GREEN'S ABILITY TO STAY READY PAYS OFF FOR CLIPPERS
LOS ANGELES – Chris Paul could not help but grin when talking about his friend Willie Green.
It was only a half hour removed from the Clippers’ 101-72 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, Green’s former team, and Paul was beaming about Green’s professionalism, his ability to stay ready.
“Everybody already knows how I feel about Willie personally, but he’s why if I’m ever on a team, Willie can be on my team all day long, any time,” Paul said. “Not only is he a great person, but he’s a great player. He made big shots tonight. He defends. He does whatever you have to do to win.”
On Wednesday night, as Green started in place of Chauncey Billups, who missed the game with a strained right groin, he certainly helped the Clippers win.
He scored 13 points (5-of-9 shooting), grabbed four rebounds and defended. He rotated to a driving player from the wing, scrambling to the weak side to cut off a clear path to the basket, pressured the ball at times and generally helped the 76ers wings feel uncomfortable.
It was his tenth double-digit scoring game this season, but just his second since Jan. 15. His baskets came during some of the most significant portions of the game, scoring four points in the early going when the Clippers were sputtering and dropping in six more when they went on a decisive run in the third quarter.
“I thought he did a really good job,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “His defense, he was into guys, moving the ball, pushing it up the court.”
In short, for 22:22, Willie Green was ever-ready.
“That’s him, that’s Willie,” Paul said. “I didn’t know he was starting until we walked out before the game and did our walk-through. But it’s not like I looked at Willie like, ‘Man, I hope he’s ready.’ Willie’s is always ready. Regardless of the situation, he’s not going to pout, he’s not going to bad mouth. Willie’s always ready to go.”
It’s a somewhat unenviable position for Green.
Green started 49 of the first 54 games of the season with Billups still recovering from offseason Achilles tendon surgery and then was sidelined with tendinitis in his foot. When the future Hall of Famer returned to the lineup in February, Green’s minutes went from consistently around 18 per game to almost non-existent. He had six “did not play: coach’s decision” situations in the last month and played four minutes or less in five other games.
The Clippers are 34-16 (.680) when Green starts, but to fit seamlessly back into the lineup after more than a month, speaks volumes about his overall professionalism and approach.
“Willie’s a pro,” Del Negro said. “He’s always prepared. He’s one of the first guys in the gym and one of the last guys to leave. He’s going to stay ready. He understands the big picture and he’s just one of those guys you don’t have to worry about.”
Green is constantly at the Clippers’ training facility, working out, shooting, or receiving treatment on a bothersome knee that has gone practically unnoticed because he never talks about it. There are nights when Green is alone taking 3-point jumpers with a ball machine feeding it back to him and other nights when he might work with an assistant coach, receiving live passes and firing away from the baseline corner, a place where he’s a 44.7% 3-point shooter this season (34-for-76).
For Green, staying ready is not necessarily easy, but a matter of self-confidence.
“You just have to continue to believe in yourself and continue to get your shots up and get all your work in,” Green said. “At the end of the day for me it’s really just about getting these wins. I’m a very spiritual guy, so I believe that all things will come together.”