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With reanimated Green, the Spurs are just 13 steps from glory


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Photo: Josh Huskin, License: N/A

File photo from Spurs vs Memphis Grizzlies

Its playoff time in the Alamo City inside the raucous AT&T Center, and the Spurs are rolling. Fueled by MVP candidate Tony Parker’s 18 points and 9 assists, San Antonio dismantled the Utah Jazz 114-83 to take a convincing 2-0 lead in their first-round, best-of-seven series. Overcoming their Game 1 postseason jitters, Spurs swingmen Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green complimented Parker with timely shooting, connecting for a combined 6 buckets from beyond the arc. Green finished the night with 13 points, 4 boards, and 3 blocks, and after the game NBA Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich reflected on his evolution as a Spur.

“He came into training camp and played great,” Coach Pop told assembled reporters. “He was aggressive, he was physical, and he was determined. Some of that had been lacking in the past, where he was maybe a little lackadaisical. He has gone through some tough times or some situations where he’s been cut a couple times with us. This time it clicked with him.”

Three years have passed since Green reached the pinnacle of college hoops as a member of the 2009 NCAA champion University of North Carolina Tar Heels. Known in Chapel Hill for his exuberant pre-game routine, Green finished his collegiate career with more wins than any Tar Heel in the history of UNC’s storied program. He was also the only player in the Atlantic Coast Conference annals to accumulate at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists, 150 three-pointers, 150 blocks, and 150 steals. Off the court he persevered despite losing his father and best friend, Danny Green Sr., for 22 months to the American criminal justice system.

Following graduation, Green was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the 46th overall pick after players like Blake Griffin, James Harden, Ricky Rubio, and DeJuan Blair were off the board. He averaged less than 6 minutes per game for the Cavs before eventually being waived. Green was then signed by the Spurs in November of 2010, only to be cut two days before Thanksgiving. He returned to San Antonio in March of 2011, appearing in 8 contests and averaging 5 points in 11 minutes. During last season’s first round playoff collapse he played a total of 7 minutes, making this season’s ascendance as a starter all the more remarkable. Green’s opportunity arrived early in this year’s campaign when Manu Ginobili was shelved with an injury, and he embraced it with equal amounts of confidence and determination.

“We can’t let up,” said Green after the blowout win against the Jazz. “They’re a playoff team and there’s a reason why they’re in the playoffs. They’re a very good team. They’re not going to just give up and roll over. They’re going to try to get back in the series. It’s more important for us to just come out and be even more focused and intense.”

In Game 3 at Utah, Green responded with 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks in a gritty 102-90 Spurs victory. With a commanding 3-0 series lead, San Antonio looks primed to return to the Western Conference Semi-Finals with loftier goals on the horizon. Having captured basketball glory at the Final Four, for Danny Green, spending some quality time with the Larry O’Brien trophy is only 13 wins away

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