- Series Hub: Spurs-Heat
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The San Antonio Spurs are in The Finals right now because of veteran stars like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili as much as they are because of emerging, young role players like Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
Green, in particular, serves as a shining example of the perseverance it takes to not only make it in the NBA, but to carve out a space as a specialist where championship-level franchises covet players of that ilk.
Parker was the hero in Game 1 with his game-clinching shot, but in Game 2 it was Green who set The Finals record by making all five of his 3-point field goals. He scored the Spurs’ first nine (and his team-high 17) points in the first four minutes of that Game 2 loss, proving that he’s come a long way from his days as the dancing partner during pregame warmups for one LeBron James when they both were Cavs.
Green played sparingly, if at all, back then, but things have changed dramatically for the former North Carolina star. Green will be on center stage in Game 3 tonight (9 ET, ABC), as he has been through the first two games of The Finals.
James has a 35-29 Finals scoring edge on Green, a much tighter gap than there was during their 2009-10 season together in Cleveland, when James outscored Green 2,258 to 40. Green is averaging 14.5 points and shooting 67 percent in this series and is 9-for-14 from 3-point range.
Green talked about his transformation from anonymous end-of-the-bench dancer to starting shooting guard for the Spurs and battling LeBron on both ends on the big stage:
NBA.com: How do you go from being just another guy on a team to being an integral part of a championship-caliber team? How does that transition get started?
Danny Green: It’s a long process, a long road. A lot of hours in the gym and a lot of dedication, time maturing and building trust in different systems and coaches and different teammates and players. That took some time. Obviously, it happened faster for me than I expected. Faster than anyone probably expected. But sometimes it happens that way in this business.
NBA.com: This almost seems like it happened by accident. An injury occurs and [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich] is searching for the right fit and did it feel like he stumbled upon you?
DG: That’s exactly how it happened for me. There are so many injuries that take place throughout the course of a season. He tried different guys and I was on the end of the bench. I was just thinking about trying to play good defense and staying in the rotation and it worked out. But there was nothing magical about it. Just keeping your head down and sticking to the plan.
NBA.com: It’s understood for all college players, even the biggest stars, that there will have to be some adjustments made to your game to thrive at this level. What was the biggest adjustment you had to make from college to this level and then from your time as a reserve to now?
DG: They are two totally different games, the NBA and the college game. Just knowing personnel and how to guard different people is the main thing. Reading the scouting report and studying the players you have to guard every night. And knowing that you’re not going to stop everybody, you’re not going to block every shot, you’re not going to get every rebound. You have to be smart and efficient in what you do and how you play. You have to make the energy plays. Try to give as much energy as possible throughout the course of a game. It’s understanding that there are 48 minutes to be played and being mature as a player and realizing that whether you are making shots or not, you have to continue to take the open ones.
NBA.com: That atmosphere in Cleveland, the dancing and all the fun stuff, from the outside it looked to some people like you guys were maybe having too much fun, if that’s possible. This Spurs atmosphere is obviously toned down a bit from that. Is that something that worked for you in terms of making the leap from where you were to where you are now in your career?
DG: Definitely. Guys here are a lot more focused and carry themselves in a much more quiet and humble manner. It’s about Professionalism to the T, here. That’s not to say Cleveland wasn’t about that. But we had a much younger group. Guys liked to have fun and dance around a clown around a lot. It’s a lot more experienced and veteran group here. The leadership here is just different, the entire tone of how we do things. It’s great to be a part of it after seeing it from the outside. You get an understanding for why it has worked [for the Spurs] all of these years.
NBA.com: It’s clearly worked for you. What do you think it says on that scouting report about Danny Green now?
DG: Great question [laughing]. I have no idea. I think it helps that there a lot of other guys people have to worry about other than me. I’m an afterthought. And that gives me an opportunity to get open shots, open looks and be able to sneak in there and get some easy money.