Finals MVPs are practically falling from the rafters in these NBA Finals. You’ve got three-time winner Tim Duncan, along with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Tony Parker.
If you were going to predict the 2013 Finals MVP going into this Spurs-Heat series, that group would have been the place to start and maybe the place to finish. But after three games and with San Antonio up 2-1, your MVP isn’t one of those stars.
He’s just a guy that’s been cut three times. A guy who once caddied for LeBron in Cleveland. A guy fired twice by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. Danny Green won’t ever be one of the faces of the NBA, as those other stars are, but right now no one has a bigger smile.
And no one has scored more points for San Antonio in these Finals heading into Thursday night’s Game 4.
“Luckily I’ve been open,” Green said after Tuesday night’s 27-point outburst in San Antonio’s 113-77 romp. “I hit some shots, some dropped for me. My teammates done a good job of finding me and encouraging me to shoot every time when I’m open. Pop does a great job telling us let it fly.”
They’re flying, alright. Green drilled seven 3-pointers in Game 3, as the Spurs set a Finals record with 16 overall. The soon-to-be 26-year-old shooting guard has knocked down 16 shots from beyond the arc in 23 attempts in this series, a sizzling 69.6-percent clip.
He’s playing with a confidence that wasn’t there before this season. That’s what Popovich needed to see and led to a sort of basketball intervention with Green’s college coach.
“That was the missing piece the last couple of years for him,” Popovich said. “We actually cut him twice. And when we brought him back to camp this year it was the third time. [Coach Roy Williams] at North Carolina and I double teamed him, talked to him about that sort of thing.
“And I think Coach Williams had a big impact on Danny’s mental status believing that he belonged. Not getting down if things didn’t go well, to continue to push and to work. And to Danny’s credit, he’s done that. He’s a pretty confident young man right now.”
He should be. Green is averaging 18.7 points in the Finals, up from 10.5 during the regular season and 9.6 through the first three rounds of the playoffs. He’s outscoring his Big Three teammates and that Big Three in Miami.
One of those is LeBron James, a former teammate of Green’s in Cleveland. Green averaged 40.5 points per SEASON in his two years with the Cavaliers. Now he’s outscoring James, who’s averaging less than 17 points in the Finals.
“We’ve done a great job helping each other, team defense, but obviously we know what kind of a player LeBron is,” said Green, who signed a three-year contract for $12 million before this season. “We know he’s not at his best right now. He missed a lot of shots that he normally makes. We’re sure Game 4 he’s going to come out a lot different.
“They all did. That was the difference. We made shots that they didn’t. We moved the ball. We didn’t turn it over as much. We know they thrive in fast-break transition baskets, so it was hard for them to get into a rhythm. But LeBron is not just us stopping him. He’s kind of stopped himself out there and we’re getting a little lucky.”
If that luck continues and the Spurs prevail, perhaps Green adds his name to the list of Finals’ MVPs. He’d follow LeBron.