Not every player in the NBA can call themselves a clutch shooter. But, Danny Green can. The Spurs’ star opens up about his experiences from playing with LeBron and the Cavs, to getting San Antonio further in the 2017 playoffs and more.
May 9 — It’s the 2017 NBA Playoffs; Game 5. The San Antonio Spurs are playing on their home court against the Houston Rockets. So, they have the crowd on their side. It’s a crucial game for both teams, because the series is tied 2-2. It’s a tight game throughout the entire 48 minutes of play. Kawhi Leonard, 26, comes out toward the end of the game with an ankle injury. The spurs need someone to step up… and who is that? — Danny Green, 30. When the game goes into overtime, Danny, known for being a clutch shooter, scores the last 7 points, giving the Spurs the W. And, he’s labeled as a hero.
A hero is a great word to describe Green, who’s climbed his way to the top in the NBA, going from being cut by the Cavaliers in 2010, to being a starter for Spurs and taking them further in the playoffs. But, there was a lot of time in between, where Green bounced from the pros to the G League and back; a career track record that most would label as extremely rare and a bit odd to climb the leader board that high. But, that’s what makes him a standout, clutch player. He understands the game, both mentally and physically. And, when HL EXCLUSIVELY caught up with Green at the NBA Store in New York City — where he was supporting the G League — he told us all about it!
In 2008, as Green approached his senior year in college, he declared himself eligible for the draft. However, he refrained from signing with an agent so he had the option to finish his education. And, he did just that; a move most NBA players don’t typically make. In 2009, the Cavaliers selected Green as the 46th overall pick, but waived him the next season. So, that’s when the Spurs saw the opportunity to pick him up. But, they too waived him just days later. That’s when he headed to the G League [which was the D League before the name change], where he simply dominated the game. After going back and forth overseas, Green signed with the Spurs again, and they knew they couldn’t let him go. And, his hard work has translated into that Game 5 moment we talked about earlier.
So, who is Green, nowadays? — He’s the clutch shooter Leonard and veteran, Manu Ginobili, 40, look for in crucial situations; he’s the defensive monster who Coach Popovich calls on when he needs the right person to get the job done and get it done well; although Pop used to playfully come down on Green for his defensive efforts. Learn more about Green in our full interview, below!
What’re you doing in the offseason to come back better than ever, especially after an impressive playoffs performance?
Just working out on my strengths and weaknesses and trying to get better at everything. I’m also adding a couple particular things to the game. And, obviously doing camps and traveling; but, making sure I stay on top of everything and stay in shape. Weaknesses are identity; whether you’re a shooter, defender, driver or creator; my identity is a shooter and a defender. Obviously, I’ll have encounters where I can finish in the paint, or pull-up jumpers; so those are the things that most of work on outside of what our identities are.
What are you adding to the game? What will be different next season?
What will be different is that our rosters change, our roles change on the team each year; depending who we have on roster and where coach wants to put us. You just have to prepare for those opportunities or those roles as things change. You have to work on everything and then we’ll see where Pop may want to put me, or what he wants me to do this year. I may have never posted up, but he may say, “Oh go here, do that;” you just got to be prepared for that. It’ll be interesting to see what happens. I’m looking forward to next season. It’s always an exciting time in the beginning of the season, and the offseason. And, [Pop] is the one that decides that and dictates that.
How would you describe your relationship with Pop?
Love, hate relationship [haha]. I think that’s most coaches with players though. There’s times where you love him and there’s times where you hate him. Usually you hate him for the right reasons, you know? He pushes you to be better because he cares about you. It’s a great relationship. He’s a great guy. He’s like a grandpa to everyone off the court. But, on the court, he’s very intense. And, to me, it’s probably like the Grinch. But, he’s a real laid back, chill kind of guy.
Coach Pop used to get on you about defense. And, now, you’re one of the best defensive players in the league. What is it that he did or said to motivate your game?
Well, you do what he asks you to do. If you don’t, you usually won’t play. You have to play defense it you want to play for Pop. And, he knows that some guys are capable of doing it and there’s also guys that aren’t as good at doing it; but, he pushes you to be the best you can. He pushes me, and he pushes Kawhi [Leonard] to be better. Pop knows when we’re slacking and what we’re capable of doing. If we’re not on top of it on the floor, then we probably won’t play that much, or he’ll be on us even more.
Game 5 in the playoffs; you score the last 7 points to put the Spurs over the Rockets; What was even going through your head at the time?
Sometimes you get lucky [haha]. Those are the moments that you prepare for. But, sometimes it doesn’t happen; sometimes you miss and go 0 for 5. But, that game, I had a good rhythm going and some shots fell at the right moment. Those are the fun games that you prepare for and love to be in.
While you may say it’s part luck, not everyone can call themselves a clutch shooter, especially during high intensity moments such as Game 5, with a tied series. Where does that come from in you, aside from skill?
I think most of the game is mental. There’s a lot of great players that can probably be in the league, but they aren’t, because mentally, they just don’t have the confidence; their just not in the place that they should be. Confidence can make or break a player. All of those guys are capable of making the shots, but some of them just can’t do it or won’t do it in those times [such a playoffs situation] because mentally they’re not prepared for it; they’re just not mentally strong enough or whatever it may be; you don’t know what they’re going through. I think it all comes down to a mental standpoint and just playing without having to think about much; some guys overthink; some guys don’t think enough. It’s just different for different people. But, it all comes down to the mental part of the game.
How would you describe your transition through the NBA and what have you learned [from G League, to the Cavs, then the Spurs]?
A rollercoaster. Starting out in Cleveland, it was a lot of fun playing with LeBron [James], Shaq and all of those guys. Then, being cut and going to the D League and overseas, being the last guy on the bench and being given the opportunity to play again and actually be a starter; it’s a lot of ups and down and a lot of fun at times and sometimes it’s not so fun. But, it has all been character building. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Those experiences have helped me become who I am today.
— NBA Store (@NBASTORE) August 2, 2017
HollywoodLifers, tell us your thoughts on Green’s performance last season?