GREEN PROVING TO BE RELIABLE SHOOTER NEXT TO PAUL
You can usually find Willie Green in the game hanging out in the corner behind the 3-point line with his knees bent and hands ready to receive the ball, patiently waiting for guards Chris Paul or Eric Bledsoe to pull the defense in with their penetration and kick the ball out to him for an open shot.
Knocking down 39.1% of them from beyond the arc and averaging 6.3 points a night, Green is coming into his role as a reliable shooter while filling in at shooting guard in the starting lineup while Chauncey Billups continues rehabilitation on his surgically repaired left Achilles tendon. Green is enjoying the abundance of opportunities that his teammates generate for him.
“Those guys create a lot of attention,” Green said. “They really get into the teeth of the defense, and when it collapses, guys like me are wide open, and I’m happy to knock down those shots. It’s fun for me.”
The Clippers have proven scorers not only in Paul and Bledsoe, but in Blake Griffin, Caron Butler and Jamal Crawford. With so many weapons on offense, Green does not need to fill up the box score. His threes here and there are quiet, but effective.
The Detroit native has made at least one 3-pointer in six of the first eight games, averaging about 19 minutes of play each night, and is shooting 44.9% from the field. In a 106-84 victory against the Spurs, Green notched 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting, the most field goals he’s made in one game without missing in his career.
Green is one of seven veterans to join the Clippers this season, his fourth team since being drafted in the second round by the Seattle SuperSonics in 2003, before he was traded to Philadelphia the same day after a standout collegiate career at the University of Detroit Mercy. He remains the fourth-leading scorer (1,779 points) in school history.
In his seven years with the 76ers, Green averaged a solid 8.9 points a contest, and career-high 12.4 a game in the 2007-08 season. He was then traded to the Hornets in 2010 where he first linked up with Paul and signed with the Hawks last season.
With the Hawks, Green was seventh in the league in regular season three point shooting percentage with 44.2% from long range.
Green is one of the many pieces in the Clippers’ high-powered offense where on any given night, any player (starter or reserve) can get hot.
“Guys coming off our bench have been starters in this league before,” Green said. “It makes a big difference when you can take five guys out and put five guys in and there’s no let down.”
Though the Clippers’ depth is “for real,” as some fans around the league have put it, the team’s emphasis on parity is a work in progress. Having played just eight games so far in the early season, the Clippers continue to develop chemistry by figuring out each players’ spots and tendencies on the floor.
Green knows his teammates will find him if he runs the lanes wide and sets up for the shot on the perimeter, and in turn his teammates will build more confidence in him the more shots he makes.
“It’s really a trust factor,” Green said. “Confidence is something you have to build towards, and I’m coming in the gym every day and working hard and make sure I’m prepared to do what I need to do to help us win, and that helps [the team] have confidence in me.”
Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro likes the way Green’s shooting opens up the floor. “Willie has done a good job for us,” he said. “He’s in the right spots for us, he has good size, and he spreads the court for us well.”
Green has also been known as a veteran who looks out for younger players. Hawks guard Jeff Teague, then just a third-year player, appreciated Green’s mentorship last season.
“He was a great teammate,” Teague said. “Me, being a younger player, he used to pull me to the side and give me pointers and things like that on being a professional off the floor. He’s just a really good guy.”
All-star center Al Horford knew his squad was getting a consistent shooter in Green when the Hawks signed him last season, but he did not know that Green was going to be such an effective leader in the locker room.
“I was pleasantly surprised. When I saw him play on other teams I didn’t realize how valuable he was,” Horford said. “He’s a great person and a great guy in the locker room; the kind of guy you want to be your teammate. We were very lucky for him to be on our team last year.
“The Clippers are very lucky to have him.”