SAN ANTONIO – After practicing for the first time since the Spurs started training camp last Tuesday, guard Danny Green had good things to say about Pau Gasol and some of his other new teammates.
Green also left no doubts about his mindset moving forward.
“Definitely antsy to get back on the floor and get my legs back under me,” he said.
Green, who missed the first week of camp with a thigh contusion he sustained playing pick-up ball, said he hopes to play in the Silver and Black’s preseason home opener against Atlanta on Saturday night.
“That’s the boss’ call,” he said. “But I would like to suit up Saturday and play.”
Asked later if he expects Green to play Saturday, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich replied with one word: "Sure."
Gasol, a 7-foot center/forward who has made the All-NBA team four times in his 15 seasons in the league, signed with San Antonio as a free agent in July after a two-year tenure with Chicago. He won two NBA titles in seven seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers before going to the Bulls.
“I think the new guys are understanding and picking it up pretty well,” Green said, referring to the team’s system.
He singled out Gasol and David Lee, another veteran center/forward who signed with the Spurs as a free agent in the offseason, calling them both highly intelligent players with high basketball IQs.
“Obviously, they’ve played against us so many years, had some coaches that have coached here before,” Green said. “If you play in this league long enough, you know everybody’s plays, so they’re picking it up pretty well. I think everybody is jelling pretty good.”
A two-time All-Star, Lee played on Golden State’s 2014-15 championship team. He made the Western Conference All-Star team in 2013, but lost his job to Draymond Green in the 2014-15 campaign after suffering a hamstring injury in the final preseason game.
Gasol will take retired Tim Duncan’s spot in the starting lineup, teaming with All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge to give the Spurs one of the best frontcourt tandems in the league.
“Because he’s so intelligent and he’s a great passing big, very skilled, I think he’ll fit right in perfectly,” Green said of Gasol. “I think the offense was pretty much built for him, his style of player. I’m just excited to see how it works out when he gets out there on the floor to play with him.”
Green was asked if he could think of a better player than Gasol to step into Duncan’s position.
“In the league right now, probably not,” Green said. “He’s probably the best fit, the best person you can think of, that could kind of come close to what Timmy did for this organization. Obviously, Timmy was a little older and [Gasol's] getting a little older, too, but he’s still very skilled for a guy that’s 7 feet. He does a lot. I’m excited to play with him, to see how well he does in the system.”
A six-time All-Star, Gasol averaged 16.5 points, 11 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2 blocks with the Bulls last season.
One of the best 3-point shooters in Spurs history, Green is coming off a sub-par season in which he shot a career-low 37.6 percent from the field. His 33.2 percentage from the 3-point line was his worst since his rookie season when he shot 27.3 percent.
“Regardless of how well or how bad you played last year, even though I didn’t have a great season shooting-wise, and because we lost, I think everybody is pretty excited to get back on the floor. Me, I’m definitely antsy to get back on the floor and get my legs back under me.”
The Spurs finished a franchise-record 67-15 last season, but fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals.
Green, 29, is preparing for his sixth complete season with the Spurs. He initially signed with the franchise in November 2010 after getting waived by Cleveland a month earlier. The Silver and Black released him six days after he joined the team, but re-signed him in March 2011.
Green started 38 of 66 games during the 2011-12 season, and became a full-time starter the next season.
Never one to make excuses, Green wasn’t about to start Wednesday when he was asked if bad vision in one of his eyes contributed to his career-low shooting percentage last season. He had Lasik surgery after the season.
“It’s gone pretty well so far,” he said. “I can see pretty good.”
Green was direct when he was asked if his poor eyesight – he couldn’t remember which eye was less than 20-20 – was the reason he struggled with his shot.
“I’m not going to say it was that,” Green said.
Green smiled slightly when he was asked if he ever saw two rims last season.
“No, I’ve never seen two baskets,” he said. “My eyesight wasn’t that bad to begin with. I got the procedure done and it helps, but that wasn’t the reason why I was shooting poorly. Some seasons you have good ones, sometimes you have bad ones.
“Sometimes it’s due to adjusting to chemistry, sometimes it’s due to injuries, sometimes you just don’t shoot it well. Sometimes it’s mental.”
Green also has developed into one of the team's best defensive players in recent seasons.
"He always plays good defense," Popovich said. "He'll make more shots this year."
Popovich joked when he was asked if there's anything he can do to boost Green's confidence as a shooter.
"No," he said flatly. "I just beat him up. Beat him up, say, 'What have you done for us lately? Come on, play better.' No, he's going to have a great year. He's going to have a wonderful year."
(© 2016 KENS)