Recognizing Danny Green’s Impact as Sixers Close in on Top Seed
There are so many games in an NBA season it’s easy to miss seminal moments.
One of the bigger character wins of the Sixers’ season happened in a game against the New York Knicks back on March 21. The game likely won’t stick out to you because it wasn’t a particularly pretty performance.
With no Joel Embiid, the Sixers and Knicks set the offensive part of the game back 20 years, with both teams failing to reach 100 points in regulation. Tobias Harris was just 5 of 18. Ben Simmons committed seven turnovers. When the Knicks were able to force overtime, the Sixers looked cooked.
It felt like one of the many road games without Embiid that the Sixers had lost in the past.
But it was not.
“Danny [Green] saved the game for us,” Doc Rivers said after that win. “He was the only one, in my opinion, that kept his composure. The game should have never gone in overtime, and let me just put it that way, you could feel our energy -- it wasn’t a good energy. Guys were down. They were mad. They thought they had blown the game.”
As the Sixers inch closer to securing the East’s one seed, Rivers will rightfully get credit for changing the culture and getting players to buy in. Embiid will also get his due for rededicating himself and playing at an MVP level.
But when you’re giving flowers for the success of the 2020-21 season, do not forget about Danny Green.
The other person that deserves a great deal of credit is Daryl Morey. The veteran exec was able to unload Al Horford’s contract in part for a useful player such as Green.
And what a journey for Green who went from playing in the Finals to being traded to a tanking team and then to another contender.
While Green had somewhat of a down year last season for the Lakers, there was no denying his resume. The 33-year-old was a three-time NBA champ and shot over 40 percent from three for his career.
That blend of experience and ability is helping the Sixers go from a disappointing first-round playoff exit to on the precipice of clinching the one seed and forcing the Eastern Conference to go through Philadelphia.
One of the most notable improvements for the Sixers has been their road record. Through 66 regular-season games, the Sixers have won 20 road games. Last season, they won 10 true road games, not counting victories in the bubble.
In years past, you could generally chalk a road game without Embiid or Simmons up as a loss – with the aforementioned game against the Knicks being a prime example. Green has brought a maturity to a team that’s still fairly young.
Consider that before Green’s arrival, Embiid and Simmons had played with just four players that had won rings -- Tiago Splitter (eight games), James Michael McAdoo (three games), Corey Brewer (seven games), and Marco Belinelli, who played in just 28 regular-season games and 10 playoff games here.
Green has won more championships and already has played more games as a Sixer than any of those players.
Here’s the other thing: Green can still play.
Morey knew the Sixers needed to surround Embiid and Simmons with shooters, much like the team did in the duo’s first season together.
Green is behind only Seth Curry for the team lead in three-point percentage at 40.8 percent. Only three players in franchise history have shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc while making at least 160 threes – Dana Barros, Kyle Korver and JJ Redick. Green is on pace to be the fourth. His 163 threes in just 64 games are already the 10th-highest single-season total in Sixers history.
Green’s off-ball movement and proficiency from the corner are the stuff of legend at this point.
“Hell, it’s called the Danny Green cut," Rivers said after the Sixers’ win Wednesday. “Clearly, he probably does it better than anybody. He probably gets two or three a game where he’s just dead-open from movement. The one in the first half was just genius. It’s a read and the guy was still standing in the opposite corner; he didn’t know Danny had gone. He has a knack for it.”
The quintessential 3-and-D player, Green still has lightning-quick hands. Only three players in the NBA are averaging 1.4 steals a game while also shooting 40 percent from three – Nikola Jokic, Mike Conley and Green. While Morey couldn’t have forecasted the Nets adding James Harden, having a perimeter defender like Green to go along with Simmons and Matisse Thybulle would be beneficial in a potential playoff matchup.
To add to Green’s weird/wonderful season, he was the subject of trade rumors around the deadline. As the team reportedly pursued All-Star and Philly native Kyle Lowry, Green’s name was mentioned as a way to match Lowry’s large salary.
Ultimately, the Raptors hung to Lowry and Green remained a Sixer.
As the old adage goes, sometimes it’s the move you don’t make.
“That’s a big factor people don’t get,” Morey said as a guest on Green’s podcast, Inside the Green Room. “When you’re No. 1 in the East and playing at a very high level, a trade requires people to go out, not just in.”
Green has been down this road before. As with most obstacles the veteran has seen, he wasn’t fazed.
“I wasn’t stressed, I wasn’t frustrated,” Green said in his conversation with Morey. “I felt very comfortable where we were. I didn’t think we were going to make any major changes, because we are doing pretty well.”
Green is now looking for his third straight championship with three different teams -- and his fourth ring overall. When he arrived here, he joked that if the Sixers don't make the Finals "they f---ed it up."
Well, they've done their job so far by being on the verge of capturing the one seed.
And just like in that win at Madison Square Garden, Green's impact cannot be overlooked.