Danny Green on Raptors' title hopes, additions: 'We can be great'

Danny Green on Raptors' title hopes, additions: 'We can be great'

Interview

Danny Green on Raptors' title hopes, additions: 'We can be great'

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Toronto Raptors wing Danny Green had a busy All-Star “break.”

The 31-year-old hosted a live episode of his “Inside the Green Room” podcast, got some media experience (commentating during the Rising Stars Challenge and asking his peers questions during All-Star Media Day) and competed in the Three-Point Contest.

HoopsHype sat down with the 10-year NBA veteran to chat about Toronto’s success, the recent additions of Marc Gasol and Jeremy Lin, the non-stop questions about Kawhi Leonard’s future, his burgeoning media career and more.

As a team, you guys have played so well this year…

Danny Green: We’re doing okay. We’ve had our ups and downs.

Well, you brought in a new focal point in Kawhi Leonard, a first-time head coach in Nick Nurse and other new players such as yourself. I’ve been really impressed with how well the team has played while going through that adjustment period. How good can this team be come playoff time when the chemistry is even better?

DG: I think we can be great. We just made two great additions to our team in Marc Gasol and Jeremy Lin. Both of those guys are great pieces. We just need to keep building that chemistry as we go through the ups and downs of the season. We also need to keep everyone healthy. Fred [VanVleet] just went down – he just had surgery [on his thumb], which I think went well. Hopefully we’ll be able to get him back sooner than later; I’m hoping three or four weeks, but they’re saying five or six.

It’s all about building that chemistry and staying healthy. This is Coach Nurse’s first time adjusting players. Everyone is adjusting. I think we’re all learning as we go. I think we’re all clicking and playing on the same page, but once we’ve played together even more, hopefully we can do right by each other and push each other [to another level]. That way, when it comes time – the money time – we’ll have everything right and everyone will be on the same page.

You mentioned the addition of Marc Gasol. What does he bring to this team – on and off the court?

DG: Man, you can already see what he brings and how his play is infectious. Obviously, he’s a great player. He’s a high-IQ, great-passing, great-defensive big. He knows the game so well and plays so smart. He sets good screens. He can shoot it. And the fact that he’s so good at what he does makes other guys want to gravitate to his style and do the same things. Now, you see Serge [Ibaka] doing some of the stuff that Marc does! Serge has never been a passing big in the post like that, but now you see him dropping off passes to OG [Anunoby] or kicking the ball out because he sees how well it works and how much it opens up the game for everybody else and for him.

Marc just gives us another threat and he allows us to play many different ways. We can play very big with both of them. We can play small [around Gasol at the five]. He does so many things well and I’m excited to see how this team can grow with him.

Adding Gasol and Lin is big. But based on your experience, how long does it take for a team to get acclimated after making midseason acquisitions like that?

DG: Well, you hope it happens sooner than later. You hope it happens within the first two weeks, but I think it usually takes about a month. It depends how many new players you have. Luckily for us, we hadn’t put in a bunch of new stuff yet and those guys are both really high-IQ players so they’ll pick everything up really fast. With Marc and J-Lin, it’ll probably take them two weeks to learn all the plays and then probably just another week or two to get to the point where they know everything like the back of their hand and know where everybody’s at. You hope it happens within three weeks, if not sooner. But I think we’re at the point now where we’ll start putting in new plays for everybody. You have to put in new stuff for the playoffs, so other teams don’t know [your plays]. Everybody knows everybody else’s stuff right now, so we’re going to put in some new sets and things for the playoffs. Hopefully we can adjust and get that down as a group, while [Gasol and Lin] get a grasp of the older stuff too.

In a recent Sports Illustrated article, you had a great quote about how everyone constantly asks you what Kawhi Leonard is thinking. You said, “I get it from everyone in the organization. ‘How’s Kawhi, does he like it here?’ Man, I don’t fu**ing know! You have to ask him if he likes it. I think he likes it. But you have to ask him.” Being viewed as “the Kawhi whisperer” must be annoying.

DG: Oh, you have no idea how [annoying] last year was. You can ask anyone on that San Antonio Spurs team, you can ask anyone on this Toronto Raptors team… He’s obviously doing more media now – he has to do media now [that he’s healthy]. But last year and during the summertime after he got traded? You can ask anyone on San Antonio and they’ll tell you, we had a whole year of, “What’s going on with Kawhi? What’s he thinking?”

[Then, it was], “What does he think of Toronto?” That’s why my podcast blew up, basically, because they thought I knew what he was thinking [after the trade] and they thought I was relaying it! Once we got to Toronto, everyone was like, “Have you seen him? Have you talked to him? What’s he like?” It’s part of the business. Now that he’s out there and talking during this season, there are less questions about him for us since he’s answering things for himself, which has been good.

As you mentioned, you started your “Inside The Green Room” podcast last summer and you recorded the first episode right after the trade to Toronto. What made you start the podcast and how are you liking it?

Danny Green: It’s been so much fun. It’s been great. I can’t take credit for starting the podcast. I have to give credit to [my co-host] Harrison Sanford. I’ve known him since we were 15 or 16 years old. We were in 10th grade and we had a lot of mutual friends. Over the years, he built up his résumé in the media and journalism world. He’s someone who’s always done his due diligence and homework. As basketball players, as we get older and more successful, we try to bring the people who are around us up and help them become successful too. Whenever I see people around me who are doing something great and who have a good idea, I do whatever I can to help.

Well, Harrison was in media and he was doing well, so I trusted him [when he mentioned starting the podcast]. I was like, “Alright, let’s give it a shot.” He got everything ready, the trade to Toronto happened, and then we did the first episode so it blew up. Since then, things have been going well. It’s happened so fast. I’m happy for Harrison that it’s going well. For me, the only reason I do it is to get reps for when I’m done playing [and try to transition to broadcasting]. But I’m having fun with it. It’s been enjoyable. The only thing I don’t like about it is asking people to come on as a guest. I hate reaching out to people and being the guy who’s like, “Listen, can I get you to come on my podcast?” These guys have busy schedules; I hate it. That’s the one thing I hate. But it’s always fun when they do come on. I really appreciate everyone who has taken time to do it, and it’s cool that people can learn about them and get to know them from my pod. But yeah, that’s the only part I don’t like doing. Overall, it’s a lot of fun.

In addition to the podcast, you were part of TNT’s Rising Stars Challenge broadcast (and earned some rave reviews) and you did some work for various outlets during All-Star Media Day. Is broadcasting your main post-playing goal or are you open to other paths too?

DG: I’m going to try [to become a broadcaster]. Would I be open to coaching? No. Would I work in a front office? Maybe? I just see the stress level of those guys… It doesn’t seem any less stressful than being a player. When I look at the broadcasters, the TV guys on the sideline, they’re not as stressed. I know it’s tougher than it looks and it’s more stressful than it seems, but it’s a lot less stressful than coaching. Coaches get grey hair or lose their hair. Plus, it’s an unstable job; you can get fired at any point, whether you’re winning or losing. I think you need to have a real passion for coaching [to do that job]. I love the game, but I think you need to have a real passion for teaching the game to be a coach at a high level. I’ll probably coach my kids, but that’s it. I think coaching is the easiest way to stay around the game and continue having the same lifestyle as you do when you’re playing since you’re still traveling the same amount and sitting on the bench and everything. It’s a way to be very hands on without playing. But it’s not for me.

Your career path is really unique and inspirational. You were a late second-round pick who had to fight for a roster spot and then you worked your way up to becoming a key starter on a championship team. Have other players told you that your career trajectory has motivated them?

DG: Some of the young guys have told me that. There have only been a few, but it’s great to hear. I think a lot of guys respect the path. [Even if they don’t say anything], they show it through other ways. Like when I see a guy like Garrett Temple, who was in the same draft class as me, I know what he went through (playing on nine different 10-day contracts) and see where he is now, and I’m just so happy for him and proud of him all at the same time. Even if you don’t know him that well, you’re so excited for him and you have such a high level of respect for him and his journey.

I’ve seen guys show me that same respect and have that same sort of excitement toward me. That may be the biggest honor for me: getting respect from the greatest players in the league, the superstars. When they look at me, they respect me and don’t see me as a bum. (Laughs) Every superstar knows, “This guy can play. I have to respect him.” That’s big. All the awards, you can put them aside; that stuff doesn’t really matter to me. The biggest, most fulfilling achievement to receive is that respect from your peers who are performing at the highest level. That’s the biggest thing. When James Harden to Giannis Antetokounmpo to LeBron James know you can play and respects you, that’s the best feeling.

Pascal Siakam has been one of the biggest surprises of this season. He may win the Most Improved Player award…

DG: For sure! He’s probably a lock now after that 44-point, 10-rebound, 3-block performance [in a win over the Washington Wizards last week]. Most guys around the NBA have shown what they can do. There aren’t many guys who come into the year and have people saying, “Oh, we didn’t know he could do that! We didn’t know he could play on that level.” There are only a handful of guys like that. Sometimes, [the player improves a ton]. Sometimes, it’s just about getting the opportunity to do more. Pascal has great timing. Now, he’s able to handle the ball more and push the break and so he can do more. He’s been great.

There aren’t many guys in that [Most Improved Player] conversation. I guess Derrick Rose, but Derrick Rose was an MVP and it’s hard to put a former MVP in that category. I think Pascal pretty much has that award on lock with the performances he’s had. And we should probably be talking about how he should’ve been an All-Star, especially after these recent performances.

This is your first time playing in Canada. What has that been like and have there been any surprises since moving north of the border?

DG: I’ve been visiting every summer for the last 10-plus years, but you don’t realize just how different it is until you live there. The Canadian dollar and Celsius and the kilometers… Then, there’s obviously the cold, dealing with the winter. It’s a lot of little, every-day things. Even something like shopping – you have to learn the names of the grocery stores so you can find them. Then, after you find out where to go to get your milk, you have to figure out where to put your milk because they have bagged milk in Canada so you have to put it in the carton and stuff. You have to learn the names of their snacks. You have to learn their TV channels. We don’t have ESPN, so you have to find ways to stream it or find a different channel. It’s a lot of little things like that. Some of it is challenging. I had to get my car shipped to me, so it had to get shipped to Buffalo and then have it driven across [the border]. And you can’t order everything in Canada, so you have to ship things to your American address and then have someone bring the stuff to you. It’s a little different.

Right now, there’s an arms race at the top of the Eastern Conference. You guys added Marc and Jeremy, the Milwaukee Bucks added Nikola Mirotic, the Philadelphia 76ers added Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic and James Ennis. Are you excited about the talent at the top of the East?

DG: Yeah, I think everybody is excited about it. Everybody has been talking about it. The last few years, I’ve been biased toward the West because I was in that conference. It still is tough, but I don’t hear everybody talking about how tough the West is. I think the East, right now, is really tough. I think the balance of power has shifted drastically within the past year, and then even more in the past month with these trades. Now, there are three or four teams in the East that are tough as nails. You look at those teams in the East and you think they’re probably better than the [West’s teams]. Like I said, the balance of power has shifted. I think it’s a lot more evened out than it was last year, the year before that and so on.

What does this Raptors team have to do in order to make the NBA Finals and get in position to win a championship? What are the keys?

DG: We have to jell and we have to execute. The biggest things are our maturity and our discipline, and I think Marc Gasol and Jeremy Lin will help with those things. Our coaches have been adjusting things throughout the year. We have the talent. We have the pieces. We just need to go out and execute. Hopefully we don’t let each other down. Hopefully we don’t let our coaching staff down and vice versa – hopefully the coaching staff doesn’t let us down. We all need to hold each other accountable and be mature and execute and learn how to close out games and, down the stretch, make the plays we need to make. We need to make the winning plays.

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