CAMDEN, N.J. — Danny Green walked to the podium early Friday afternoon with the aid of crutches and an air cast on his left leg.
He expressed optimism that the injury he suffered during the first quarter of the Sixers’ season-ending Game 6 loss Thursday night to the Heat might not be severe.
“I’m very hopeful,” Green said. “It doesn’t feel as bad as it looked, I guess. They think it’s going to be some ligament damage — hopefully, it’s not major ligaments. The major ones feel intact, look pretty good. I don’t know. I’m talking as if I’m a doctor here, but I’m not. But I think it’s more so the outside of the knee — the LCL — that hurts the most. ... I didn’t take any pain meds; pain was pretty good. I slept OK. It’s not that painful or anything. Things are going OK right now.”
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Green did not receive the news he wanted. An MRI confirmed that the veteran wing suffered tears of the ACL and LCL in his left knee, a Sixers official said. The Athletic’s Shams Charania first reported Green’s ACL tear.
The injury indeed looked quite serious when it occurred. Joel Embiid crashed into Green’s leg after scoring a driving layup.
“I saw him drive to the rim and lay it up,” Green said. “I didn’t know if it went in or not, but I just remember him taking a tumble. I tried to move, couldn’t get out fast enough. It just happened so fast.
“I saw it happening and I was trying to pull my leg out, but it got caught underneath me and he rolled into it. … I didn’t know how serious it was until I tried to put weight on it and it buckled. And then I realized it’s probably going to take some time and I wasn’t going to be able to return to the series at all. … But yeah, I heard some sounds that were not comforting.”
Green was helped off the floor into the locker room and heard “Dan-ny” chants from the home fans.
He later returned to the sidelines, which Matisse Thybulle appreciated. Green gave Thybulle advice over the past two seasons on how to approach being a late-game defensive substitute, adapting to playing with stars, how to take the right risks, and finding his spots offensively.
“I think I said this last time, when Danny hurt his finger or something, but he did it again ... when most guys get injured, they go home, go to the doctor’s, whatever,” Thybulle said Friday. “Danny Green always shows up back on the court to support the team, and I feel like that just sums it all up. He’s really, really, really special in that sense.”
Thybulle replaced Green as the Sixers’ starting small forward during this season but ceded that role late in the year. With Thybulle ineligible to play in Toronto because he’s not fully vaccinated, the Sixers turned back to the 34-year-old Green and he started all 12 of the team’s postseason games.
After shooting 2 for 14 from three-point range over the first two contests of the Miami series, Green went 10 for 13 from long range across the Sixers’ victories in Games 3 and 4. He called it a “roller coaster of a year” and the most challenging one of his NBA career.
“For sure,” Green said. “By far. I probably had more injuries this year than I had total in my career combined. Going from starting to not starting, playing less minutes. The injuries alone were more frustrating than anything.”
Though Green signed a two-year, $20 million contract last offseason, the second year of that deal is non-guaranteed.
Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey wasn’t prepared to discuss how Green’s injury might impact the Sixers’ roster-building.
“We’re just mostly focused on Danny right now,” Morey said. “He gave so much to us. I was really hoping the fourth ring on four different teams would be here this year. I haven’t thought about it, I’m just being honest.”