Danny Green keeps pinching himself. The North Babylon native is still soaking in San Antonio’s first NBA title in seven years after the Spurs dethroned the two-time defending champion Miami Heat in five games last June.
“I really didn’t know how to react when it was all over,” said Green, who averaged 9.3 points as either shooting guard or forward. “The arena was so loud. I remember finishing the handshake line and turning around to see my family standing on the court. That’s when everything started to sink in,” he added.
Beating the Heat was sweet redemption for Green and the Spurs after letting the 2012-13 crown slip through their fingers. Despite Green breaking the NBA finals series record for three-pointers, the Heat captured the title in seven games after rallying late in game six to stay alive. “It feels great to be on top, but I don’t think we’ll ever forget how the previous year ended,” said Green, who was honored this summer with a parade around his hometown and presented with a key to the Town of Babylon. “Last offseason was pretty rough. But we returned the same group and got it done. This season we’ll have the same group back so we’ll try to get better and repeat.”
Championship hardware is nothing new to Green. He has been a part of winning teams at every level starting with St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset and then at the University of North Carolina. Selected 46th overall in the 2009 NBA draft, he was waived prior to the following season and embarked on a journey that included stops in the NBA Developmental League and Slovenia.
“I’ve had my share of ups and downs [since being drafted],” Green said. “But it’s a special time in my life right now and I’m trying to enjoy it as much as possible.” Pulse caught up with Green over the summer, which he spent on Long Island running his growing Team Green youth basketball camp.
Long Island Pulse: Can you believe you’re an NBA champion?
Danny Green: It’s so hard to bring into reality. It’s very surreal, but I’m enjoying the ride as much as I can and it’s been great to celebrate with my family and friends. Everyone’s coming back, so hopefully we can do it again.
Pulse: How do you feel about winning both college and pro championships?
DG: It’s so hard to do and it’s amazing to be part of that short list. It’s something you don’t think about until after it happens. There are some really big-name guys on that list. I’ve been lucky and blessed to be on great teams at every level throughout my career.
Pulse: What can you say about joining Michael Jordan and James Worthy as the only North Carolina Tar Heels to win NCAA and NBA titles?
DG: Someone told me that a day or two after we beat the Heat, so it’s kind of crazy to be mentioned in the same sentence as those two guys. They’re two of the greatest and won many championships between them. I’d be thrilled to have one-third of the career they had.
Pulse: What was the previous off season like after coming so close to the title and losing in game seven?
DG: It was hard; the whole year was hard until we got back to the finals. We were extremely motivated and we knew we had to be perfect to win.
Pulse: You also got to experience your very own parade. Tell us about that.
DG: It was very unexpected and not my type of scene, but it was a tremendous honor given to me by the Town of Babylon. I got a key to the town and a service medal, and saw a lot of people I hadn’t seen in 10 years.
Pulse: How has your game evolved over the years?
DG: I’ve become more consistent, which is the biggest key. It’s a long season with a lot of ups and downs. You work towards having more ups than downs. I’ve improved as a shooter and always take pride on defense.
Pulse: Do you feel you’ve brought another dimension to the Spurs’ offense with your perimeter shooting?
DG: They’ve been a very European share-the-ball type of team and a defensive team. When I got there, they let me know what my role was and kept me to my strengths. It all starts with defense.
Pulse: What’s it like playing with a future Hall of Famer like Tim Duncan?
DG: I was a huge fan of his growing up. When I was a kid, I had a Duncan jersey. He makes it look easy. He’s one of the first guys at practice and one of the last to leave. We’ve gotten pretty close and have great chemistry.
Pulse: What’s coach Gregg Popovich like?
DG: He’s an ultimate competitor and a great coach. There are many reasons why he’s been so successful. He’s all business on the court. Off the court he’s a really funny guy. I love playing for him.
Pulse: Any truth to the rumor you’re changing your number from 4 to 14?
DG: Yes, that’s true. It’s the number I’ve always worn and it goes back to when I played quarterback for the football team at North Babylon. I wore 14 in high school, college and as a rookie with the Cavaliers. When I came to the Spurs it was taken, but it’s available now and I’m happy to wear it again because it has strong ties to home.
Pulse: What do you miss most about Long Island?
DG: I enjoy Texas and definitely don’t miss the snow, but I miss my family back home and some of the food like pizza and Chinese.
Pulse: Who’s been your biggest influence?
DG: My father, Danny Sr. He put a basketball in my hands when I was two and still pushes me today to be the best I can be.