After hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy with the Toronto Raptors several weeks ago, Danny Green is now one of just 39 players in NBA history to win a title with multiple franchises.
Green’s sharpshooting, tough defense, strong leadership and championship experience were crucial for Toronto. This season, he ranked No. 2 in the NBA in three-point percentage (45.5%) and No. 13 in made threes (198). In the postseason, he recorded the third-most steals (31) and sixth-best steal percentage (2.3%) to help Toronto win their first-ever NBA title.
Now, as an unrestricted free agent, the 32-year-old’s future is up in the air. He’d like to defend the Raptors’ title if the team stays intact, but since that’s not guaranteed, he knows he must keep his options open. HoopsHype talked to Green about his second title, his free-agency decision, the factors he’ll consider before he signs and more.
How crazy has your life been over the last few weeks since winning the NBA title?
Danny Green: It’s been hectic, man! Very hectic, especially since we’ve been doing [basketball] camps ever since the season ended. We’ve been in Montreal, we’ve been in Ottawa… We’re doing a bunch of different stuff. I’m on little sleep, but it’s been a lot of love. People are going crazy and kids are going crazy. There is a lot of stuff going on, but it’s been a lot of love and I’m enjoying it all. I’m having a lot of fun with it right now.
Can you walk me through what this year was like for you, from being traded to getting acclimated to dealing with the ups and downs of the season to ultimately winning the championship?
DG: It was a hell of a year! It was a great year and I had a lot of fun. It was cool – from being traded and not knowing what was going on to coming to a city that welcomed me with open arms and embraced me. I had a pretty good season, with some ups and downs in the playoffs. We didn’t know what was going to happen. We had some trades at the deadline. There was a lot going on, like not knowing who and what our identity was. With Kawhi [Leonard] being out and having so many injuries, we had to kind of figure it out on our own.
Your style of play seems like such a great fit for today’s NBA with your three-point shooting, high-basketball IQ and tough defense. It seems like you can fit in with most teams. Would you agree with that, and do you think that will give you even more options as a free agent?
DG: I’d like to think so. I think a lot of teams are looking for a lot of the things that I can bring to the table, especially with my defense and then obviously with my outside shooting. I’m a guy who’s been around for a while, so I have that veteran leadership and can help younger guys – or even older guys – who haven’t been to that [high] level. I can help them understand what it takes to get to that level, like building certain habits that will help them become great. I can help them get there by April, May and June.
What are the top factors you will consider as you make your decision in free agency?
DG: For me, my biggest thing, my biggest mantra, is winning. I want to be in a situation where I can play, be effective and win. I want to be in an organization that is a contender, so I’m looking at a lot of places that have a really good foundation.
If Toronto brings everyone back, I think we have a really good shot of coming out of the East again. So why would I not want to be there? But things change and things move. [If the Raptors can’t bring everyone back], there are going to be other teams who are in the running and I want to see what those situations are. Obviously, I want to maximize on the dollar, but I also want to maximize on the situation. I know I’m not an All-Star or star player, but I want to be remembered as a great role player who won a lot of games and leave my mark in the league.
You’re now a two-time champion and you were a significant contributor both times. You know what it takes to win a title and you can provide teams with that experience and confidence. It seems that you’re someone who can bring a ton of value on and off the court.
DG: I would say that’s one of the biggest areas where I can bring value to a franchise. A lot of my value comes from the things that I do [behind the scenes] and in the community. My dad and my past coaches did a great job of teaching me how important it is to give back to the youth in these communities and help people who are in worse situations than I am. I think I’m a pretty good player, but a lot of what I bring has nothing to do with basketball. It has to do with leadership, maturity and helping guys understand what it takes in the bigger picture to get to where we need to get to – on the floor and off the floor.
Marc Gasol has officially opted in to the final year of his deal with the Raptors. What are your thoughts on that and how it may impact your free agency?
DG: He’s great and we obviously wanted him back. But in terms of cap space, it’s going to be tough for them to maneuver things with everyone. But we’ll see how it goes. I’m glad that Marc is back; that’s awesome for him and I’m happy for him. He deserves it and he has a shot at winning another title. I’m hoping that the organization can make it happen [and bring everyone back].
Have you had any conversations with Toronto about your future?
DG: Yeah, at exit interviews, we all talked. We discussed some stuff. I spoke to the front office a little bit and I talked to the coaches. Why would you want to break something up that is not broken and just won [a championship]? I think their idea – their plan – is to try to bring everyone back.
But if that doesn’t happen, because it’s not as easy as it sounds, I’ll have to wait for some guys to make a decision. When those decisions happen, then I think they can move forward with their plans.
Do you have any preference in terms of the length of the deal that you will sign?
DG: This is the time where I’m getting older now, so I think I probably want to get as many years as possible. Because as I get even older, I don’t think there will be many teams offering me that kind of longevity or as much money. I think this is the time where I need to maximize the dollars on the longest amount of years that I can do. I would definitely love to get four years, ideally. But, obviously, I’m 32 years old now, so some teams may not want to offer a four-year deal. But I’d love a three-year or four-year deal.
What were your previous free-agency experiences like and what did you learn from them?
DG: I didn’t really have a “real” free-agency process, man. It all happened so fast, so it was tough for me to really experience it. This summer, I think I’m going to take my time and I’m not going to be in as much of a rush. That’s what I learned from the past: not jumping into things so fast. I’m going to let some other teams offer and let some other things happen and take some time rather than just making that decision with just one group [at the table].
I was just so excited about the process that we had in San Antonio since we had a contender and had so many guys coming [back] that I jumped on it right away. I mean, I don’t regret my decision. But now, I just know that I shouldn’t rush this process. You should take your time and weigh all of your options.
Having been on two different teams that won a championship, are there certain characteristics that you’ve noticed a franchise must have in order to be a championship-caliber squad? Are there some similarities between that 2014 Spurs team and this Raptors team?
DG: You need to have at least a couple of veteran guys on the team and a couple of guys who are unselfish. They set the tone and the whole team has to understand. You have to instill the right habits and have guys – even the younger guys – who understand the bigger picture. You need to have depth on the bench and have guys who will step up in the playoffs, and not just your star players. You need to have great role players as well. It’s not just a superstar game. Obviously, superstars help you win games too, but the guys who step up as role players are the ones who will help you win games in the playoffs. You need to set a good foundation, but then you also need some good pieces around that foundation.
Do you follow all of the free-agency rumors or do you just let your agent handle everything and update you periodically?
DG: I let my agent update me occasionally. I don’t believe anything until I hear it from my agent or unless I’m contacted directly by a team that’s interested. The updates are obviously out there and anytime someone signs somewhere, everywhere wants to tell you who’s going where. And I do think it’s interesting. But when it comes to me and my free agency, I don’t believe rumors unless someone contacts my agent or contacts me.