NEW YORK — On the court, Josh Green rather suddenly has become a dynamo. Tasmanian devil-like in speed and aggression. A game-affecting force.
In other words, 6-6 swingman Green finally has started to look like the player the Mavericks thought he was all along and what fans hoped he would become when Dallas made him the No. 18 pick of the 2020 draft.
Off the court, though, Green remains the easy-going Aussie whose voice never seems to rise and whose face rarely changes expression.
Apparently, it’s the even-keeled persona that enabled Green to shrug off the growing chorus that the Mavericks made a terrible mistake by drafting him ahead of the likes of Saddiq Bey (19th), Dallas native Tyrese Maxey (21st) and TCU’s Desmond Bane (30th).
“I pay no mind to it,” Green said. “I’m working the same way I worked from Day One, when I got drafted, to right now.
“For me all that other stuff is just whatever people come up with. For me it’s just about staying who I am and what I do: Go out on the basketball court play for the Dallas Mavericks. That’s all I can control.”
The Mavericks carry a six-game winning streak, their longest in nearly five years, into Wednesday night’s game against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden.
In those six games, including the win over Golden State in which he played only five minutes, Green is averaging 8.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 62.5% shooting — not eye-popping numbers but a quantum leap from his nearly infinitesimal rookie-season averages of 2.6 points, 2.0 points and 45% shooting.
Green is coming off back-to-back career-high scoring efforts: 17 points at Houston and 18 points in Sunday’s home win over the Bulls. He shot a combined 14-of-17 in those games, mostly on layups and dunks.
“He’s just running around, crazy energy, getting steals, getting rebounds,” Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber said. “It’s hard to guard him because you never know where he’s going to go.
“He has really good timing on open cuts and he gets those easy layups. All of a sudden he has 17 or 18 points and you don’t even realize it.”
It’s unrealistic to expect Green to produce nightly performances like this. After all, he’s still only 21 and is the first to admit he has much to learn.
His recent emergence, though, came at a fortuitous time for the Mavericks, whose winning streak began when their roster was COVID-19 and injury-stricken.
And for a Dallas team whose cast is largely unchanged from the past two seasons, a flourishing Green would represent the kind of internal improvement that is vital if the Mavericks are to have any hope of ending their 10-year drought without a playoff-series win.
Green’s surge, along with the improvement of players like Jalen Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith, also indicate that first-year coach Jason Kidd and his staff producing results on the player-development front.
Scouting and game strategy are of course important, but the lifeblood of any franchise is to mold players, especially younger ones, into better and more confident versions of themselves.
On the confidence front, Green looks like a completely different player. And it so happens that the Mavericks assistant who works most closely with him is Sean Sweeney, who is the acting head coach until Kidd emerges from health and safety protocols.
Sweeney describes Green as one of the Mavericks’ most consistent workers. Diligent in the weight room and the practice gym. Shows up early for practices and often returns to the Mavericks training facility at night to work on his game, especially his ball-handling skills.
“And then he does a great job of studying tape,” Sweeney said. “He asks very, very good questions when he watches tape.
“He obviously still can keep getting better. But those are the things that have helped him thus far in terms of his improvement.”
Ten days ago, Kidd said the Mavericks needed to find ways to get Green more playing time, noting that Green’s plus-minus at the time led the team — that is, the Mavericks’ point differential whenever Green is on the court.
Entering Wednesdays’ game, Green’s plus-minus of plus-82 is tied with Finney-Smith for second-best among Mavericks, trailing only Brunson’s plus-97.
Since Dec. 27 Green has had five games in which he played 20 or more minutes. During Dallas’ winning streak is he averaging 18.8 minutes.
“With minutes obviously comes mistakes, being a younger guy,” Green said. “But I think being able to grow off that and see your mistakes [helps].”
Green says the coaching staff and teammates have played integral roles in accelerating his learning curve.
“Obviously Coach is Coach Kidd, arguably the best point guard of all time,” Green said. “So for me it’s just picking up on as many things as I can and continuing to bring that to the court.”
It certainly didn’t help that COVID-19 delayed the 2020 draft until Nov. 18 and prevented the NBA from having summer league that year, but as fans continue to point out, that hasn’t seemed to handcuff the emerges of Bey (15.2 points per game this season), Maxey (16.8) or Bane (17.5), the latter of whom Green and the Mavericks will face on Friday.
“Josh Green was drafted before me; I don’t even know if he played tonight,” Bane noted after scoring a career-high 29 points in Memphis’ 97-90 win in Dallas on Dec. 4.
Green at the time had scored only 14 points, total, in Dallas’ first 22 games. And, no, he didn’t play against the Grizzlies last night.
Now, though, easy-going Green seems to be a completely different player, in assertiveness and production. He’s showing signs of becoming a difference-maker for a Mavericks franchise that needs as many as it can get.
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