When the Sixers had a disgruntled point guard threatening to disrupt the team two years ago, Danny Green was front-and-center. With James Harden attempting to play the same card this summer, Green clearly couldn’t resist a reunion with the Sixers.
OK, no. James Harden isn’t why Green signed a one-year, $3.1 million minimum-salary contract with the Sixers in mid-September. Instead, familiarity with the organization, his former teammates and new Sixers head coach Nick Nurse were the main things that brought him back to Philly.
“Being familiar with the city, being familiar with the organization and the pieces that were here already that I played with, Joel, Tobias, Tyrese,” Green said during Monday’s media day. “And then Nick was just the icing on the cake. But he was one of the main factors why I came back.”
The last time we saw Green in a Sixers uniform, he tore his ACL and LCL in Game 6 of the 2022 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Miami Heat. The year before that, he suffered a right calf strain in Game 3 of the conference semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks and missed the rest of that series. The Sixers jumped out to a 2-1 series lead with Green against the Hawks, but they melted down without him. Miami also blew them out after he went down in Game 6, as they lacked the wing depth to muster any semblance of resistance against Jimmy Butler.
They’ve since rectified the wing issue to some extent by adding P.J. Tucker, Danuel House Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr. over the past two seasons. Whereas Green started 97 of his 131 games during his first go-round with the Sixers, he’s likely to play a small role off the bench this time—if he even makes the team at all. (His contract is fully nonguaranteed until opening night.)
It seems as though his untimely playoff injuries factored into his decision to return as well.
“There’s definitely a sense of unfinished business here,” Green said. “I’ve been able to win, lucky enough to win in other cities. I would love to bring that aspect to this city, the city of Philadelphia.”
The big question is how much Green has left in the tank. He played only 11 games this season between the Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers—the latter of whom were desperate for an answer at small forward—and averaged only 5.5 points in 12.5 minutes per game. He’s now more than a full year removed from his knee injury, but he’s also heading into his age-36 season.
Green credited his physical therapists for getting him back quickly last year, but he said Monday that he’s “feeling even better now.”
“This summer, I’ve been able to focus on other parts of the rehab,” he added. “Keeping the knee right, keeping the quads and the muscles right. This is the best that my body’s felt in a long time. Especially having kind of a year off just to focus on those things. So I’m excited. It’s a great opportunity to not just prove to everyone around me but also to myself that I can be who I was before I left here.”
If Green is anywhere close to the player he was prior to his knee injury, he might wind up being one of the more underrated signings of the summer. If nothing else, his experience with Nurse from Toronto could prove invaluable to a roster getting used to its third head coach over the past five seasons.
“You should have seen the huddle when he said, ‘We’re gonna go triangle-and-two,’” Green said Monday about Nurse’s coaching during the 2019 NBA Finals. “I think we were more confused at that, and more like, ‘What the hell is going on? Are we really doing this?’ When we tried the box-and-one, we were like, ‘OK, not too bad.’ But triangle-and-two threw us for a real loop. When it worked, we were like, ‘OK, it’s actually working.’ By the time they figured it out, it was kinda late.
“It took a lot of trust in that, and after it being successful, Nick’s earned my respect and a lot of trust from me. So anything he throws at us now, I’m definitely gonna be on board and get the guys on board with it.”
Having that sort of buy-in could go a long way in a locker room that’s currently dealing with Harden’s three-month temper tantrum.