NBA PM: Green Still Humbled by Long Road to NBA

Danny Green nearly signed abroad years ago, but he took a different route that led him to the Spurs.

5 min read
Alan Draper profile picture
We sometimes use affiliate links in our content, when clicking on those we might receive a commission – at no extra cost to you. By using this website you agree to our terms and conditions and privacy policy.

Spurs’ Green Still Humbled by Long Road to NBA

Go to the gym. Get there early. Practice. Stay late. Go to the arena. Watch others play. Sit on the bench. Repeat.

It didn’t take Danny Green long to grasp the reality of his rookie year. After the first 10 or 15 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he understood he would be observing most of the action from the sidelines.

That didn’t mean he didn’t have to stop putting in the work. It also didn’t mean he had to stop believing he could have a significant role in the NBA, even when he got waived.

The Cavs drafted Green, a shooting guard, out of the University of North Carolina with the 46th pick in the 2009 Draft. The team didn’t need his offense – LeBron James finished second in the league in scoring that season. Coming off an Eastern Conference Finals run, the second-round pick was an addition to an already-constructed roster.

“I worked out every day knowing I wasn’t going to play,” Green told Basketball Insiders. “I tried to get stronger and remember one day that opportunity will come.”

He had to wait … and wait. Green made his NBA debut in mid-November when he logged one minute against the Miami HEAT. He appeared in just 20 contests that season, going as many as 16 games without playing.

“The rest of the year, I had good front row seats,” Green said. “I just knew that I was going to be the guy who pushed them in practice. It was a good learning experience for me.”

Green got a brief shot at minutes when the Cavaliers assigned him to the Erie BayHawks, their former NBA Development League affiliate. Green finally had his moment to let loose on the court. He averaged 25.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and four steals in two games.

Four days later, he was called back up to Cleveland due to injuries. Green had barely settled in with the BayHawks – and an opportunity to see the court – when he had to travel back to join the Cavaliers well aware there was a slim chance he would leave the bench. The frustrations mounted.

“I remember thinking, ‘I really do not need to go through all this right now. I have to get back here and [I’m] probably still not going to play,’” Green said. “It was one of those days there was a lot going on, a lot of traveling, not a lot of sleep.”

As the Cavaliers prepared for another playoff run, Green averaged 5.3 minutes in four games in April. He did not appear in the postseason.

His time with the Cavaliers came to an end the next training camp when he got waived days before the start of the 2010-11 regular season. Green signed with the San Antonio Spurs the next month, only to be waived – once again – a week later. The former NCAA champion was out of the NBA after just one season.

I’ll play in Italy, he decided. He could get minutes in Europe, not to mention he’d have job security with a potential lockout the following season. However, his family talked him out of it. Go to the D-League, they urged him. Teams will take notice and you’ll get a call up, they encouraged.

Green chose to forego the international route and worked his way through the Development League. He played 15 games for the Reno Big Horns, averaging 20.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals. By March, he had signed a deal to re-join the Spurs.

“It would’ve taken me longer to get here, for sure,” Green said of what would’ve happened if he did go to Europe, where he did play for Union Olimpija during the lockout. “I think eventually I would have ended up on a team. I would’ve been over there a couple of years.”

Instead of establishing himself overseas, he did it on the Spurs. Green became a starter in his fourth season (2012-13). That year he broke the NBA Finals three-point record. The following season, he won a championship.

This summer, the Spurs inked Green to a four-year contract worth $45 million. He is part of their long-term plan, as he, Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge transition into the leaders once the Tim Duncan-Manu Ginobili-Tony Parker era comes to an end.

He enjoys playing with teammates who, like him “didn’t start out on top,” as he describes it. Many also were late draft picks, including Ginobili (57th) and Patty Mills (55th).

With that responsibility comes his willingness to put in the necessary work. This season, his scoring is down (from 11.7 points per game last year to 8.0 points per game) as his shooting percentages have dipped to 34.7 percent from the field (down from 43.6 percent) and 31.4 percent from three-point range (down from 41.8%) while he is taking fewer shot attempts.

Green remembers what it took to get to this point in his career, though. He hasn’t forgotten the time spent on the bench, the games played in the D-League, the days spent without a job. His place in the NBA has been taken away from him more than once and he knows how to fight to keep it.

“It’s kind of crazy reflecting back,” Green said. “It’s very humbling.”

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

Trending Now