LAS VEGAS – In many ways, this week has been nothing out of the ordinary for forward Jeff Green.
This is the third straight summer the Thunder forward has trained with USA Basketball and he’s being asked to play both at the rim and away from it; to fill a certain role; and to use his versatility to the best of his abilities.
As Team USA prepares for next month’s World Championship in Turkey, the USA Basketball committee has continued to stress how much it values players who can play multiple positions.
Green fits that description.
And when it was learned that big men Amar’e Stoudemire (insurance on contract) and David Lee (finger) would not be able to play for Team USA this summer, it opened another window of opportunity for Green to show he’d be a good fit.
“I look at it as a great opportunity for myself to try to show what I can do to put myself in a good position to make the team,” Green said. “I’m excited. This is something that I’ve been looking forward to the whole summer. It’s going to be great. I’m having fun with it and I’m just going to do my best.” USA Basketball values Green for the same reasons that prompted the Thunder to acquire him on draft night in 2007: his versatility, size and willingness to fill in the cracks and play team basketball.
On a Men’s National Team sure to be comprised with its share of superstars and All-Stars, Green is willing to accept a role that could fluctuate.
“He’s a different type of power forward,” USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said. “A little bit undersized, great attitude, great work ethic and is improving in his game…He’s durable and he’s a great kid. In other words, the character goes along with it.”
Throughout his career Green has always been a glue guy, which is why his statistics haven’t always leapt off the page. He has career averages of 14.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.0 steals through three seasons. Even at Georgetown, he never posted jaw-dropping numbers: during his junior season he led the team in scoring (14.3 points) and was second in both rebounding (6.4) and assists (3.2) en route to Big East Player of the Year honors.
Green has seen time at small forward, power forward and center this week, roles he’s already accustomed to playing with the Thunder. While Green starts games at power forward, he’s often filled in at small forward whenever Kevin Durant checks out and has also played at center when on the floor with Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Thabo Sefolosha.
But when it comes to FIBA rules, coach Mike Krzyzewski said that power forwards and centers shouldn’t be looked at in the traditional sense because the positions are played much differently than in the NBA in large part because of the trapezoid-shaped restricted area.
The trapezoid is intended to keep players out of the immediate area surrounding the basket and force the big man, or post player, away from the basket, which is why it’s common to see international NBA players like Dirk Nowitzki and Nenad Krstic play away from the basket; it’s what they grew up with.
After the World Championship, FIBA will go through some historic rule changes that fall in line with the NBA style of play. FIBA will replace the trapezoid with a rectangular painted area, add a marked no-charge semicircle under the basket and extend the three-point line.
And both now and in the future Green’s skill set is valuable at the international level because at 6-9, 235 pounds, he’s a player with size who can play facing the rim. The further he is away from the basket, the more he continues to be a threat to score. And his ability to play along the perimeter keeps the lane open for others to penetrate.
“They’re still going to have the trapezoid,” Krzyzewski said. “So it still lends itself for big guys to play on the perimeter and shoot and so both he and Kevin Love have to play both (positions).”
Green said the biggest differences he’s noticed throughout practices have been the defensive rotations and the level of physicality. Other than that, Green said everything has come naturally to him.
“I’m not going to go out of my norm and try to do stuff I can’t do,” he said. “I’m going to have fun with it. This is an experience of a lifetime and you’ve got to enjoy it.”
Contact Chris Silva