Out of all the top New York area players in recent years, Danny Green (North Babylon, NY) is one of the few to not only achieve the goal of playing in the NBA but making it well into the playoffs.
In an exclusive interview with NYCHoops.net, the 6'6" starting shooting guard with the San Antonio Spurs took time out after advancing into the second round of the NBA playoffs to talk about persevering through adversity.
Green's basketball career began with an uphill battle. In a State dominated by New York City, Green managed to excel while attending St. Mary's high school in Long Island, NY. The all-purpose player would finish up his high school career leading his team to an impressive three Nassau/Suffolk championships and a No. 1 national ranking, finishing with a 74-5 record.
Ranked No. 31 in the class of 2005 and No. 3 in all of New York by Rivals.com, Green received an invitation to play in the prestigious McDonald's All American Games. As a result, he received Division I offers from Pittsburgh and St. John's amongst others but decided to attend one of the most prestigious basketball schools in the country, North Carolina, under head coach Roy Williams.
Improving by leaps and bounds each year, Green exited Chapel Hill, helping the Tarheels attain a 2008-09 NCAA Championship as the winningest player in the school's history.
Accumulating 123 career victories, Green is the only Tarheel ever to have over 1,000 points (1,368), 500 rebounds (590), 200 assist (256), 100 blocks (155) and 100 steals (160).
Green decided to go pro but the hardware and accolades achieved at UNC did little ensure success during the highly competitive 2009 NBA draft. Chosen by the Cleveland Cavaliers at the No. 46 pick in the second round, he gained little playing time, showcasing in only 20 games his rookie season and averaging two points and five minutes of play per game.
During Green's rookie year, the Cavaliers won the Eastern Conference title but lost to the Boston Celtics in the playoffs. After the loss, the Cavaliers waived Green and his first professional obstacle was in place.
That same year, the San Antonio Spurs decided to sign him, only to waive him after two weeks with the team. He then was sent to a D-league team, the Reno Big Horns, before eventually re-signing with the Spurs later in the season. Green had the opportunity to play in the playoffs against Memphis but the Spurs were upset by the Grizzlies in six games.
The season was over but concluded with the NBA lockout situation. Green, fortunately, found a new home outside of the NBA, signing a one-year contract overseas with KK Union Ojimpija (Slovenia). His contract included a NBA lockout clause option that allowed him to return to the NBA when the 2011 NBA lockout ended.
The NBA lockout lasted 16 games into the 82 game season but once it ended, Green returned to San Antonio where he would soon find out that he was in his ideal position. He would finally be able to contribute to the NBA's best team in the West and for a Hall of Fame coach in Gregg Popovich.
The Spurs most recently advanced in the first round of the playoffs, defeating the Utah Jazz 4-0 and Green has ascended to the level of a starter.
After traveling the path of most resistance from high school to the pros, Green was asked, did he anticipate this outcome. "No, it wasn't something I expected to be honest with you," Green responded. "Everything is happening really fast, and a bit unexpected, but I got a good opportunity and I just got lucky, and things are going pretty well for me. Everything is just falling in the right place."
Green has seemed to always beat the odds. It was rumored that he wouldn't make the Spurs roster before the season. He's played for two D-League teams, played overseas and survived a lockout while dealing with the nagging injuries. For some, these obstacles would be too much to overcome. The degree of difficulty rises even more when you try to overcome these circumstances in San Antonio, a franchise with a history of winning. But for Green, it was a challenge.
"It's just natural and nature as a player and competitor. You want to be push to be better and get better," he said. "As a competitor, you're going to continue to win and try to be the best. That's how I was brought up," Green said.
Setting goals and rising to the occasion are the reoccurring theme in Green career. "No matter what, you're going to try to strive for your goal and that was the biggest jump for me; to continue to keep going for my goals and luckily, I got a break and things started working in my favor," he said.
Green's hard work finally paid off with San Antonio, the team tied for the best record in the NBA. This season, he started 38 games, averaging 9.1 points and 3.4 rebounds, while shooting 44 percent from the field and 43 percent from three.
Adding minutes has benefited Green a lot. He took advantage of the opportunities handed to him and made the most of them. It surely wasn't easy on him, either. He had to overcome obstacles and situations out of his control to get his chance. But the most difficult thing for him to overcome helped him climb the Spurs rotation. "Getting comfortable on the floor," he said. "That was really the biggest thing and doing it fast."
After getting adjusted on the court and the speed of the NBA, Green's game reached new heights. He scored a career-high 24 points against Denver on 9-of-13 shooting and 20 points against the Miami Heat including knocking down a career-high six three-pointers. He scored 21 points on the Oklahoma City Thunder and 22 points against the Los Angeles Lakers. It's hard to say his level of play came out of nowhere.
Teammate Tony Parker has credited his play overseas to his elevated level of play with the Spurs. Green shares similar views. "Definitely," he said to playing overseas helping his game. "Being in shape and working in tight spaces, with no defensive three seconds. Over there, I had to do pretty much everything and I had a different role there. I had to score and I handled the ball a lot more. So, it's helped my game out a lot just from being over there."
Asked if playing with teammates like Parker and Manu Ginobli has impacted his game, Green replied, "A lot. Those guys are doing a great job of encouraging, learning and teaching through the process, and it's helped me a lot. It's helped our team chemistry grow, so we're doing a good job at that. We just need to be consistent and hopefully win more games in the playoffs."
Green is currently earning a lot of playing time and has stepped up his game for the Spurs in the playoffs. Even with Ginobli back and healthy, Green is still receiving solid minutes in the rotation.
With the Spurs sweeping the Jazz in the first round series, Green's amazing accomplishments are still a work in progress. Green has the ability to do something special if the Spurs are able to come away with 12 more playoffs wins and he appreciates that.
"It would mean a lot to me," he said. "It would mean a lot to anybody regardless of how many games or level they won on, or lost on. You win a NBA championship, it means a lot."
While Green is relatively new to the playoff side of the NBA game, the three-year guard is showing amazing poise and says he doesn't feel any excessive pressure. "Right now, we're focused on winning games and right now, my job is to help do that," he said. "It doesn't matter what my role is, being a starter or coming off the bench. So it's not a lot of pressure."
When asked how he manages to keep producing, Green says he doesn't take games off. "Night in and night out, you have too," he said. "You can't take a night off. So every night you got to step on the floor, you got to prove that you can play in this league."
Team Green Basketball Academy
Off the court, Green is also a model player and citizen. He helps out in the community and gives back setting up Team Green Basketball Academy for kids trying to learn about the game.
"It's a camp for two weeks during the summer and all kids of all ages are welcome. From grade school through high school," he said. "It's a big part of my summer. It's me giving back to the community [and] helping out kids. I'm trying to teach and be interactive with a lot of kids in my town."
Green has the camper's best interest at heart. In its years of existence, Team Green Basketball Academy has helped many youth's and despite playing professional basketball, he's been present at every single camp, meeting, greeting and taking pictures with campers.
"I take a lot of joy in it. It's a good thing to be able to do. A lot of kids don't have it growing up. I'm trying to be one of those guys that will give back, and will help those kids who don't have fathers, or don't have somebody to teach them how to play, or have somebody in the community to look up too," he said. "I try to be one of those people to help out and to give them some good things to look up to in his life. A lot of kids don't make it out and they don't have dreams. All they do is have a lot of people around them that do not support their dreams, and don't let them know that their dreams are possible to accomplish, because anything is possible."
Many kids aspire to be in the league. It's hard work but something young athletes can attain if they work hard enough. "Keep pushing for your goals. Keep working hard every day," he said.
Through it all, Green has persevered; through all the tough times, being waived and doubted, but it didn't have an effect on his game. When talking to his campers, Green tries to instill the same qualities that helped him to reach his goals. "You have to do what others are not willing to do to get where you want to be. If you keep doing that, good things will happen."
Danny Green's third annual Team Green Basketball Academy is scheduled for July 23rd-27th and then July 30-August 3rd at Robert Moses Middle School: 250 Phelps Lane, North Babylon, NY 11703.
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