Danny Green watched the wild events at the end of regulation in Game 1 of the NBA Finals unfold like everyone else.
Unlike everyone else, Green, a guard for the San Antonio Spurs, has the perspective of a nine-year NBA veteran who has won a title. So he was a little more understanding after watching Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith cost his team a chance to beat the Golden State Warriors by forgetting the score was tied and dribbling out the clock after a late rebound. The Cavs went on the lose Game 1 in overtime.
“It’s a million-miles-an-hour type of game unless you’ve been there for some time,” Green told The Japan Times on Saturday in Tokyo’s Akihabara area. “The game obviously slows down as you get older, but even then, you better be on point at all times.
“J.R. probably at that time, he was thinking ‘oh, George (Hill) made the free throw. We’re up.’ But he (Hill) missed one. It’s coming a million miles an hour, you’ve gotta make quick decisions.”
The 30-year-old native of North Babylon, New York, was in Tokyo for the NBA to engage with Japanese fans at various events. On Friday, he attended an NBA Finals viewing party in Ebisu. He was in Akihabara on Saturday to attend a 3×3 tournament. In his downtime, he visited temples, shopped and even ate eel for the first time.
“I got to meet up with some of my teammates last night (Friday) at the viewing party, some (North) Carolina alumni guys,” said Green, who played in college at UNC, where he won the 2009 NCAA title. Jawad Williams (of Alvark Tokyo) won a championship here and he loves it. He wants to retire here. So does Joel James (a Hachioji Trains player), he’s been playing here for the last two years.”
They helped Green learn more about the Japanese basketball scene.
“That it’s growing,” Green said when asked for his impression. “That it’s still on the come up. Some fans are very passionate, some kids are very passionate. It’s still growing, but as you see, the ones who are fans are extreme. They’re very fanatic. I’m here to help bring that passion, to help it grow. The kids, to inspire them and motivate them and get more kids into it and hopefully have some Japanese professional come over and play in the NBA.”
One player who could possibly make that move is Yuta Watanabe, who recently completed his senior year at George Washington University and has worked out for the Brooklyn Nets and Washington Wizards. If he doesn’t get drafted in June, Watanabe could try to make his way to the NBA via the G. League, the NBA’s minor league circuit.
“It’s the fastest route, but it’s a grind,” said Green, who spent time in the league in 2010 and 2011. “Back when I was in it, it was different. It was a very humbling, different kind of grind. Obviously there are more teams now. I’m sure the travel and hotels are a little different. But it’s still an everyday grind. But that’s the fastest way. When the injuries happen, (NBA) GMs and front offices, they look to the G-League to see which guys are playing well. That’s when you get call-ups.”
Green has enjoyed his time in Japan and hopes the NBA continues to grow in the country and inspire Japanese children. He’d like to see the league hold games in Japan one day.
“They’re doing a great deal of branding in China. Hopefully it will be great over here too,” said Green, who added he’d love to return to Japan.
“I would highly recommend it to many other guys. I’m sure a lot of guys in the league would love to be here and also help build up basketball in this country.”
Green is coming off his ninth season in the NBA. He made 60 starts and played in 70 games for the Spurs this year, playing well defensively and averaging 8.6 points per game.
The team was plagued by injuries all year, and also had to deal with the drama stemming from the absence of star Kawhi Leonard, who only played nine games due to a right quadriceps injury.
Rumors about whether he was able to play or not and if there was a rift between him and the team lingered all season. Even now, it remains to be seen if Leonard will remain with the Spurs.
“I don’t know now,” Green said. “They don’t run decisions by me in the front office. I don’t know if they offered him an extension or not. I don’t know if he’s taking it or not. Throughout the season we had our chats, we had our talks, he was working hard to come back. He wanted to be there for us and be there with us to play.
“I knew he wanted to be out there. Obviously there’s things that’s going on I don’t know about, on and off the court, with the front office. If I were to guess in his mindset, I would expect he would want to be back with San Antonio.
Green also has a decision to make, with the option to opt out of his own deal on the table until June 29.
“We’ve thought about it here and there. Obviously the date is coming up soon, sooner now since June has hit. I think I would know probably in another two weeks or so and make a decision. I’ll talk to my agent, talk to my family. Just waiting to hear back from San Antonio and other interests that may be there.
“Obviously Pop and R.C. are taking some time to figure out what they want to do,” he said, referring to head coach Gregg Popovich and general manager R. C. Buford. “Probably another week or two, we’ll probably figure it out and actually really sit down and come down to the nitty gritty of what is best for me.”
Green said he hopes to win more championships in the future, but expects the title to remain with the Warriors this season after watching Game 1.
“I think that was the game for Cleveland to steal,” Green said. “Because I don’t see Golden State shooting it as badly, KD shooting as badly and those other guys not playing as well. They’re also buying time for Iggy to come back. (Andre) Iguodala comes back, they’re going to be a totally different team.”
As for Smith, he was understanding.
“He gave them a chance to make something happen,” Green said. “I’m sure he’ll learn from it and move forward. I’m sure his teammates are trying to back him and help him forget about it and move forward. That’s what life’s about, what basketball’s about. Forget the last play and move on to the next play.”
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