WILLIE GREEN ON 3-POINT TEAR
It’s about as repetitive as a Willie Green 3-pointer nowadays.
A few games go by in which the Clippers’ guard is inserted into the lineup in place of an injured Chauncey Billups only to be replaced when Billups returns. It’s been the story of the season for the guy who has started 58 of the team’s 78 games and one who Lamar Odom calls the “Big Pro.”
He is always ready. He is always working.
You could find him before Friday’s game in New Orleans, knocking down so many consecutive 3-pointers from the left corner that onlookers lost count. Or other times in the Clippers’ training center alone shooting afterhours as the ball ricochets through an automated netted contraption that passes it back to him. He has played through a lingering knee injury that earlier in the season limited his court time to the 16 minutes per game he averages.
But Green says as his overall health improved so too did his rhythm.
And what a rhythm it’s been of late. Green is shooting 69.0% from 3-point range since Mar. 10, No. 1 in the NBA over that span for anyone with a minimum of 25 attempts. Or a pulse for that matter.
Green has rocketed to No. 8 in the league overall, knocking down 43.0% on the season. And while his premier shot location is the right corner, a spot he’s frequently left open for some reason unbeknownst, Green has quite simply become a knockdown shooter from everywhere behind the arc.
“Willie has been great,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We’ve been saying Chauncey [Billups] is going to come back for a while. Hopefully he’ll get back here soon. Willie, like I said, has been a complete pro. When his number’s called he’s ready to go. He’ll be one of the last guys to leave no matter how many minutes he’s playing and he stays prepared.”
Green admits it’s a challenge to stay ready, but he always is.
“I call him the big pro,” Odom said. “It would be easy for a lot of guys to quit or give up. Willie is not just a great basketball player, but he’s a great person. And it shows.”
Green is perhaps one of the most humble players in the league. For example, he resisted getting on Twitter until a number of his teammates insisted it was a great way to promote himself. But @DetroitWllie34 hardly uses it for self-promotion, but more to re-tweet motivating phrases and praise his teammates.
After scoring 15 points, matching his season high, on April 10 against the Timberwolves, Green tweeted: “Great win last night @LAClippers!! Let’s keep it going!! #teamwork #energy #effort. Thx Clipper nation for support!”
Ten days earlier he used his 140-character platform to discuss the meaning of defeat, calling it “nothing but the first steps to something better.”
Lately, Green has been a part of those steps for the Clippers (52-26) in their quest for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. He’s averaging 12.3 points in just 18 minutes per game during their three-game winning streak. He’s scored in double-figures 14 times with the Clippers owning an 11-3 record in those games. And he’s been a constant in the starting lineup with Billups out.
But as the former Finals MVP nears a return from a strained right groin, his latest in a series of injury setbacks this season, Green will slide back to the bench. Quietly.
“He’s been big,” Matt Barnes said of Green. “He’s just the ultimate professional. What he’s been through up and down with Chauncey not play, Chauncey playing, Willie not playing at all and coming in and playing well. Him, Ronny [Turiaf], Grant [Hill], some of those guys that have been so in and out but stay professional is really helping our team.”