, cut to the basket, little things, making plays, making the extra pass for my team. Whatever we need to do or whatever the team needs I’m going to try to help them get it done.”
Now he’s prepared to enter this postseason as San Antonio’s full-time shooting guard. He’s started every one of the 75 games he’s played, quite a feat for the 46th overall pick in 2009 by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Green’s been waived by the Cavs, signed by the Spurs, waived by the Spurs and signed by the Spurs again in March 2011.
His breakout season a year ago earned the former four-year North Carolina Tar Heel stability for the first time in the league, a three-year contract worth more than $11 million. He’s answered that challenge with career highs in scoring (10.6 ppg), assists (1.7) and, of course, that lofty 3-ball percentage he doesn’t want to talk about.
“There have definitely been doubts, especially being cut, let go, different teams, but I kind of believed in myself,” Green said. “I had a good support system, my family, my agent and everybody else behind me believing that I can do it, and I stuck with it and it finally happened for me.”
Green has found a home in a Spurs system that keeps churning out victories and doing so through stretches of key injuries. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are the latest for a team that believes, if healthy, it can return to the NBA Finals for the first time since winning a fourth title in 2007.
“We have a good team and we have a deep bench,” Green said. “I think injuries have made our bench deeper and guys have gotten an opportunity to play. Pop gives everybody a chance to see what they can do and he makes it pretty easy for them to be successful. He tells you what your role is and as long as you play defense it doesn’t matter what you do offensively.
“You know we play a very European style of offense where everybody moves the ball, everybody touches the ball and everybody gets shots, so it makes it easy.”
The key now for Green is to keep it that easy when the Spurs march back into the playoffs.