Now with the 76ers, Danny Green relishes the chance to celebrate Lakers title – Press Telegram
LOS ANGELES — During last season, Danny Green bought a house in Manhattan Beach with his fiancee, Blair Bashen. Though he’s moved on from the Lakers, he hasn’t moved on from the house, so one of the fringe benefits of the Philadelphia 76ers’ road swing through L.A. is that Green gets to sleep in his own bed for a few nights.
Thanks to the NBA’s restrictive travel policies, he’s not allowed to get around town much, but at least the weather’s nice.
“It’s a little breezy,” Green said Wednesday by phone. “It’s California. It’s always nice here.”
Green’s return to Los Angeles on Thursday night carries plenty of nostalgia for the 33-year-old, who will play at Staples Center for the first time since March 10, 2020 – the last Lakers game before the pandemic-induced shutdown. Since then Green has lived a whirlwind year: getting engaged in June, spending several months in the NBA bubble in Florida, winning a third championship ring with his third different franchise, then getting traded less than two months later and winding up on his third roster in three seasons.
In Philadelphia, Green has been a starter for the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers. While 76ers center Dwight Howard wanted his 2020 Lakers championship ring shipped to him as soon as possible, Green said he’d wait until he came through L.A. for an official presentation. He had to sweat out the trade deadline Thursday morning to make sure he’d get to attend.
“I was hoping by the time I got there, they’d have fans back,” he told the Southern California News Group. “I definitely felt the absence of not being able to celebrate it with the city, but luckily I have been blessed to have been on a team with my brothers, all those people who were family during a tough time in the bubble.”
Howard and Green were both honored in a pre-game ceremony on Thursday night, rubbing their hands together in anticipation before opening the ring boxes, then twirling around when the rings themselves were unveiled. The Lakers also played a tribute video for the visiting veterans, who were both critical pieces during the title run.
It’s a point of pride for Green to give back where he’s won: On Tuesday, the University of North Carolina announced Green was giving a $1 million endowment for a men’s basketball scholarship in his name. As one of the winningest professionals the Tar Heels have ever produced (alongside players named Michael Jordan and James Worthy), Green will have his name stamped on the program for years to come.
Green said Eric Montross, another UNC alum who played in the NBA, approached him with the idea for the endowment – which he was quick to articulate will be paid out in installments (“it’s not a lump sum thing, that could hurt me,” he laughed) – and he hopes that future recipients will be like him: a person of color who hails from out of state.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, to give back,” he said. “My time at UNC made me who I am today, and helping others find that path is something I’m passionate about, especially in my position.”
With the Lakers, Green undoubtedly had some bumpy stretches. He took a major share of criticism when the Lakers lost games during the playoffs, none more memorable than when he missed a 3-point shot at the end of Game 5 of the NBA Finals that resulted in outsized backlash including threats against him and Bashen. But Green smiled through it, and when the Lakers clinched the title in Game 6, he relished it as much as anyone in the champagne-soaked locker room.
The togetherness is what he remembers best: those months hunkered down in the bubble, to the overwhelming relief the Lakers all felt to win and be able to leave. He appreciated the championship reception at Three Bridges restaurant, but he was even happier to land back in Los Angeles after the bubble experience which he (and many others) described as challenging.
The feeling is mutual. Kyle Kuzma brightened up Thursday morning when talking about Green and Howard, saying he had “too many” fond memories to pick one.
“Dwight is one of my favorite teammates – very positive person, crazy person,” he said. “DG, too. DG is always a great vet, mentor. He’s someone that he always talks to people, tries to get an understanding of what the team is trying to do, but also, he’s a motivator, too. He’s always trying to be as positive as possible. And those two guys were very key for us to win an NBA championship last year.”
Scouting the Lakers on recent game film has been all the stranger for Green with the absence of All-Stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who were fixtures in the starting lineup with Green last season.
“It’s weird to even watch them right now,” he said. “With both of them out, it kind of goes into the strangeness of the league this season. It sucks to see a lot of these superstars injured and out of the game. Hopefully, they’re back soon, and playoffs will be more amazing.”
Assuming the 76ers get Joel Embiid healthy, Philadelphia vs. the Lakers is a viable Finals matchup this season – but Green insists he’s more concerned with the opponents who lurk in the Eastern Conference than dreaming of a possible fourth ring with a fourth franchise (which has never been done before).
As he’s said before, he’s not resentful that the Lakers traded him in the offseason: “I know what this business is, and it is what it is. … If you go from a good team and a good situation to another good situation where you’re contributing, that’s what you want as a competitor.”
Green still has an open invitation back to Los Angeles if the Lakers ever get around to throwing a parade to celebrate their 2020 championship, which team owner Jeanie Buss has said she eventually wants. Green said he hopes that happens “sooner rather than later,” but he’s in – no matter how far away he has to save the date.
“Take what you can get, I’m all for it,” he said. “If we have to celebrate 5, 10 years from now, I’ll do it. That’s definitely a team worth celebrating.”