Veteran Willie Green works out kinks, jitters with Magic
ORLANDO, Fla. — Even a veteran of 10 or more NBA seasons is not immune to a case of the nerves before making a preseason home debut with a new team.
Case in point: Willie Green.
After bouncing around the last five years between Philadelphia, New Orleans, Atlanta and Los Angeles, Green is among the group of players 30 and older signed by the Orlando Magic over the summer. He missed their first three games after hyperextending his left knee during training camp but opened alongside rookie Elfrid Payton in their backcourt Wednesday night against Flamengo, a team from Brazil in the midst of a United States tour.
"Any time you make a change from one organization to the next, it takes a little time to adjust to that," Green said after scoring 11 points in 20 minutes as the Magic came away with a 106-88 victory. "It was good to get the jitters out and just play basketball."
Jitters? Shouldn’t it have been Payton, the 20-year-old being groomed for Jameer Nelson’s old point guard spot, or Aaron Gordon, the 19-year-old forward with a boundless supply of energy, trying to keep the butterflies at bay?
"You’re human. So you’re going to have some nervousness and jitters," Green said. "That’s part of the game. We all want to go out and do well."
There were no glaring signs that Green was rusty from his recent inactivity. Coach Jacque Vaughn made note of the physical style of play Green brought on the defensive end of the floor and complimented a skip pass he made to forward Tobias Harris at the other end.
For his part, Green lauded the Magic’s athletic training and strength and conditioning staffs for their work before and after he was sidelined.
"We’ve been going hard since mid-August," he said. "We want to be one of the best-conditioned teams."
No timetable has been given for Victor Oladipo’s return from a sprained MCL in his right knee. Whenever the second-year pro comes back, Green’s minutes are bound to be significantly reduced.
That prospect doesn’t make him any less grateful that the Magic signed him after the Clippers placed him on waivers.
"Being in Orlando is better than I imagined," Green said. "It’s a great place to play, a beautiful arena. I’m excited about being here and playing in front of these fans. From top to bottom, it’s a first-class organization."
While every other Magic starter Wednesday night was younger than 24, the 33-year-old Green doesn’t have to look far around the locker room to see teammates in the same age bracket and situation as himself. Forward Channing Frye and guards Luke Ridnour and Ben Gordon were also brought in to help offset the departures of Nelson and Arron Afflalo.
Frye, like Oladipo, is not being rushed back from a knee sprain sustained during training camp.
"We tease each other a little bit — Luke, myself, Channing, Ben," Green said. "Obviously we have a very young team. But when I say ‘young,’ that’s just an age. You can see Aaron, you can see EP. When those guys get on the floor, those guys are focused in and playing hard. It’s fun to play with those guys. They keep you young, so to speak."
A native of Detroit who played his college ball at Detroit Mercy, Green admitted he’ll be pumped up Friday night when the Magic host the Pistons. Those in attendance at the Amway Center might also have more energy than usual for a preseason game because it marks the return of Stan Van Gundy, who was hired to take over the Pistons after being the most successful coach in Magic history based on winning percentage (.657).
"It’s going to be a good opportunity to go out and build on what we’ve been doing," Green said. "Obviously I want to play well any time I play against any Detroit team. But for us as a team, our focus is on getting better."