August 26, 2014

Cleveland is merely the starting point in the Danny Green story

Danny GreenIt was not all that long ago when Danny Green was a street performer who had been afforded the privilege of wearing warm-ups clad with NBA team colors. Selected with the 46th-overall selection in 2009, Green, a four-year player at the University of North Carolina, was to provide depth for the Cleveland Cavaliers as a jack-of-all-trades type player; a kid who didn’t necessarily require the ball in his hands to make an impact, but could play defense, be coached up and make a shot when called upon.

Green was subsequently buried on the Cavaliers bench behind starting shooting guard Delonte West, Anthony Parker and Daniel “Boobie” Gibson. By no means a mis-management of talent, Green was to spend his rookie season absorbing, soaking in what the veterans had to offer. Where things seemed to tilt toward toxic, at least with regard to the early goings of Green’s career arc, was when the Cavaliers merely manhandled their opponents—life was good, the game was easy, the Cavaliers danced and danced. Instead of learning the ropes of what it took to be a professional within the NBA, Green was front and center for every pre-game photo opportunity. While Joakim Noah was sulking on the bench after being the victim of a blowout loss, it was Green, a rookie with next to zero accomplishments at the NBA level, doing the two-step with league MVP LeBron James.

Roughly six months later, Green was left on the dance floor without a partner.

James had vanished to the sun and sand. West had rode off on his Spyder Can-Am. Shaquille O’Neal was a free agent, as was fellow veteran center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The leadership, gone; the infrastructure, dismantled. A new general manager, a new head coach and a giant state of flux. Meanwhile, Green was a 23-year-old kid who spent the last six months spinning records and was abruptly handed a drum while being told to play Mozart.

The result was not pretty—a cacophony was expected and delivered. Green, playing an an unguaranteed deal due to being a second round selection, looked as if he had to re-learn the game. In the Las Vegas Summer League, Green was a trigger-happy gunner who couldn’t sniff 40 percent from the floor. His first pre-season contest with a job on the line, the second-year swingman provided an 0-for-5 shooting night with two turnovers and two fouls in 22 minutes of play. Following another sub-par contest and what was quite the wake-up call in Camp Scott, then head coach Byron Scott’s notoriously difficult training camp, Green received two-straight DNP-CDs—in the preseason. Rumblings had begun to work their way up: Manny Harris, an upstart, attack-the-rim shooting guard was making moves and turning heads. Harris worked hard and played harder. Poetically, Green’s final bout of playing time in a Cavaliers uniform would come against the San Antonio Spurs. He played six minutes. Harris was given 24. Green’s confidence had evaporated; his locker, emptied.

Three years later, Green finds himself as the leading scorer in the NBA Finals, one of the heroes of a Game 3 dismantling of the reigning champions. The road that paved the way to Tuesday night’s ear-to-ear smiles and a seemingly endless line of high-fives, however, was not a smooth one. Green was picked up by the Spurs after sitting unemployed for roughly one month. He was waived, again, six days later—once again, any team could have given him a shot at retribution. Though added again in the month of March, Green would finish out his second year in the league as a member of the Austin Toros, playing in empty gyms everywhere from Sioux Falls to Rio Grande. Two months after the conclusion of the NBA season, Green found himself playing in the Slovenian Leaugue as a card-carrying member of KK Union Olimpija.

Green was teetering, essentially a few inches away from falling off of a cliff that would leave an NBA career long in the rear view mirror. This was, at least, until Green’s former coach Roy Williams reached out and firmly grabbed his jersey, pulling him back in, giving him a talk that would instill confidence and preach desire. If Green wanted a future in the NBA, he had to work for it. The days of the two-step were over, the music had stopped.

Afforded the opportunity to play for one of the league’s best head coaches within a system that came with increasingly less pressure than his other stops, Green was provided a starting spot with the Spurs, the de facto opening act for one of the best sixth men in the NBA in Manu Ginobili. Green reincarnated himself as a player who could provide a relief valve for San Antonio’s Big Three. As the post would close in on future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, Green was there in the corner for a spot-up three. As teams would attempt to trap Tony Parker’s attempt at a pick-and-roll, it was Green who would find the vacant spot just above the elbow to drain a picture-perfect jumper. The confidence quickly returned and Green was awarded a three-year deal for his what had vacated him in Cleveland.

The Danny Green story is one about the player. It was a moment of poetry on Tuesday night when Green was splashing three-pointers with ease. He hit one from just off of the top of the key, right in the eye of Ray Allen, one of the best three-point shooters in recent history. Seconds later, Green provided relief from a double-team, draining a three-ball over the outstretched arm of Heat guard Norris Cole. Then as his team sat at the 99-point mark, up 18 over the Goliath Heat, Green was fed a pass from veteran Tracy McGrady where he would hit his final three-pointer of the night, his seventh overall, in front of none other than LeBron James. Green danced away while James merely deflated right there on the court.

It is easy to say that the Cavaliers mis-managed Green. Truth of the matter is, Green’s growth and maturity was never going to happen if he stuck with the Cavaliers, a team that was in the midst of turmoil previously unseen. The Spurs, meanwhile, have employed Duncan, Parker and Ginobili for seven-consecutive seasons. Gregg Popovich runs one of the tightest ships in the league and Green needed a trip to his boot camp. Not staying in Cleveland is one of the best things that could have ever happened to Green, whose skill set is undoubtedly more suited to provide a role within an already established system. In Cleveland, Green would have been asked to carry the load. In San Antonio, his role allows for considerable asymmetry—if the Spurs lose, the lights shine on the Big Three; Green, however, can still play the role of the hero.

Anyone who saw Green dancing on the sidelines that celebrated day against the Bulls undoubtedly smiled. They should, however, be even more proud for the former 46th-overall pick for finally finding a place where he could succeed after putting in the time, doing the work, and exerting the effort needed to get back to a place where he had the opportunity to do so.

Cleveland’s place in Green’s story is nothing but a starting point. His Wikipedia page will always link him to the Wine and Gold. Unforunately for Green, he was a member of the Cavaliers when winning was a priority—development of young talent was several places down on the list. Credit to Danny Ferry for believing in Green, giving him a shot once the Cavaliers cut him loose. Credit to the Spurs for having an infrastructure that allows players to appear to be “diamonds in the rough” when in fact they’re strong role players who are given a place on an already-established team. Credit to Gregg Popovich for seeing something in Green that could fit his offense, and instilling the work ethic needed to get to a point where he could be utilized. Credit to Roy Williams for being in the right place at the right time, pulling Green off of the ledge and guiding him back to a level of prominence. But mostly, credit to Danny Green for realizing that things, despite how they look early on when the bass is pumping and the crowd is roaring, may not be as easy as perceived. There are only a finite number of roster spots in the NBA and 60 new ones are given out almost every season. Green could have been another casualty, another name in the books of those who could have been. Instead, he saw the door of opportunity was slightly ajar, kicking it open in front of millions on the biggest stage of them all.

If the Spurs can finish out the series, giving Tim Duncan his fifth title in his illustrious career, one can bet that Green’s dancing shoes will be broken out once again. This time, it will be, as they say, earned and not given.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Harv 21

    Yikes. The Spurs gave him a look-see but cut him twice – we only cut him once. He was available to every other team multiple times. The player re-made himself since we had him, and SA saw he was a good fit for them. If they thought he had starter potential out of college they would have drafted him.

    This happens. Shannon Brown had plenty of chances here and looked horrible. I love SA and Pops, but it’s too facile to say this means we mishandled the player.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    That’s Sir $hamrock to you and I’ve missed you Steven when did they let you out of the basement?

  • Steve

    The Spurs only pick that year was DeJuan Blair, a solid pick, it’s not like they pooh-poohed Green.

    And yes this mishandled the player, or the franchise. The Cavs waived him going into a season with no real hope of contention, and gave 2000 minutes at the wing to Parker, and another 1000 each to Eyenga, Gee, and Harris. There was no room for a 23 year old who had some potential? I’m not saying there’s no blame on Green, he had to get it together, and he did, but the franchise certainly could have found a lot more than 115 minutes for him, and there is no good reason why they didn’t. Manny Harris wasn’t a good reason.

    The Spurs can afford to cut a guy like Green multiple times. A rebuilding Cavaliers can’t

  • mgbode

    and they hid medical reports on Blair to make sure he fell to them.

  • mgbode

    noone said we wanted you to go anywhere. just to use the term legacy properly :)

  • Harv 21

    Don’t understand what your last sentence means. But this sounds outcome determinative. Some guys only improve themselves after they’re cut. Some guys scuffle in adjusting. Golden State cut Jeremy Lin, and no other teams bothered. Did they mishandle him? Jim Paxson got Varajao for a bag of balls – Tony Battie and some future considerations. Was Paxson a genius like Popovich? He drafted Luke Jackson overall #10 that year. Because JJ Hickson has become effective did Mike Brown mishandle that knucklehead? Improving and getting into a better situation occurs with multiple players every year. Every team benefits and every team cuts players who do well elsewhere.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Kinda like that story last week in one of the “while we’re waiting” about Ferry and a prospective draft pick not needing to workout for other teams.

  • Steve

    My last sentence is about recognizing the position your franchise is in. The Spurs can afford to cut Green because they’re looking to win right now. The Cavaliers weren’t going to be winning many games the year after Lebron left, and yet went into the year with a plan to give 2000 minutes to Anthony Parker. There is no long-term upside to that move. I’ve railed against this franchise for setting back the rebuild by trying to please Gilbert instead of accepting the inevitable, but the ramifications keep popping up.

    Golden St already had Curry when they cut Lin, and were looking to clear every last dollar they could off their cap.

    Paxson made a great move responding to Boozer skipping town. He not only got an exciting prospect, but he got Gooden, who was already a better player, and better lineup fit, than Battie. Even if you don’t include Varejao, that was a great trade. Luke Jackson had injury issues, maybe Paxson should have predicted that, but that’s a different issue.

    The Cavs kept Hickson for a year after Lebron was gone, giving him 28 minutes a night and 66 starts. That’s what you should do with a young player on a rebuilding team.

  • Steve

    *the Spurs could afford to cut Green at that time* obviously the present tense is wrong there

  • Steve

    “He’s still a pieces-parts.”

    But that’s exactly what you need in today’s NBA. You get lucky to grab your one or two star pieces (or three if can beat the system) and then acquire/develop players who fill out specific niche roles that complement your stars. a 3-and-D perimeter player, a shot-blocking presence, etc.

    A guy who can fill a specific role or two is a lot more valuable than a guy who can do a bunch of things only somewhat well.

  • Harv 21

    I agree with your first part. My point was it’s not like we cut a premier player. Pieces parts are found by all teams everywhere. If you lose a potential one you can find another.

  • Harv 21

    ok, my last word, addressing your claim of insufficient chances: He was drafted to play a role in Mike Brown’s system. He was cut in the beginning of Byron’s first year and the Princeton offense, whatever that was. Green had a particular, raw skill set, not a ton of athleticism, which Byron probably thought was less-suited to what he was looking for in young players.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Some of my “closest” friends from high school swear I’d love the game (had one try to recruit me onto his rec league hockey team after he played against me in football on what was essentially a sheet of ice.) Unfortunately, close is a term that isn’t being used to describe distance in this case…and so I have only my family and non-hockey friends to turn to…which means it’s a useless venture at this point.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    I think you make me laugh more on this site than just about anyone on any other sports site I’m a part of. It’s either you or Ted Washington’s Belly from Dawgs By Nature

  • Natedawg86

    Haha voted you twice for that one lol. What time did the game go to last night. I only stayed up till 1120

  • Natedawg86

    Hockey has like 5-6 rules what are you talking about? Icing, offsides, slashing, interference, and hooking

  • Ben Frambaugh

    I think I know what hooking and slashing are. Not sure what icing is…offsides seems obvious…which means there’s likely a subtle difference and I believe interference has to do with the Goalie (pushing him out of the way or something like that.) Maybe it has to do with moving goal post too…
    Regardless, I haven’t been to a live game (and am told that’s when I’ll get hooked.) I won’t go to a game alone because…that’d just be boring as crap til I know more about the game. LOL

  • Natedawg86

    Go to a minor league game first. I suggest the Toledo Walleyes. I remember (a while ago) getting tickets on the ice for like 15 bucks. Pro hockey would be a lot more pricey. I don’t watch too much hockey, but playoff hockey is exciting and fast. Just one of those things that the more time you spend on it, the better you will understand it. I don’t think Hockey has silly rules like other sports. First time I ever heard of defensive 3 seconds was Tues night (NBA).

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    About 1 am or so I don’t remember after a crazy double deflection the second coming off Shaw’s leg did in the mighty Bruins 4-3 in an epic 3OT Game 1 of Lord Stanley’s finals. Boston blew a chance to steal game one IMO but hey, it happens.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’m not even half this funny in person, at least not with clothes on, but trying to lighten the mood some of these guys take this stuff way to seriously. I mean serious to the point that you think a Cleveland team had actually won something.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Have you not watched a lot of basketball then? Because I see it in most games that get played. Offensive 3 seconds seems to get called a lot less.
    I’m moving to NC soon…so I’ll have to wait to see what’s down there before I attempt it. Maybe one of my new co-workers will be avid-hockey fans that will make the experience more enjoyable. (My first WNBA experience was awesome because of the person who brought me to the game that could explain who the players are, strengths, weaknesses, etc…)

  • Ben Frambaugh

    It’s weird, I’m actually much funnier in person than I am on here. I’ve spent entirely too much time of my life in an office environment where every piece of correspondence had to meet certain professional criteria.
    .
    Then again, I’m guessing most people don’t read my posts and crack much of a smile…so maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to believe I’m funnier in person.

  • Steve

    Gee was 2nd on the team in minutes, Miles was 6th, so no its not that simple to find a guy like Green. Giving those kind of minutes the latter instead of the former can make a big difference, and is one of the reasons why a team like the Spurs is so consistently good.

  • Steve

    Further evidence that the Cavs really screwed up in the first year of post-Lebron, hiring a coach who doesn’t understand the successful trends of the league.

  • Dr. Marvin Monroe

    The assertion made by many that the “Spurs cut him twice” is very misleading. The Spurs, who were likely trying to win a title brought him in and cut him after 6 days-hardly a long look. I can’t speak for the situation at the time but this is hardly unusual. Also I don’t know why people say he got cut twice. It sounds like he didn’t have a deal after 2010 and went overseas during the lockout (nobody says JR Smith was cut when he went to China) Both of these situations are a long way from the rebuilding Cavaliers cutting a promising young player who they had in practice for a full year.

    Also I take issue with “Truth of the matter is, Green’s growth and maturity was never going to happen if he stuck with the Cavaliers, a team that was in the midst of turmoil previously unseen” This is not a “truth”. It is your opinion being spun as fact to support your article. It is a classic maneuver commonly done by Adrian Wojarnarski who your writing style is similar to (Consider it a compliment, people love him). I could say “Fact of the matter is if Danny Green had been on the Cavs and properly mentored properly by Byron Scott he would have had more opportunities then in San Antonio. More minutes and shots would have been available to him with the derth of talent on the

    Cavaliers. Green would have fit in perfectly with Scott’s free flowing run and
    gun offense.” For all we know he would have had more shots available to him and been scoring 20 PPG. I really also do not understand in Cleveland he would have been asked to carry the load. He would have had more shots available, sure but nobody would have been expecting a late 2nd round pick to carry the load in his second NBA season.

    Bottom line is I expect my GM to find talent, especially when it is directly under his nose. I read this morning that Danny Ferry said oftentimes Green was the best player in practice outside of LeBron which would lead me to believe there was some sort of inkling of his potential. Green was very good at UNC doing a bit of everything. His shooting skills are elite and that is apparent. Of course misses happen, this is a miss, and should be rightly classified as such. Is is possible Chris Grant just loves wings who can’t shoot or dribble (Gee/Casspi?) It pains me to watch this series and know that Green and Kawi Leonard could be the Cavaliers wings. (I would have drafted Kawi).

    If I was your GM you would have Kawi/Green and then possibly (depending on
    where they picked) Andre Drummond and the future would be incredibly bright. It still might be as there is more then 1 way to skin a cat, but we will see.