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Changing of the (shooting) guard

If you’ve followed the NBA Finals from the San Antonio Spurs’ side closely, you will have no doubt read more than a few articles about Manu Ginobili not quite being the same Manu we’ve normally seen, aside from a few bright spots in Game 3. You’ve also likely read quite a bit about Danny Green and his emergence from a guy that couldn’t stick on a team to Finals hero.

There seems to be a bit of a shift happening with the Spurs. While Green will never replace Ginobili, and while he was named a starter, that’s always been due to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s strategy of having a strong player come off the bench with the second unit.

Green, however, seems to be shedding the image of passable defender and inconsistent shooter. This playoff run, and especially the Finals, have likely rid Green of the nickname “IcyHot” that had been affixed to him by other members of the blogosphere and local media.

Green’s performance this postseason is a far cry from his disappearing act against the Oklahoma City Thunder in last season’s Western Conference Finals.

Inconsistency? Not for the Spurs-leading scorer in the NBA Finals, who has scored in double figures in the first four games of the series. Aside from that, he is shooting at a 57 percent clip from the field and nearly 70 percent from beyond the arch.

After seeing him defend both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, I think it’s fair to call him an above-average defender. Green has been teaming up with Kawhi Leonard to form a tight first line of defense around the perimeter, but Green has done work in the post as well, knocking away a few shots and averaging 1.2 blocks and one steal per game.

This is all new to Green. While he was successful at North Carolina, he was never the type to take over a game and played mostly as a complimentary piece. You’ve read John Karalis’ excellent story on Green’s journey and while he is opening eyes around the league, he also seems to be enjoying new experiences.

Like walking into an interview room packed with reporters. Green’s first words to the media were “what’s up.”

If he continues on his pace and the Spurs win this series, he won’t just be on the podium answering questions, he may be stepping up to accept a Finals MVP trophy.

Players are made in the NBA Finals, and while many would expect Parker, Duncan and Ginobili to be starring in this series, Parker is fighting injury, Ginobili has been mostly inconsistent and Duncan’s has been best on defense.

While it would be a tough task to expect Green to ever be a player of Ginobili’s caliber, especially on offense, he’s already proven to be a difference maker on both ends of the floor.

Green is also still young, with plenty of time to learn and grow, and there’s nothing like the NBA Finals to spur that. With Green looking like a big part of the Spurs’ future, the changeover won’t be instant, but it’s definitely already in process.

About Michael A. De Leon

Michael founded Project Spurs in 2004. He started The Spurscast, the first Spurs podcast on the Internet, in 2005. Michael has been interviewed by the BBC, SportTalk, the Sports Reporters Radio Show, MemphisSportLive, OKC Sports Wrap and ESPN radio among others. He is a credentialed member of the media for the San Antonio Spurs and Austin Toros. He is also the founder of Project Spurs' sister sites, Toros Nation and Stars Hoops.

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