After getting selected by the Boston Celtics with the 18th pick in the 2005 draft, things fell apart for Green. Quickly. The ridiculously athletic swingman wasn't ready for the NBA and everything that came along with it. We often talk about how hard it is to make it to the league. The thing we usually gloss over is how tough it is to stay.
Green learned the hard way and found himself bouncing all over the world, trying to keep his hoop dream alive.
This week, Grantland's Jonathan Abrams sat down with the 26-year-old to talk about his journey, the lessons he's learned and his fresh start with the New Jersey Nets. The piece is one that deserves your eyes, so add it to your reading list.
There was a quote from Eric Musselman, Green's coach when he played with the L.A. D-Fenders in the D-League, that stood out to me.
"I thought that he was so coachable. He was like a sponge. He just wanted more and more and more. He was a guy that you could easily push. I think he learned that even when he thought he was playing hard that he could play a little bit harder. When he made mistakes, he would tell his teammates, 'My fault. I've got to do better here.' For us, he came in with the right attitude."
"One of the things that we talk to the guys about and I definitely talk to Gerald a lot about is you don't need a 10-day contract. You want to be an NBA player. You just don't want to make the NBA this year. You should make a career of it. A lot of these guys, that's what we try to tell them. You guys floating around wanting 10 days — that's not what you want. You need to get better every day so that you turn into a bona fide NBA player. Big deal. What's a 10-day? You've got guys that just want to put on an NBA uniform. That doesn't do anything for longevity and career-wise."
These are the words that young NBAers need to hear. A conversation that often doesn't happen because extremely talented and young players are used to being praised rather than preached to, this is important. Players need to recognize how important it is to be coachable. It doesn't matter how talented or skilled a player is, how many points he's dropping in high school or college, the NBA is a different beast, an animal that will chew you up and spit you out to the wolves if you're not ready.
So many young players want to make it. They give up regular childhoods, hanging with their friends, normal teenage lives, in favor of training, shooting and playing. When they are given that opportunity, it needs to be seized because there are precious few second chances available.
Green worked his way into a position where he was granted one of them. He's a lucky one. He had the support of coaches like Musselman, people who were real with him, who encouraged, but did not coddle him. He needed to grow up. He has. His story needs to serve as an important example to younger players on the cusp of making it.
It's one thing to make it to the league. It's another thing entirely to stay long enough to call it a career.