|ESPN.com: NBA Playoffs 2013||[Print without images]|
SAN ANTONIO -- Mike Brown called right after the San Antonio Spurs had polished off the Miami Heat 114-104 to take a 3-2 lead in the NBA Finals. I couldn't tell over the phone, but it sounded like he was smiling.
The subject, in this case, was Spurs guard Danny Green, who had just broken the record for most 3-pointers in an NBA Finals with six more Sunday evening to give him 25 in these first five games. Brown was Green's first NBA head coach, so it wouldn't have been out of line for him to gloat, even a little bit, for having seen the early signs of the player he is today, one who just might end up as the Finals MVP if the Spurs prevail.
Instead, he was honest.
"He's a great guy, but when we had him he wasn't what he is now. He was a guy who could do a little of everything but wasn't great at any one thing," Brown said. "It was [then-Cleveland Cavaliers general manager] Danny Ferry who really loved him, and I'm sure that's why he brought him to San Antonio [when Ferry later rejoined the Spurs front office]. He was just sure there was something more there.
I can't believe he's still open at this moment of the series. They are still trapping me and doubling Timmy [Duncan] and Danny is wide open." -- Tony Parker on Danny Green
"You see it now. He's simplified his game. He's taken the Bruce Bowen model and focused in on being great in one or two areas. He's worked really hard, and he's found the right niche, with the right team."
Those areas, of course, are 3-point shooting and perimeter defense. And in these Finals, Green has been about as hot as you can get from behind the arc.
"I can't believe he's still open at this moment of the series," Spurs guard Tony Parker joked. "They are still trapping me and doubling Timmy [Duncan] and Danny is wide open."
In five games Green is 25-for-38 (74 percent) on his 3-point looks. He's already surpassed the previous mark for most 3s in a Finals series, 22, first set by Ray Allen in a six-game 2008 series with the Boston Celtics.
"Tony, Manu [Ginobili] and Timmy make it easier for me," Green said. "All I have to do is play good defense, run the floor and spot up and they'll find me."
But mostly he's just been exactly what the Spurs have needed him to be. That's how they do it here.
Well, that's how they've done it since Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have been together and in charge of everything else.
"There's no better place than San Antonio for a player who can accentuate a specialty, and the guys around you can get the jobs done that you're not asked to do," said former Spurs guard Brent Barry. "You just focus on specifics and don't confuse yourself with anything else. That's the mode Danny Green is in right now."
Asked about the comparison to Bowen, who also specialized in perimeter defense and 3-point shooting (emphasis on defense), Spurs coach Gregg Popovich nodded and said, ''I guess they both are similar in the fact that neither one of them has any moves; they just shoot it.
"They don't really dribble or do anything else."
Ferry saw a lot more than a specialist when he would watch Green as a rookie in Cleveland in 2009-10. He saw athleticism, length and intelligence.
"There were many practices that he was second-best player on court (after LeBron James)," Ferry wrote in a text message.
He also saw a 20-something who needed a lot of polish. And on a team like Cleveland, which was competing for a championship in those days, he wasn't going to get much chance to work through his rough edges and develop his game.
Cleveland cut him after the season, but Ferry never forgot him, bringing him to San Antonio at the start of the next season. He was cut again six games in, then bounced between the D-League and the Spurs the rest of the season.
It wasn't until 2011 that he finally stuck. The time in the D-League had given him room to work on his game. Being cut humbled him. He decided to do whatever it took to stick in the NBA, and that meant becoming more consistent with his work habits, and simplifying his approach.
"He has become a consistent player because his habits have gotten better and better," Ferry said. "His journey is something that other players can learn from."
After these Finals, his journey is the stuff of legend.
It's both a universal story, and a uniquely Spurs story. The right player came to the right team at the right moment and seized it.
"I'm feeling truly blessed right now," Green said. "There's got to be a Higher Power. The basketball gods are in our favor right now."