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Danny Green talks conditioning in his first full NBA season

San Antonio Spurs' Danny Green (4) drives to

San Antonio Spurs' Danny Green (4) drives to the basket as Miami Heat's James Jones (22) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game. (Jan. 17, 2012) Credit: AP

It's easy to go zero-to-60 early in your NBA career. The key, according to San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green, is teaching yourself not to.

Green, a North Babylon native who graduated from St. Mary's High School in Manhasset, is in a unique situation this season, his third in the league. It's his first season experiencing the true NBA grind after spending much of his first two years on the bench or in the D-League.

Entering the 2011-12 season, Green had played in just 28 NBA games. He spent 20 games in Cleveland his rookie year, but was eventually waived and signed with the Spurs, where he played eight games last year.

This season, he has come on as one of San Antonio's most reliable options off the bench, appearing in each of the first 18 games. Green is shooting 41.7 percent from three while averaging 7.5 points in 19.4 minutes per game.

"It's something I wasn't expecting," Green said, "Manu [Ginobili] goes out and an opportunity came about. When an opportunity comes about, you've just got to take advantage."

Prepping his body for the increased workload of a full NBA slate, complete with a shortened offseason and compact schedule (thanks, NBA lockout), is something that has taken time.

"The first couple of games I played, I didn't really know how to pace myself, which is something you shouldn't do," Green said. "Every minute I got, I was going all out, and I would be dead tired after the first two or three minutes.

"[The key was] really just slowing myself down, and being patient with the offense, and on defense doing my assignment and adjusting to what the team needed each night."

Don't mistake that as Green admitting he was out of shape, though. In fact, the opposite was true: Green was one of several NBA players to head overseas during the lockout, playing for KK Union Olimpija in Slovenia. But there's a difference between being fit and being in NBA game shape, Green notes.

"Conditioning-wise I felt I was in great shape after I came from overseas to play," Green said. "It's a different type of shape . . . The level of play is a different type of game over here, and you never really are going to get in that shape until you play in a game.

Several notable players have battled conditioning issues after the shortened offseason. Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki was shut down for several games, and fellow Long Island native Tobias Harris missed the beginning of Milwaukee’s season because of a bout with dehydration.

Not Green.

"Now I think I'm in pretty good shape, you know, staying healthy, taking care of my body, doing little things, lifting, keeping my body right," he said. "And now I'm getting used to playing some minutes."

Having coach Gregg Popovich, who has made a name for himself managing his player's minutes (see: Tim Duncan), has helped Green transition to the sudden uptick in game action.

"[Popovich is] very aware of what's going on . . . who's getting minutes, who needs rest," Green said. "He's very good at helping us, and allowing us to take care of our bodies."

Popovich isn't Green's only mentor. The Spurs have a veteran-laden roster, and they keep the younger guys in the right mindset.

"They help us as much as they can, and we also help each other," Green said. "Us keeping our confidence high . . . what's the next goal, what's the next play? That's the big thing for us young guys, we're not used to playing too many games in too many nights.

"A win is a win, a loss is a loss, you've got to move on to the next game, to the next play, another shot," Green added. "You make a mistake, you've got to keep playing. Just play your game, be confident with what you're doing."

The third-year pro also touched on missing out on a game at Madison Square Garden this year. Green hasn't played at MSG for an NBA team, and this year will be the same, with the modified schedule meaning just one meeting against the Knicks — in San Antonio.

"Everybody looks at the schedule to see what cities they play in, what cities they don't play in," Green said. "It's tough we missed out on [the Knicks], but we have to focus on the games we do have. And right now, our home record is a lot better than our road record, so I'm glad we have more games at home."

The Spurs do play at the New Jersey Nets on Feb. 11 when he'll have a chance to see his family.

"Hopefully MSG will come," Green said. "Right now, I'm more focused on playing well and winning."

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