Danny Green repositioned himself in the chair adjacent to his visiting locker at Barclays Center so he could survey the rest of the room.
Not far from the North Babylon native sat a stable of young Raptors players, all of whom Green has taken upon himself to nurture. Malachi Richardson, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, among others, have taken a liking to the 10-year veteran in his first season in Toronto.
“All these guys are my guys,” Green, who was traded with Kawhi Leonard by the Spurs on July 18 for a package headlined by DeMar DeRozan, said. “I’m just doing what I do on the court best and also adding more things like being more vocal and teaching them and trying to guide them.”
Green, who starred at St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset and was Newsday’s 2005 Nassau Player of the Year, had two points and four rebounds in 34 minutes in Toronto’s 106-105 overtime loss on Friday night.
Toronto had an open look at the final buzzer, but VanVleet’s three-pointer from the left wing missed.
After a season in which Toronto won a franchise-record 59 games but was also handed a second-round sweep by the Cavaliers, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri recently told ESPN that he sought to change the team’s culture.
Firing coach Dwane Casey wasn’t enough. Acquiring proven winners in Green, a 2014 NBA champion, and Leonard, the 2014 Finals MVP, already has paid dividends, even at the expense of DeRozan, a four-time All-Star. Toronto owns the NBA’s best record at 21-6.
Long-time Raptors guard Kyle Lowry told ESPN on Wednesday he felt “betrayed” when DeRozan was traded, in part because of how close the pair grew during their six seasons together in Toronto.
After Friday night’s loss, Lowry said the addition of Green has been a boon.
“He’s a good guy, a leader,” Lowry said. “He’s always high energy, always positive. He’s been good for us — he’s a champion.”
“Danny’s just, he’s the ultimate pro,” first-year coach Nick Nurse, who had been an assistant with Toronto since 2013, said. “I always say that he’s our glue. He’s our glue in the locker room, in the meetings, on the practice floor and especially in games.”
There doesn’t seem to be a player or coach with anything negative to say about Green, 31, who said he reserved plenty of tickets for friends and family in his return to New York.
“He’s a three-point threat, he plays defense and he’s a good teammate and a good leader,” VanVleet said. “All of those things are kind of hard to measure. They’re kind of a lot of intangible things, but he just does the little things every day that help your team.”
Said Richardson, “Danny’s a vocal guy, but he also leads by example. He doesn’t just say something and not do it. He does everything he says and preaches.”
Richardson said Green immediately asserted himself as a leader. While he often played wingman to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in the Spurs’ heyday, Green said leading wasn’t a foreign concept. He did have to adjust, though.
“This is probably a little more vocal, a little more demanding, of being a leader,” Green said. “I’ve learned how not to be as much in your face. I’m seeing different personalities, who can take what.”
Green brings instant credibility both for his longevity and his resume, which includes a then-record 27 three-pointers in the 2013 NBA Finals. He might have won Finals MVP had the Heat not come back to win Games 6 and 7.
Perhaps that explains why his teammates gravitate toward him. “He does the right things on and off the floor,” Richardson said. “I just want to continue to learn from him.”
Green is averaging 9.5 points in a career-high 29.2 minutes per game and has filled the same “three and ‘D’ ” role he had for the last eight seasons in San Antonio. Green quipped that San Antonio is a much different city than Toronto — “the weather’s different,” he joked — but said the transition to the Queen City has been fairly easy.
Toronto is similar to New York City in terms of cultural diversity and nightlife. “It’s an adjustment, but it’s fun,” Green said.
While in Brooklyn, Green said he planned to attend a banquet Saturday night for the inaugural Battle in the Apple showcase on Sunday that features six top-tier high school boys basketball programs. Green helped found the showcase, which includes Long Island’s Lawrence Woodmere Academy.
It’s just another example of how Green can be a role model for the NBA’s younger players.
“He’s important, just as a steadying veteran presence,” Nurse said. “He’s smart. If I haven’t said it today, I’ve probably said it before. He can go 6-for-8 or 2-for-10 and still play a really, really good game.”