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Off an NBA title, Danny Green opens up about his career, Zion, Coby White and camp

Check out all the drama from the 2019 NBA Finals

The NBA championship series between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors saw as much drama court-side as on the hardwood.
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The NBA championship series between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors saw as much drama court-side as on the hardwood.

Reigning NBA champion and former North Carolina guard Danny Green will return to the Smith Center in Chapel Hill on July 12-13 to host his sixth annual basketball camp.

In a phone interview with The News and Observer on Thursday, the once-unheralded starter on UNC’s 2009 national championship team talked about this past year’s ACC talent and opened up about his prolific NBA career from injuries to his experiences as a free agent and how being a role player led to his surprising rise in the league.

Green, who averaged 10.3 points and 4 rebounds per game last season and won an NBA title with the Raptors in June, signed with the Lakers on Saturday, he announced on Twitter. His new deal is for two years and $30 million, according to ESPN.

Zietlow: If you could concisely summarize your career in a few sentences and give advice to a younger Danny Green, what would you tell him?

Green: You know, I came in as a rookie and didn’t get to play much at all, really. Became a sponge. I had to go through the rough, get cut a couple times, take the G-league route, which was the D-league back then. And then, I got lucky enough to get called by a team, but then I had to go overseas during the 2011 lockout. Came back, (and) had to make the team. So it’s been a roller coaster.

Going from playing no minutes, to playing 5-10 minutes, then to 10-20 minutes, then starting, and then the next year or so later, playing in the finals and winning a championship … And now I’m a free agent, trying to figure out where I want to go and having some pretty good options. So it’s been a hell of a roller coaster ride. I don’t know what else you were looking for me to describe, to say, or to tell my younger self, but I took the game very seriously at a young age. I think I did it the right way. I don’t regret anything. For the most part, I’d try to tell myself to enjoy the ride, and roll with the waves.

UNC's Danny Green (14) shoots over Clemson's Demontez Stitt (2) and Trevor Booker (35) in the final minutes of regulation on Feb. 10, 2008 in the Smith Center. Green scored 14 points in the Tar Heels' win.

Zietlow: How would you describe this new crop of talent coming into the NBA from UNC?

Green: I think they’re very good, a very good group coming out of Carolina. It’s been a while since we’ve had three first rounders. It’s a good group of talent, and it’s great to see. I mean, Coby is amazing, and obviously Nas is too. I think Cam was a sleeper, but he put the work in, and he’s been a worker since I’ve known him.

Zietlow: When Kenny Williams got signed by the Spurs, I thought to compare him to you, as you broke out in the Spurs organization as someone who was an adept perimeter defender but who could also shoot the ball. Do you think that’s a fair comparison?

Green: Yeah, I think he’s very well-polished. He’s polished because he’s been here for four years, of course. Those guys don’t get as much of a chance as everybody else because people think that they’ve reached their potential already. But I think he’s a very good player, a very good shooter, can do a little bit of everything.

That’s a very fair comparison to me because I could do everything pretty decently well coming out of college, and all he has to do is find his niche, find his timing, and he could be an important piece to a team.

Zietlow: When you say they’re not giving him as much of a chance, are you talking about four-year guys going into the NBA?

Green: Yes. Seniors don’t really get as much of an opportunity. You know, they don’t get drafted high. They don’t look at them with high potential because they’ve done four years. But I’d like to think they’re very polished, and they do have the potential to be something great, especially a good piece to a team.

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Toronto Raptors guard Danny Green (14) shoots past Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) during Game 5 of the NBA Finals on June 10. Kyle Terada AP

Zietlow: Is that something you experienced as a four-year player?

Green: I wasn’t drafted high. I would like to think so. But you never know. The draft was different than it is, from so many years ago, so it’s hard to say.

Zietlow: What are your thoughts on Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and others from Duke? We haven’t seen this much talent in the ACC in a very long time.

Green: Very impressive, explosive guys, man. A lot of young talent. Shockingly, they were all on the same team, but you know, sometimes that doesn’t work, either, as the best team in the world. But they played great together. They had injuries, and they had a brotherhood, but you know, they made the ACC look really good because it’s been a while since we’ve had those types of players. And I think it’s great to have that in a conference.

Zietlow: Tell me about this camp.

Green: It’s a two-day clinic. Ages 8-16 … We do drills. We play campers vs. counselor games, usually depending on how many kids. And we teach them a lot about the fundamentals.

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Toronto Raptors guard Danny Green celebrates after the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals on June 13. Ben Margot AP

Zietlow: Why do you host the event in Chapel Hill? Is there a particular reason why you want to give back to this community?

Green: I mean, I went to school there. It’s a place I called home at some point. It’s definitely a place I need to give back to, part of my roots. You know, I try to get down there as often as I can. Obviously one of the better ways to do that is to run a camp …

We’re trying to get these kids involved and to understand to be aware that we’re coming to town. It seems as if not many kids are aware and know about it each year. We’re trying to get the word out. Maybe it’s because there are so many other camps going on, in Coach Williams’s camp. Every year, we come out, and it seems like nobody really knows about it. We just want to get the word out, so they can sign up. We’ve had great turnouts at all these camps in Canada. We’ve had great turnouts in all these camps in Texas … I don’t get the chance to get back to Chapel Hill as much as I’d like to, so when I do, I just try to make the most of it.

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Danny Green Skills Clinic

When: 10 a.m., July 12 through 3 p.m., July 13

Where: Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill

Ages: 8-16

Register: Sign up here.

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Alex is an intern at The News and Observer, covering sports and however it intersects with life in the Triangle. Before that, Alex graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in May and was a three-year staffer on UNC’s student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel.

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