Danny Green grows into Spurs' shooting star
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SAN ANTONIO - This isn't necessarily the time to reflect upon a basketball journey that's taken him from North Babylon to deep in the heart of Texas, sandwiched around a few points in between.
Still, Danny Green is in the midst of another dream run, getting another chance to do something special for the second straight year that some of the game's greats never did.
Just three years removed from being an afterthought, bouncing around the NBA Development League and wondering if he would ever play in the NBA, Green is back in the Finals.
He's one of the Spurs' pivotal pieces, a sharpshooter with budding confidence and a deft touch. He can appreciate the moment but isn't about to get too caught up in it, understanding there's plenty of work to be done if the Spurs are going to upend the Heat in a series that resumes Sunday night at what should be a much cooler AT & T Center. San Antonio holds a 1-0 edge.
"We're very fortunate to have this opportunity again," Green said Saturday. "We worked all year to get back to this point and I know how tough it is to do. It was the hardest thing to do of my career last year and we lost. So we know how hard it is to win one.
"We had Tracy [McGrady] on our team last year, and he played in this league for a good amount of time and it was his first time getting out of the first round. So that kind of put things in perspective on how hard it is to get this far in the playoffs."
Green is comfortable on the big stage of the Finals, a place far removed from the smallish crowds he played in front of during his time in the D-League. This isn't the Reno Bighorns, Erie Bayhawks or Austin Toros, and his early days as a teammate of LeBron James with the Cavaliers seem as if they're light years away.
Under the tutelage of Gregg Popovich, Green has improved immensely, settling into becoming the player the San Antonio coach expects him to be. Green's prowess behind the arc is off-the-charts at times. Remember when he caught fire last season with 27 made three-pointers in the Finals? He's nailed 47.7 percent from deep this postseason, and his ability to space the floor greatly benefits San Antonio.
"Couple years back, he wasn't doing anything," Spurs power forward Tim Duncan said. "He was out of the league. He found his way in here and Pop gave him an opportunity to step up. So it's been a considerable improvement year to year from where he was. I think his biggest improvement this year was just his confidence -- our confidence in him, his confidence in himself, his understanding of what role he has and what he can and can't do.
"Pop's still on him because he thinks he can get more out of him. He thinks he needs to be a better defender, make more of the right plays at the right time. And I think Pop and the rest of the coaching staff and us, we're always on him to be a little better."
On those occasions when Green is not at his best, like the first three quarters of Game 1, that's when Tony Parker gets in his ear, reminding him how much they need him to remain aggressive with his shot, even when they aren't falling.
Green heeded that message and scored 11 fourth-quarter points, draining a trio of three-pointers after missing all five of his shots in the first three quarters.
"We just got to keep our eye on him," James said. "We gave him no space in the first three quarters. Every time he caught the ball, he had a guy in his face and he had a guy run him off. The three threes he made in the fourth quarter . . . A guy like that, you can't take an eye off of, you can't take a body off of and have to take account of where he is outside that three-point line."
That's some high praise, another indicator of the gratifying journey Green is traveling, a path that he'll be able to look back on soon. Just not yet.
"Summertime," Green said. "When it's over and it's all said and done, I'll reflect. Right now, try not to think about it too much, try not to reflect too much. Just enjoy the moment and try to lose myself in it."