Through nine NBA seasons with two of the league’s best teams, a couple of stops in the NBA G-League, and a brief stint in Slovenia, Danny Green has seen virtually everything an NBA training camp can throw at him.
Freedom however, feels a bit unfamiliar.
Just a couple of days into Raptors camp, the 31-year-old was asked whether he’s found anything surprising about Toronto, and he barely paused.
“The freedom they have, the freedom everybody has,” Green said. “Not just the guards but the bigs as well. The freedom to handle the ball, the freedom to do other things offensively.”
Green was the almost-overlooked second player in the blockbuster deal that brought Kawhi Leonard to Toronto. The six-foot-six shooting guard arrived from San Antonio with the reputation of an athletic defender who’s also lethal from three-point range. But it’s partly the latter that has him excited about Toronto.
If his defence earned him major minutes in his eight seasons with the Spurs, he had to sacrifice some of his game to fit into San Antonio’s style.
Green said the Spurs’ bread and butter was an inside/outside game with an offence that largely ran through Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.
“Here we are more perimeter-oriented. It’s a lot easier playing and flowing and a lot more freedom. We are looking more for the perimeter shot,” Green said. “(Aldridge) led us in plenty of games and plenty of seasons so it was only right to look for him first. Kawhi was also great in the post. We played at a little slower pace the last couple of years and we looked inside first and then out.
“Now it’s more push the pace, get up and down and get more looks from the perimeter. You don’t have to hold back as much if you’re me, second-guessing which shots I should or shouldn’t take.”
It was a few minutes into Leonard’s long-awaited introductory press conference on Monday when somebody posed a question to Green.
“Oh, you included me, OK,” he replied through a grin. “I was wondering if I was going to get to talk today.”
Green’s quick wit provided some levity on what could have been a tense afternoon. If Leonard is known as a man of few words, his former Spurs teammate is practically his polar opposite. He co-hosts his own podcast “Inside The Green Room.”
“He’s like the ultimate teammate, right?” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse. “He does everything with a little bit of positivity and a little bit of a smile on his face, ‘come on let’s go’ type of attitude. Those guys go a long way. They’re fun to be around. He’s great to be around, man.”
Raptors coach counting on Green
Nurse will be looking for more than positivity from Green. With 100 post-season appearances, during which he shot 41 per cent from the three-point line, and an NBA title from 2014, the guard brings an enviable wealth of playoff experience to a young Raptors squad.
Green is happy to play that role.
“It’s different. Coaches are asking me for different thoughts and theories. Players are looking up to me to see how I’m carrying myself, how I’m doing things, asking me for advice,” he said.”But it’s one I am OK with and hopefully we can all learn from each other, adjust accordingly and have a good thing going.”
Green said he was lucky to have soaked up countless lessons from some of the best — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili in San Antonio, and LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neil in his rookie season with Cleveland.
“They are all great players but coaches at the same time too. A lot of how they carried themselves and how they taught me was easy to grasp and learn how to do,” Green said. “Even when I was (in San Antonio) I started to do it with the younger guys that we had there . . . But this is a different group, more fun, younger guys taking it in good stride and hopefully we can all put it together and make something special happen.”
Backup guard Fred VanVleet said he’d been in conversation with Green since mid-July, and then the newcomer arrived in Toronto a couple of weeks before camp opened to work with the team’s second unit.
VanVleet is eager to play the role of pupil.
“As a fan of the game you just want to learn what those years were like, what those finals were like, what is San Antonio like? You want to ask and learn and we got a good feeling of what Kawhi was going to be like from Danny before he got here,” he said.
“That’s one of the top organizations in the league in terms of championships and so you want to learn that, you want to study history, and see where you can take little things that they did and see where they went wrong. We want to take as much knowledge those guys have and add it to what we have, and it could be a special year for us.”