Spurs’ Danny Green Makes It Look Easy
Danny Green’s journey hasn’t been easy, but the former North Carolina Tar Heel has become a starter on one of the best teams in the NBA. A second-round pick in 2009, Green was waived twice before finally sticking with the San Antonio Spurs in March 2011.
After the lockout, Green’s production for the Spurs was all over the map, but somehow he gained head coach Gregg Popovich’s confidence and, with Manu Ginobili out with a hand injury, got his first NBA start on February 8, 2012. He has started almost every game since then.
“They trust me a lot and I am a factor on the team,” Green said. “It’s an honor. It is great to be with a great group of guys like this and to play for a team like this with multiple possible Hall of Famers.”
At 25 years old with just over 100 NBA games played, Green shows a surprising level of maturity and understanding about his place on the Spurs and what his role is. Green knows why he is on the floor and who this highly successful veteran team is built around.
“[My job is to] make the game easy for the big three by playing defense, rebounding and knocking down open shots when they get a double team,” Green said. “Right now, I am focused on winning games and not so much on minutes. Knocking down open shots and making the game easier for them.”
San Antonio has been winning with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili for over a decade and making the game easier for the Spurs’ big three is a sure way to impress Popovich. Yes, Green can knock down open shots. However, solid defense has been a hallmark of Popovich’s teams and Green would never have had a chance to show what he could do on offense without the head coach’s trust at the other end of the court.
“First thing is defense,” Green said. “The little things that you have to do defensively to stop the main scorers. Whether you are knocking down the shots or not, you still have to play defense and rebound the ball. You still have to do the little things the team needs. Making the little plays, diving on loose balls, getting hands on deflections, steals and playing good defense, rebounding. A little bit of everything.”
However, Green brings more than just a solid defensive presence and the ability to hit open jumpers. Even in college, he was known for his mental toughness and intelligence on the court. To be a starter on a championship-caliber team, Green has to bring consistent effort and have an impact, whether his shot is falling or not.
“The biggest thing is being a presence, making yourself a threat out there,” Green said. “Whether you are hitting shots or not, making yourself a threat to the other team so they are aware of where I am at. So they know if they leave me open, I could possibly knock down a shot. The biggest thing is the mental focus, whether you are knocking down shots or not.”
Somehow the Spurs always seem to find the missing pieces that solidify their rotation and keep this team at a championship level season after season. It’s not by drafting lottery picks, the Spurs haven’t won fewer than 50 games in well over a decade. Good management and great coaching has been a staple in San Antonio for a long time.
“Coach Popovich makes it very easy,” Green said. “He tells you up front. He doesn’t hide anything from you. He will tell you every day. They let us know here what our role is and we continue to play that way until we start messing up and then he reminds us that this is what you are supposed to do.
“It is very easy [to play for Popovich]. He lets us play freely offensively, if you play defense. And you’ll play, if you play defense. That is all he asks of me and everybody else. He encourages us. He is a great coach. You couldn’t ask for a better situation, I couldn’t anyway.”
San Antonio re-signed Green to a new three-year deal this summer after just 38 starts last season and so far it looks like the Spurs have done it again. Green makes it look easy to be successful in San Antonio. Of course, playing for one of the NBA’s best coaches, understanding and accepting one’s role and being willing to work hard probably has something to do with Green’s success.