The first practice of Danny Green’s 12th NBA season didn’t come until Dec. 9.
Finally, the 33-year-old wing practiced with the Sixers on Wednesday after the completion of the team’s trade with Oklahoma City a day earlier.
The deal couldn’t be finalized until during training camp because Green had already been sent from the Lakers to the Thunder this offseason and it was therefore not permissible to aggregate his salary when the Sixers and Oklahoma City first came to an agreement. The Sixers also acquired Terrance Ferguson and Vincent Poirier in the trade, parting with Al Horford.
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According to his new head coach, Green showed no signs of rust.
“I was shocked,” Doc Rivers said, “because I’m guessing he probably hasn’t touched a ball since the championship game. … But he was unbelievable today. He shot the heck out of the ball. He made reads. He did find out that Ben (Simmons is) a super athlete on one of the layups, I will say that. But he was terrific.”
Rivers exaggerated slightly on Green’s lack of preparation — Green said he found facilities to work out in over the last couple of weeks — but it’s true he’s had minimal time to gear up for this season after clinching his third NBA championship on Oct. 11.
Though Green is well-traveled, having played for four NBA teams, spent time in the D-League and even joined a Slovenian team during the 2011 NBA lockout, he’s never been in a situation like this one.
“Luckily for me, no, I have not experienced it. I’ve been fortunate enough to be traded in the summertime,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve been traded after the season, where I get time to find a place to move and actually implement myself with the new guys early and find a system. So yeah, this is new for me, even though I still have time to get acquainted with the guys — it’s not a midseason trade. So I still look at it as a positive. But this is the first time that I’m starting behind the curve a little bit and (was) not able to be here for Day 1 of training camp.
“At this point in my career … and I think everybody that’s been in the league for more than five or six years understands that every team uses the same type of things, just different terminologies, different theories. So it’s not much different. We do a lot of the same drills. It’s just learning each other, learning the players and the people around you, and learning the terminology which the coaching staff is going to use.”
Green will surely gain more information about his precise role with the Sixers over the coming days. Throughout his career, however, his responsibilities haven’t tended to waver much. He’s complemented star talent by making three-point shots at a high rate (40 percent overall) in a low-usage offensive role, and by defending well on the wing. In Philadelphia, he thinks imparting the knowledge he’s accumulated might have a greater impact than any on-court duties.
“My job, I think, is more important off the floor than it is on the floor for this group,” he said. "Just helping them understand the small details of what it takes to win, to be winners. Teaching them small things like guarding pick-and-rolls; guarding screens, pindowns; coming off and how to use those screens; how to talk to each other; being patient; and how to communicate defensively. So I think that can help everybody — not just certain stars, certain people, but everyone across the board, both guards and bigs.”
Before being forceful in his feedback, Green said he wants to “grow a type of rapport” and acclimate to the Sixers’ culture. From the memorable second-round series in 2019 between the Sixers and eventual champion Raptors, he does think he has a good sense of the challenges the trio of Simmons, Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris present to opponents. Wednesday wasn’t the first time Simmons has bested him individually, too. The Australian emphatically blew by Green on several occasions in the Sixers’ win over the Lakers on Jan. 25, posting 28 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and four steals that night.
“I always hated playing in Philly,” Green said. “They’re one of the toughest teams at home to play against, especially with Joel and Ben defensively, how good they were and how much they pushed the pace. Obviously Tobias, how great of a scorer he was. But it was a pain in the ass to place them — especially (with) the fans getting on you. But they shot it well at home, they played well at home, they defensively were monsters, they got after you.
“And that (Sixers vs. Raptors) series was tough. They played us well; they played us to the very end. … Just remembering how tough they were when they had Jimmy (Butler), too. But even without Jimmy, they still (had) the same identity — a very good, tough, scrappy group that hung their hat on the defensive end of the floor and pushed the pace offensively. So you had to be very smart and strategic with how you attacked them, and it was hard to get off easy looks against them. There weren’t many easy looks, so you had to make tough shots against them.”
Green’s glad, after his unusual wait, to be allowed to practice with the Sixers. For all of the team's talk about increased accountability, though, he tossed in a joke about how anything short of another title won’t fall on him.
“It’s amazing, man, to be wanted, to be sought after,” he said. “I’m happy to be here, I’m glad that they wanted me. Hopefully, I live up to expectations. But also, the pressure’s on them. I’ve won back to back, it’s their job to get me there and win another one. If they don’t, they f---ed it up. No, I’m just playing.
“My job is to come in here and help some of these young guys, and even some of the experienced guys — me and Dwight (Howard) — to teach them and give them the winning atmosphere, the winning culture, and building that. It’s not going to happen overnight. It takes day by day. That’s a process, that’s a project that hopefully by All-Star break, by the end of the season, guys are mentally prepared for what’s to come.”
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