One-on-One with Danny Green

By the time the Cavaliers got around to the 46th pick in the 2009 Draft, the franchise had already had an insane day.

Earlier that Thursday afternoon, the Wine and Gold announced the blockbuster deal that brought Shaquille O’Neal to Cleveland. And earlier that evening, the Cavaliers tabbed a virtual unknown – Christian Eyenga – with the 30th pick in the first round.

Cavalier fans were in a state of confusion. They loved the Shaquisition, but most had never even heard of the 6-6 swingman from the Republic of Congo. At pick No. 46, however, the day evened out – when the Wine and Gold war room made North Carolina’s Danny Green a Cavalier.

Green got his share of the spotlight as a Tar Heel, playing in more games (145) – and winning more (123) – than any player in the storied history of the program. As a senior, the 6-foot-6, 210-pound swingman averaged 13.1 points on .471 shooting. The Long Island native shot .418 from three-point range, adding 4.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks in 38 games (all starts).

Like his Summer League teammate, Jawad Williams, Green won the NCAA National Championship. Also in his senior year, he was named to the ACC All-Defensive Team, the All-ACC Third Team and the NCAA South Regional Tournament Team. Green finished his four-year career as the only player in ACC history to tally at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists, 150 three-pointers, 150 blocks and 150 steals.

The Cavaliers came into the offseason needing a young, athletic defensive-minded swingman with some length and picked up a pair in the 2009 Draft. Eyenga will likely continue to develop overseas, while Green might do so before our eyes next season.

Danny Green took a moment from working out at Cleveland Clinic Courts – in preparation for Vegas Summer League – to chat with about his Draft night experience, his first couple runs with King James and his “Jump Around” dance moves back at Carolina …

What was Draft day in New York like?
Danny Green: Nerve-wracking.

Of course, you’re waiting to see where you get picked and I was there with my family in a hotel in the city. (I’m from New York). So I went to the city for Draft night, and we had a little party. We had a whole bunch of people there, all watching and predicting who’s going to go where. There were a lot of surprises.

I was watching, cheering my teammates. There were a lot of people texting me, but I tried to keep my phones away from me. The end of the first round was coming and I saw that Cleveland had the 30th pick and I was thinking, ‘This might be the one.’ When it wasn’t, I was disappointed. But either way – you have to go somewhere and you have to play, regardless.

So second round: I’m seeing all these guys get picked ahead of me – some I worked out for, some I didn’t – and then Cleveland came back around with the 46th pick and I got a phone call from my agent. He was at the draft and the TV was a little slower than the event, so I hear everyone yelling in the background and I knew. My friends and family we’re really excited. It was a good time.

So you decided against the Madison Square Garden experience?
Green: My dad was like, ‘You should go to the draft and shake David Stern’s hand.’ But I said there’s no guarantee I’ll be first round. He really thought that Cleveland liked me. So we waited for a little while in the hotel to see if I got picked (in the first round). For a while you get down and disappointed. But when I found out where I was going, I was really excited.

Is Cleveland a place you had your sights set on?
Green: Who wouldn’t want to come here? After you’ve seen what (LeBron) has done here and how he makes the game easier for his teammates and how much fun they have during the season – who wouldn’t to play with a guy like that on a team like this?

And then you add Shaq. Now, you’re talking about two of the greatest guys to ever lace ‘em up.

Have you met Shaq yet?
Green: I met him at his press conference. He’s a big dude, man! I introduced myself to him and his wife and he said, ‘I know who you are.’ That was really good that he knows who I am. He must have watched some college ball. But it was exciting.

Plus, and I’ve been playing with LeBron the last two days – yesterday and the day before.

What’s that been like?
Green: It was a little different! (Laughs.) You can tell when you’re not used to playing with each other. It was me, Christian (Eyenga), Tarrence Kinsey and Romeo Travis. We had some good games even though everyone was a little rusty and out of shape.

Christian and I haven’t played any 5-on-5 games before the draft; it was all individual stuff. So it felt good to get up and down a little bit. Yesterday was a lot better, after we’d shaken the cobwebs off.

Were you nervous?
Green: Definitely! Of course. Anyone would be. But (LeBron)’s a cool guy. Real laid-back. He makes you feel comfortable. He brings you in and makes you feel like you’re part of the family.

Some players chosen in the second round play with a chip on their shoulder, looking to prove something to the teams that passed on them. Do you feel that way?
Green: Of course there are some teams that I worked out for that I feel I did pretty well, and there were some guys you feel like you should be drafted ahead of, but you can’t help what happens on Draft night. And really, it doesn’t mean that much. It’s what you do after the Draft. If you get drafted in the first round you have to work hard; if you get drafted in the second round, you have to work even harder. But I’m definitely looking to prove myself.

What do you feel you bring to the NBA?
Green: Shooting is definitely one of my strengths. And shot-blocking – although I don’t know if that’ll be the case on this level. I would say I’m deceptively athletic – probably a lot more athletic than people think I am. I think I had a good all-around career at UNC.

What does it mean to you, having more wins than any other player in a legendary program like North Carolina?
Green: It means a lot to me. It’s definitely good to be in a category of your own. But I really love winning basketball games – that’s why I picked North Carolina. And that’s why I’m glad to be here.

I’ll find a way to win, whatever the team needs me to do. I don’t think that’ll be a problem on team like this. But if they need me to defend taller guards or they need length of they need shooting, I’ll do whatever I have to do to win.

OK, what about your dance moves to “Jump Around”?
Green: (Laughs.) It was a traditional thing at games. And I think it’s going to carry on for a while.

It started to become big, I think, in my junior year, because I really wanted to come out of my shell on the court. My freshman year, we’d have fun on the sidelines. (They’d play music and we’d have a little fun.) My sophomore year, there was a couple more guys. And my junior year, it became kind of solo thing – because a lot of guys had either left or were on the court, starting.

So then people were looking for me to do it every game. Everyone was scared to jump in. But we had some guys join in and have fun with it. I like to have fun on the court. But once the ball goes up – it’s all business.