After being on teams the previous four seasons which made the NBA playoffs, Willie Green got to see how the other half lives with the Orlando Magic.
Green played in 52 of a possible 82 games for a team which finished with a 25-57 record. That represented the fewest games in which he played since the 2005-06 season, when he was rehabilitating from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and was thus limited to 10 games with the Philadelphia 76ers.
But his average of 18.3 minutes per contest was the highest for Green since the 6-foot-3 guard was a member of the New Orleans Hornets in 2010-11. And the perspective he can provide after more than a decade in the league suggests better times are ahead for the Magic.
"When I started my career in Philly, there were times where we had a lot of young guys on the team and we were losing games just like this," he said after their final home game, an 80-79 defeat to the lowly New York Knicks. "Over the next couple of years, we were able to start winning some of those games. We added a few veterans who could help us, and we made the playoffs two years in a row after that. So I look at this team as it’s going to be very, very similar."
Even if that requires accepting a reduction in minutes to let Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton get a better feel for one another, Green appears willing to oblige.
"I’m definitely open to being back here in Orlando," he said. I like the foundation that the team has. "I like our young fellas, and I think I can help them on and off the floor. So if that possibility is open, then I’m definitely open to exploring it."
Interim coach James Borrego often employed a lineup where Green, Oladipo and Payton were on the floor at the same time. Green averaged more than 24 minutes in the Magic’s first 10 games after Borrego replaced the fired Jacque Vaughn, although an assortment of minor ailments sidelined him for a significant portion of the final month.
Borrego earned the trust and respect of Green, who spent the bulk of December and the first half of January riding the bench.
"I thought he did a great job," he said. "It was difficult circumstances for everyone here. But he came in and he really showed his leadership qualities. He held everybody accountable on the team. He gave the team some identity. And guys just went out and played hard for him. We didn’t win every game, but I think the effort was there."
WHAT HE DID RIGHT
He shot 44.5 percent overall and 46.4 percent from 3-point range in the fourth quarters of games. While some of that production came with the Magic too far behind to mount any sort of comeback, it speaks to the professionalism Green brought to a team with a roster comprised mainly of players 25 and younger. (As a point of comparison, Oladipo shot 41.1 percent overall and 32.3 percent from 3-point range.)
WHERE HE NEEDS TO IMPROVE
A sore right Achilles, low back spasms and a hyperextended right knee caused Green to miss a total of nine games from March 6 on. While he keeps himself in excellent condition, he needs to take the necessary steps that someone who will turn 34 on July 28 must do to spend more time on the court and less in the trainer’s room.
Jan. 29 vs. Milwaukee. Green had not scored in double figures in any of the first 48 games before contributing 16 points, including three 3-point field goals, in an otherwise uninspired performance by the Magic. He equaled that scoring output Feb. 22 in a victory over the 76ers.
7.9 player efficiency rating (based on 15.0 league average), 47.7 true shooting percentage (accounting for free throws and 3-pointers), 17.6 usage rate (possessions used per 40 minutes).
Green was signed to a one-year, $1.45 million contract after being waived by the Los Angeles Clippers. He has carved out a lengthy career for someone who was a second-round pick in 2003, the same year when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were two of the first five picks. "I want to keep playing, hopefully two, three, four years, whatever," he said. "I still feel like I have something to offer to the game."