While the spotlight remains on the reunion between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, there’s a common underlying theme about the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers this season: hunger.
When Koby Altman took over as full-time general manager this summer, his hands were tied. There was little wiggle room with funds due to a heavy load of money invested in large contracts and a sizable luxury tax bill to boot. So what did he do? He went after a number of guys that all share a similar ambition.
Looking at these additions, there are plenty of fresh faces with a stigma attached to their names, and the goal for those individuals is to stun each and every one of their critics.
Derrick Rose is looking to give the naysayers a reason to shut their mouths. Isaiah Thomas is set to show that he’s an All-Star talent that deserves a maximum contract. And as for Jeff Green, he wants everybody to know that his best basketball is still ahead of him.
“Everybody’s pretty much saying that we don’t have it anymore,” Green told Basketball Insiders. “With D Rose—you know the injuries. Isaiah, by being traded hurt. We all have something to prove.
“We all still have a lot left in the tank. We all can still play basketball at a high level. I think each one of us have a chip on our shoulder to prove people wrong.”
One of the under-the-radar moves of the summer was the signing of Green, a lengthy veteran forward entering his 10th season as a pro. On July 11, he inked a one-year deal with the Cavaliers.
The motivation behind the decision was obvious, Green told Basketball Insiders. Joining Cleveland gives him a chance to experience two things almost any player in the NBA would want to experience—playing for a championship and playing with the best player in the world.
“With the pieces that was coming together here, I felt like it was a great opportunity,” he said.
Though he has no hard feelings toward the organization, last season wasn’t ideal for Green, who spent the year with an inexperienced Magic team that never found its way—but he knows a clean slate with a successful franchise will get him back on the right track.
“We just didn’t win games, plain and simple,” Green told Basketball Insiders of why things didn’t work out in Orlando. “I don’t like to dwell on the past. They have a good thing going for what they have now, and I wish them the best.”
With that chapter of his career over with and behind him, it’s full speed ahead for Green. At 31 years old, the 6-foot-9 wing has a unique skill set that the Cavaliers can utilize in multiple ways.
When asked about what he can bring to the table that the team didn’t have last year, he disagreed with the notion that they were missing something.
“I mean, they went to the Finals,” Green told Basketball Insiders. “You can’t really say they didn’t have anything. My job is just to be Jeff Green—be versatile, play both ends of the floor. It’s not necessarily that I’m bringing anything; I’m just adding what I have to this team.”
Tyronn Lue has liked what he’s seen from him thus far in training camp. According to Cleveland’s head coach, he’s noticed Green’s intelligence come into play with the bench, where he’ll likely be slotted in the rotation.
“Jeff’s been a good addition because he’s athletic, he can shoot the basketball, he can post, he can dribble, so he’s very versatile,” Lue said.
“He’s a great passer from the elbows. Great at reading plays. Very smart. A lot of times with that second unit, he’s getting all the guys in their spots. Just having that second unit, they’re very smart. They play well together.”
Like his new coach, Green is a huge proponent of this talented Cavaliers bunch, but would he go as far as to say this is the deepest and most versatile team he’s been on?
“Without a doubt,” Green told Basketball Insiders. “Basically, we have two starting units—first and second unit. But we’ve just got to work on the court. We’ve got to transfer from practice to game time. That’s what it’s all about.
“It’s great. I’m with some great guys, a bunch of individuals that want to get better. They want to win a championship. We push each other each day. That’s all you can ask for.”
When the New Year comes around in January, it will mark six years since Green underwent an open-heart surgery procedure that forced him to miss the entire 2011-12 season and changed his life forever.
As penned in his Players Tribune piece, the scar on his chest serves as a reminder of his uphill battle, but also the determination it took to come back stronger than ever.
“I’m blessed,” Green told Basketball Insiders. “Truly blessed. All thanks to God. He allowed me to be in this position to continue to keep playing basketball. Very fortunate and very grateful to have this opportunity. I enjoy each day, come in and work hard, rest up and do it again tomorrow.
“I’m enjoying the process that I’ve had, the journey I’ve had from the heart surgery. I just continue to be thankful and humble by continuing to be able to play.”
The grind will never stop for Green, who is ecstatic to be a part of the Cavaliers as they hope for yet another run to the NBA Finals. As far as goals go, he is starved for one thing, and one thing only.
“Winning,” Green told Basketball Insiders. “Individually, just be a better me. But team-wise, I just want to win. Ultimate goal is to win a championship and I feel like we have the pieces to do that.”
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