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NBA Saturday: Green To Prove He’s No Fluke
Posted By Joel Brigham On October 27, 2012 @ 6:00 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Gerald Green’s Journey Comes To A Head
Life as a professional basketball player hasn’t been easy for Indiana Pacers swingman Gerald Green. Most young men with his level of talent come into the NBA, either fail or succeed, and then move on with their lives. Green’s story, however, has been one of failure after failure, which is what makes his redemption with the New Jersey Nets last season all the more inspirational.
“I think I’ve been the only guy [on this team] who’s been cut from their high school team, their professional team, an overseas team,” Green said. “It’s crazy, but I was cut from my high school team, but I was a McDonald’s All-American. I got drafted first round by Boston, a first-round pick, but I was cut from the NBA twice, and I was just cut by the Rockets. Then I went overseas for three years and was cut. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve been cut, and I played in the D-League twice.”
How’s that for a resume? Of course, all that experience makes Green, still only 26 years old, one of the most experienced veterans on the Indiana Pacers, and that is what has thrust him into a leadership role already on his new team.
“I love the fact that a lot of guys listen to what I have to say, not just as far as teaching them, but them finding ways to get better,” Green said said. “Because I’ve been through it. I always tell them, ‘Don’t take these days for granted, man. This is the best job in the world to have, right here.’
“So a lot of players listen to me when I say something. I always tell a joke about it to the young guys, ‘You know what? It’s going to get better. Let’s just get better.’ If we’re talking and we’re about to go shoot, I’ll just say, ‘Let’s get better,’ and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about… There are 150 kids who get drafted and they’re good. They’re going to be ready to take your spot, so if you can’t improve as a player, you’re going to be lost in the wind.”
That was Green for a while, lost in the wind, but his experiences have seriously humbled him to the point that he can hardly believe he’s finally been given the most stable contract situation of his career. In July, Green signed a three-year deal worth $10.5 million with the Pacers.
“I’m speechless,” Green said. “Every day I think about it, where I’ve come from. Last year at this time I was in China, I was working on my deal and getting ready to go to China, and that team ended up cutting me. It’s just crazy man. Every time I think about it, it’s just like, ‘Whoa.’ I did a complete 360 being there. It was like I turned around and I was different. Every time I talk about it, it’s crazy. I just never envisioned myself here, never.”
Once upon a time, Green was considered arrogant, but obviously he’s come a long way since being drafted by Boston in 2005. Today, he’s an integral part of one of the Eastern Conference’s most promising teams, and there might not be a single player in the entire league more grateful for his opportunity.
“Just being here with an Indiana Pacers jersey, it’s unbelievable,” Green said. “This is a really good fit for me; everybody is still young, we’re a playoff team, and I couldn’t be in a better place. Indiana is the home state of basketball and this organization is trying to change its image.
“For me to be a part of this team, this organization, this history and the way that they’re going into the future, it’s unexplainable… I couldn’t ask better than being here.”
The Pacers couldn’t ask for better either. When all is said and done, $3.5 million a year for a young man this decent and this talented could prove to be one of the better values of the 2012 crop of free agents.
Greg Smith Fighting For A Spot on the Rockets
Houston Rockets big man Greg Smith is facing the same sort of challenges that Gerald Green faced earlier in his career, but he’s not quite as far along in getting himself a guaranteed contract. In fact, Smith was invited to Rockets camp last year as well, but was cut three days before Christmas and the start of the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season.
However, despite his failing to make the team, his first go-round with Houston got him familiar with the organization, which has made this second opportunity quite a bit easier.
“It did help me,” Smith said. “All summer, being with the team and knowing what they want from me. It’s just about knowing the system, what they want defensive-wise.”
And it’s defense that will get Smith his shot at a full-time spot on the Rockets, should they decide to keep him on beyond the preseason. That’s a major part of his approach to these exhibition games.
“Work ethic. Defensive rebounds. Anchor the defense to be the kind of defensive player that helps my team get stops,” Smith said, referring to his strengths as a player. “Right now we’re second in the league in defense, and I want to be the kind of big man who can come in and keep that.”
The position he plays should also give him an extra bump because on a team full of forwards, the Rockets really don’t have much going on at the five behind Omer Asik.
“We’ve got a lot of depth, but not at the center,” Smith said. “I feel like I can use my strength and my technique, and what I learned last year from big guys like Sam Dalembert and Luis Scola. I can bring all that into this year.”
With 18 players still on Houston’s roster, it’s hard to gauge which of the non-guaranteed guys will get a real shot at making the team, but Smith says he enjoys having all those young players to compete with every day.
“We all think the same, and we all want to win,” Smith said. “Everybody wants [playing time], so the great thing about practice is that we all really go at each other and go hard. You know that I’m the same age as you, so if I’m getting a spot right, and you’re the same age as me, it’s hard to take that spot. Everybody battles.”
Of course, some battle harder than others, which is where Smith has made his mark this preseason. In Friday night’s preseason game, for example, he scored 15 points and hauled in 5 rebounds in 20 minutes of action. It’s those sorts of performances that make-or-break camp invites.
“It’s really motivating to know that you can earn a spot by working hard,” Smith said. “That’s what a lot of guys on this team do, especially me. I go out in practice every day and give it my all to show the coaches that I’m listening and learning, doing what they want me to do offensively and defensively. If I do that, I know I can earn a spot on this team.”
Rockets head coach Kevin McHale has pushed Smith to translate that work ethic in toughness. That’s something McHale himself was known for as a player, and now he’s passing that philosophy on to his players.
“He tells me all the time, you can’t be nice around this league,” Smith said. “You’ve got to go hard, be mean and not show weakness. You’ve got to earn your spot in this league, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”
Hopefully it’s enough to get him a roster spot. There’s not a whole lot more he can do to make the team. The stats have been strong, the team has a need for an extra center, and he’s got a perfect attitude and work ethic. Houston’s roster is a bit of a mess, but Smith would be a nice addition.
Remember, the Rockets cut Gerald Green and Jeremy Lin in recent years, too. Just sayin’.
These Cuts Burn Deep…
It’s that time of the preseason when teams really start trimming down their rosters to 15, and Friday was a day in which many players were cut loose.
Most of those released were not familiar names, but there were some notable players cut such as Adam Morrison and Coby Karl from the Portland Trail Blazers.
“I want to thank the Blazers’ organization for giving me a chance,” Morrison told CSNNW.com. “I’m sorry things didn’t work out, but I wish them nothing but success. Right now, I’m just going to talk to my agent and see where to go from here.”
Many of the players listed below will either head overseas or hit the D-League. Either way, it’s unlikely that they’ll start the season on an NBA roster.
Here’s a list of the players who were cut on Friday:
Portland – Coby Karl, Adam Morrison, Justin Holiday
Boston – Rob Kurz, Micah Downs
Sacramento – Tony Mitchell, Willie Reed, Hamady Ndaiye
San Antonio – JaMychal Green, Wesley Witherspoon, Josh Powell
New York – Chris Smith
Miami – Rodney Carney, Jarvis Vernado
Brooklyn – James Mayes, Carleton Scott
Keep your eye on our newslines for the latest on other players who either get extended contracts or who are cut from their respective teams. These are by no means the last of the cuts to happen this preseason.
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