|Danny Green has evolved from a benchwarmer to possible NBA Finals MVP. (nba.si.com)|
Danny Green and LeBron James were teammates once upon a time, although hardly any time was spent on the floor together.
Green was a rookie drafted by Cleveland, who only saw action in 20 games and averaged 5.8 minutes per game, while James led the Cavaliers to the Eastern Conference Semifinals before losing to the Boston Celtics 4-2 in the series.
It was the 2009-10 season, and it also happened to be both players' final seasons in Cleveland. Green was let go and found a new home in San Antonio while James, well, you know what happened with James. Turns out the change of scenery has worked out pretty well for both players.
Green went from only playing in 28 regular season games his first two seasons (without a start) in the league to this year playing in 80 and starting in them all. Still, Green is considered a role player to support the Spurs big three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
Yet if the Spurs can close out their 3-2 series lead and win the NBA Finals, Green could be the MVP of the series. Green (averaging 18 ppg for the series) hit six 3-pointers as part of his 24 points in game five, putting his name in the NBA record books. Green now has 25 3-pointers during the NBA Finals, three more than Ray Allen's previous record of 22. More impressive is the fact that those 25 makes have come on 38 attempts, giving him a shooting percentage of 65 percent from behind the arc. For the entire postseason, Green has 53 3-pointers for a 51.5 percentage. Green has been a steady 3-point threat the past two seasons, shooting above 40 percent each year, but this is a give-the-man-a-gatorade-bath-because-he's-on-fire type of streak.
The giant stage of the NBA Finals is a great venue for breaking out as a player, but it hasn't been completely out of nowhere. This has been slowing evolving the entire postseason. Green has gotten better each series (except for a small step back in production from the Golden State to Memphis series), going from 23 minutes per game, seven points per game and three 3-point attempts per game in the first round series against the Los Angeles Lakers to now 34 mpg, 18 ppg and 7.6 3-pointers per game in the Finals, with steady rises from the first round to semifinals and conference finals to the NBA Finals.
Green is another great lesson that players don't have to be superstars as rookies. College is a place to get better, but so is the NBA. There is room for improvement upon entering the league and San Antonio should be given credit for giving Green a chance to grow. It's also no coincidence Green grew in the Spurs' system. That's what Gregg Popovich does.
Green didn't get much time to share the court with James as teammates, but now that the two are sharing the court again, this time as opponents, it may be Green who keeps James from earning that second ring.
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