North Babylon's Danny Green had long, winding road to being Spurs starter
MIAMI - Danny Green doesn't want to reflect on his basketball odyssey, which started on Long Island and led him through the NBA Developmental League and Slovenia before he found a home in San Antonio.
But playing in his first NBA Finals, Green can't help but look back at the road that led to his becoming the starting shooting guard on the Western Conference champion Spurs.
"It makes me appreciate everything a lot more," Green said. "Being in the D-League, being overseas, the way of life, a different style of play and travel and everything, it makes you appreciate everything so much more."
Green, who turns 26 in two weeks, has great appreciation and admiration for coach Gregg Popovich and future Hall of Fame teammates Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Multiple times Green called it "a blessing" to grow up with them as his guides.
Popovich has given Green some tough love but also has great confidence in the North Babylon product. Green continues to reward that faith.
He scored 12 points, including the second-biggest shot of the night -- behind only Parker's bank shot that sealed the Spurs' 92-88 Game 1 win over the Heat on Thursday night.
Green buried his fourth three-pointer of the game to put the Spurs up seven with 2:12 left. A little later, Green fouled Ray Allen on a three-pointer, but Parker's heroics made sure that was forgotten. Well, almost.
"It was a big one, and we needed it," Green said of his basket. "Afterwards, I made a silly play, gave them three points right back. Hopefully, I can make good plays on offense and smarter plays on defense."
Green, who played for North Babylon High School and St. Mary's in Manhasset, knows he'll get plenty of chances this series, which most expect to go six or seven games.
Game 2 is here Sunday night before the series moves to San Antonio for Games 3, 4 and 5. The Spurs have a chance to dethrone the Heat, but Miami lost to Oklahoma City in the first game of last year's Finals and won the series in five. The Heat has the NBA's best regular-season road record, is 5-2 in the playoffs and hasn't lost two games in a row since early January.
So winning his first championship won't be easy for Green, but little has been for him.
Green was drafted by Cleveland in the second round out of North Carolina in 2009. He appeared in 20 games, but the Cavaliers cut him the next preseason. The Spurs signed him and cut him less than a week later. They signed Green again in 2011 and assigned him to their Developmental League team, the Austin Toros -- his third stop on his D-League tour.
Popovich spoke to Tar Heels coach Roy Williams about the need for more aggressiveness from Green. The two expressed that, and Green ultimately got the message.
"Roy and I teamed up and gave him a big dose of honesty to let him know why he's being cut; he's going to keep getting cut if he doesn't do A, B and C," Popovich said. "We both got on him pretty good, just being honest to let him know where he stood. He took the advice from both of us and it turned out pretty well. It was all about his head, about his approach and aggressiveness and confidence and those sorts of things."
Green remembers the conversations and how it changed him.
"The biggest thing was an attitude of being too cool, be more urgent, have more of a sense of urgency," Green said. "That was something I took note of and took it into account and tried to change that up myself. Not at any moment have any type of slack or be, Pop likes to use the term floating. So not be in a float type of mode, but be intense and aggressive every possession of the game."
The Spurs gave Green a three-year, $11.3-million deal last summer. In his second full season with them, he started 80 games, averaged 10.5 points and ranked seventh in the NBA in three-point accuracy, hitting 42.9 percent from three-point range.
"He's developed a confidence and aggressiveness that's allowed him to have a job in the NBA, and he's done it very well," Popovich said. "I'm really happy for him because he's progressed more mentally than anything else -- his approach to the game and ability to believe he belongs."
Parker said, "He just showed a lot of toughness mentally. It's not easy to make an NBA team, and Danny is very important in what we do."
A couple of weeks after the Finals end, Green will be back on Long Island for his annual Team Green Basketball Camps. He has one in Floral Park and two in North Babylon -- and would love to return home a champion.
"It'd be nice," Green said. "I'd be able to make everybody proud. It'd be exciting, a good story to tell, and obviously a memory that would last forever."