By Kevin Henkin
In case you missed it, old friend Gerald Green has a job in the NBA again. Last month, the Dallas Mavericks signed him to a one-year minimum contract. Dallas represents Green’s third team since the Celtics shipped him away in the Garnett deal last summer. It’s also probably his last chance to make it happen in the NBA.
If you’re like me, you recall Gerald Green’s time as a Celtic with a sad shake of the head. You recall the immense athleticism. The 48 inch vertical leap. The superior release point on a jump shot that so often held the promise of a soft touch. The circus sideshow dunks. The kid certainly had, and still has, physical gifts aplenty.
But then, that was always his problem. Those same physical gifts that made him a highly touted prospect also consistently railroaded his maturity process and allowed him (and others) to think that his thunderous dunks and occasional bursts of loud scoring were enough to justify a career in the NBA. Never mind that he was utterly incapable of grasping the concept of team defense or that his shot selection never quite fit within the flow or parameters of his team’s offense. He was a smug kid stuck on a cloud and he never seemed to take personal responsibility in addressing his multiple glaring weaknesses.
As a quick aside, if you want some real insight into Gerald Green’s mindset during his early days in Boston, check out his original MySpace page, which is, well, frankly beyond description in terms of its comedy value. Here are some of the highlights:
Gerald’s favorite books: “I don’t read. That’s my agent’s job.”
Gerald’s heroes: “Michael Jordan and T-Mac cause that’s who they compare me 2.” (I particularly enjoy the channeling of Prince here)
Who Gerald would like to meet: “I can’t wait to play against LeBron James. Ima throw that boy around haha.”
Gerald’s job description: “I was the 18th draft pick of the NBA draft and I can’t believe I fell that far down I was supposed to be a lottery pick o well I will show everybody haha.”
Excuse me for a moment. My eyes are bleeding. It’s too bad Green’s agent didn’t also consider editing his client’s MySpace entries as one of his additional job responsibilities. It’s all fun and games until you start comparing yourself to Michael Jordan and LeBron James simply because you schooled a bunch of relative stiffs in high school and AAU ball.
To Green’s credit, these days it seems like he has finally turned the corner onto the road of maturity and in terms of taking real responsibility for his career. Before signing with Dallas, he spent much of the off-season working with John Lucas, who helped Green to focus more on developing his fundamental basketball skills. Afterward, Lucas told the Dallas News, “[Green] had to learn that there’s a big difference between being AAU famous and NBA famous.”
In a recent exclusive interview with DallasBasketball.com, after his signing with the Mavericks, Green said, “A lot of people think I’m limited to just being a dunker, like it’s all about highlights. I don’t blame fans for that, either. People tend to look at the highlights and judge me on that. I’m here to prove that I can do other things. I have the ability to shoot the ball and I’m trying to show the people at the Dallas Mavericks I can do other things. It’s really about me just working harder and having my game become more mature.”
In terms of targeted areas for self-improvement, he said, “I need to be a better ball-handler. I need to be better defensively. I have the physical ability to be good on defense, I think. And I need to learn exactly how the Mavs like to do things, and then execute those things. Oh, and I need to just slow everything down a bit.”
Sounds about right. Expanding on the topic, Coach Rick Carlisle recently said, “We know he can be a scorer. Gerald is starting to understand that there is a difference between being a sideshow performer and being a basketball player.”
My favorite part of the big Resurrection of Gerald Green’s Career story down in Dallas was a tidbit about how Green had given away his big collection of dogs to place more focus on basketball, explaining, “Right now, Spalding is my dog.”
In the meantime, Mavericks fans are left to speculate and dream about what could be with Gerald Green, which of course like a very familiar drill to Celtics fans. Upon the news release of Green’s signing, one reader gushed, “Green has been tearing it up in Utah in the summer league. Seems like with every game he gets a little better. I think he’s been humbled and wants to learn from his mistakes. It is going to be fun watching Kidd lob him the ball this season. I think the Mavs have gotten themselves a diamond in the rough for very little moolah.”
Upon which, another reader responded with, “As a Celtic fan to all Dallas fans out there: Think of him as the [draft pick] you didn’t have this year [but] with only two neurons: the dunking one and the lazy one.”
Only time will tell whether the grass will truly be greener in Dallas.