During the 2013 NBA Finals, John Karalis of Red's Army will be contributing to Project Spurs, covering the San Antonio Spurs' march to title No. 5.
I had no idea who Danny Green was a couple of summers ago.
I was in New York, with Project Spurs' Jeff Garcia, going to a charity game at St. John’s University. At that point, Green was a former Spur, trying like hell to get back into the NBA. I watched him play and saw nothing that made him stand out. I watched him fail miserably in a dunk contest and didn’t think twice about who this kid might become.
I wasn’t alone. At that point, he could have gone anywhere. It wasn’t like teams were knocking down his door. And while it was a charity game, there was nothing I saw in Green that looked any different from any other fringe NBA player.
You see, you can take the worst player in the NBA, and he’d look like a GOD if he walked into your local YMCA and called next.
I don’t care how good you are. I don’t care how bad you think the worst player in the NBA is. That above sentence is a fact, and not just because Stone Cold says so. I’ve seen guys who get camp invites to NBA teams walk into gyms and drop jaws.
That’s how good you have to be to make it in the NBA. You have to be so good that you take the guy that looks like a superhero to everyone else, and make him look like everyone else.
But Green didn’t even look that that while screwing around in that charity game. I forgot about him.
The Spurs didn’t, though, despite cutting him from the team twice. Gregg Popovich didn’t forget about him, even though it took an eye-opening phone call where Pop laid out the mental roadblocks in Green that prevented him from reaching his potential.
“Coach Williams at North Carolina and I double‑teamed him,” Pop said after Game 3. “And I think Coach Williams had a big impact on Danny's mental status. Believing that he belonged. Not getting down if things didn't go well, to continue to push and to work. And to Danny's credit, he's done that. He's a pretty confident young man right now.”
Yeah, hitting 44 three-pointers in the playoffs will do that for a man’s confidence.
Danny Green has now scored 132 points just from beyond the arc in these playoffs. He scored 86 points combined over the first two years of his career.
He doesn’t just “belong” on this team. He doesn’t just “belong” on the floor. Right now, he belongs in the record books. It’s a far cry from that day in Queens, or even the days growing up on Long Island.
“Growing up as a kid, I was a big basketball fan since I was little,” Green said. “My father put the ball in my hand. I stayed up late. We're on the East Coast, it's a little different. I never thought I would be up here talking to you guys now.”
Green has gone from basketball player to parable in a few short weeks. Parents can point to Green and tell the story about how he didn’t have the confidence to stick with the team, but when he found it, he became a star. Green is latest shining example of how circumstances can kick you where the sun don’t shine, then turn around and lift you to new heights.
He was once the kid dancing with LeBron on the sidelines in Cleveland. Now he’s the kid that sat him down… sulked into his ringside seat for the Danny Green showcase (with special guest: Gary Neal). He scored more last night than Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili combined.
It’s a life lesson, really. If you don’t think you can do it, you probably won’t. But once you realize that you’re playing games in your own head, you’ve removed a pretty damn big obstacle from your path to success.
Green is the Spurs’ leading scorer through three games of the NBA Finals. There’s a very real possibility that he will go from DNP’s to Finals MVP if he can keep this up.
He's a pretty confident young man right now. And with good reason.