Former Celtic Green learning in the D-League

Former Celtic Green learning in the D-League
February 26, 2012, 3:58 pm
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ORLANDO, Fla. It's all-star weekend, and former Boston Celtic Gerald Green is stealing all the attention.

But this is in front of a sparse crowd, the kind he has grown more accustomed to during his post-Celtic career.

It's the D-League All-Star game, one in which Green's West team won, 135-132, and he was the MVP with 28 points on 10-for-17 shooting which included 3-for-8 on 3s.

Now with the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the D-League, Green is no different than the other 19 D-League all-stars, hoping his play shined brightly enough to get a call-up to the NBA.

"He'll get another shot sooner or later," one NBA scout said. "He's too talented, and he's still young. And watching him out here, he's just a different kind of athlete than the other guys here."

And the D-League is full of athletes, for sure.

But for the most part, they come with a noticeable flaw.

Big men are often undersized; guards can shoot but often have shaky ball-handling skills; some are great playmakers but can't defend.

"There's a reason -- maybe two or three reasons -- why all these guys are here," another scout said.

And then there's Green, who has the size (6-foot-8), speed and athleticism to be on just about any NBA team's roster.

Right now, the only thing that's holding him back? Opportunity.

Teams have been reluctant to roll the dice on him again, concerned with what he admits was a lack of maturity earlier in his NBA career. After two seasons with the Celtics (2006-2007), Green bounced around the next couple years with short stints in Minnesota, Houston and Dallas. After that, Green had no choice but to take his game overseas.

While he has no regrets about entering the NBA straight out of high school, he readily admits that his youth played a role in his early struggles.

"I was young, out of high school, immature things didn't click as fast as things click to me now," Green said. "I'm a lot smarter. I'm a lot more humble than I was. I don't take things for granted anymore."

That's a common sentiment for guys who have to take their talents overseas when opportunities dry up in the NBA.

"Being overseas, that's a man business," Green said. "You can't go over there being a little kid. You're in the middle of nowhere. I grew up a lot faster being overseas, which I think is a good thing."

He added, "I had to go overseas, kind of refine myself, rebuild what I had started earlier in my career."

One of the first things he's had to do is shed the image that all he can do is dunk the ball. That comes with the territory when the most notable thing on your NBA resume was winning the Slam Dunk competition in 2007. That was a big reason why he did not want to participate in the D-League's slam dunk competition on Saturday.

Today, Green wants to be seen as a more complete player who, wisely enough, does a better job of learning more from those around him.

He had a chance to spend a week with the Los Angeles Lakers before the season, and said he paid close attention to Kobe Bryant.

"He took practices like a game," Green said of Bryant. "His focus was unbelievable. That's one thing I kind of took from that."

Those lessons, coupled with his play of late for the D-Fenders -- he's averaging 19.1 points and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 48 percent from the field and better than 46 percent on 3s -- has the 25-year-old Green optimistic that his return to the NBA will be come eventually.

"I am so happy that things are starting to look good for me," he said. "I'm just excited."