After spending most of his career with the San Antonio Spurs, NBA star Danny Green never envisioned playing anywhere else. With a championship ring and a $45 million contract in tow, the affable Green was happy with the idea of finishing his career under Coach Gregg Popovich’s watch and cruising into the sunset with his silver and black jersey. Then, in July, his dreams were shattered when he and and his superstar teammate Kawhi Leonard were traded to the Toronto Raptors.
For Green, moving to another country and donning a completely different uniform was a bit of an adjustment for him. “It was a little odd, but it was something to get used to,” Green tells Billboard. “The red, I’m not really a big fan of. There’s a lot of red, but a lot of people like it. I like the black uniforms. Those are probably my favorite ones, but putting it on for the first time and wearing different colors of a different city, it was a little weird.”
Instead of sulking, Green has responded with incredible play on both sides of the orange. Not only is he shooting a blistering 47 percent from the 3-point line, but he’s also proving his worth on the defensive side, posting a block and a steal per game. As of press time, the Toronto Raptors are second in the Eastern Conference and have championship aspirations. With Green providing leadership and flawless shooting from the perimeter, the Raptors shouldn’t have a problem clawing their way toward that elusive title this season.
Besides his sharpshooting prowess, DG is also threading together a seamless résumé off the court. This past summer, Green became the latest member of PUMA Basketball and is sporting his new sneaker, Clyde Court Disrupt, which was released earlier this month.
Billboard spoke with Green about playing with his new team, his love for Drake, becoming the latest member of PUMA Basketball and Kawhi Leonard’s viral laugh. Check out the interview below.
What strengths do you feel you bring to this Raptors team that previously won 59 games last season?
Well, I hope to bring a little bit more of experience. Hopefully, some defensive principles and bring some energy on that end of the floor and also, offensively, another shooting threat. I’m trying to be consistent as possible each day. That’s how I lead my team each day and I want to teach the young guys some of the values and principles I learned in San Antonio and hopefully, bring that type of demeanor, that type of attitude and atmosphere to Toronto.
What gems have you taken from Pop that you’ve used so far and instilled in your new teammates?
Just how to be professional and how to carry each other. The years that we were winning and went to the Finals, with how we played, nobody really cared much about numbers. Everybody just wanted to win. Everybody was on the same page. Everybody was sharing the ball, moving it, and swinging it. Everybody got chances to touch it and score. A lot of people have taken that formula and incorporated it into the systems and not a lot have teams have been successful. That’s good basketball. It’s a lot of fun to play in. So regardless, we want to continue to win, but have fun first and be healthy. If you continue with those things, you usually win games.
You’re a Long Island legend and former High School All-American. Why do you feel Long Island and even New York basketball as a whole has fell off in a sense in terms of high-quality talent?
It’s hard to compare with the guys we grew up with. It’s kind of unfair to compare our group of guys to today’s, so I wouldn’t say [the talent] has fallen off. I would say we got some good kids now coming back. A lot of kids are traveling and going to different schools so they be featured, even in high school now. Back then, most kids used to go to school in their neighborhoods or the borough the closest by. Now kids are going to different states to go to school a lot of the times, but in our era, we had so many [Division 1] players that could play that went to [Christ the King], Rice, Malloy, Lincoln and the list goes on. We had a lot of guards in our era, so it’s hard to compare to the kids these days, especially, because they move around so much. So yeah, I do think [the talent] has fallen off a little bit, especially from the time we were kids to now, but I think it’s starting to come back up a little bit more and getting better. It’s hard to compare overall.
You had a journeyman story early on to start your career. Now that you’re an NBA champ and considered a strong “3 and D” guy, is there anything about the grind and struggle that you miss?
No [laughs], ’cause it’s all a mindset. It’s mental thing. I’m still grinding myself right now. Regardless where I am in life or how much money I got, I still enjoy it, but I grind it out. I continue wanting to do more, wanting to be better and achieve more. I think the only difference was back then it was a humbling situation whether it was being overseas or somewhere in the D-League — which is now the G-League — and traveling different and moving differently and not making as much money.
So in that sense, I’m more comfortable, but the mindset hasn’t changed. I’m still wanting to achieve more and do more. During the grind mode, the only thing I would say that I do miss are some of the bonds and friendships I’ve made, some of the coaching staff that I’ve learned from along the way and some of the random little places that I got to see and visit. Other than that, there’s not much I miss about it, but the mindset is still there.
With that being said, which NBA player’s rise to fame do you admire most aside from yourself?
There’s a couple guys that were undrafted and second-round draft picks and other guys who came and won championships. The only guy who probably comes to mind most recently is Andre Ingram, who was signed to the Lakers last year on a 10-day [contract] and scored his first bucket. He was in the D-League for 10 years. It was amazing to see. I was happy for him. He’s very admirable. It was inspiring.
For him to grind through that grind for that long until he got to his dream was amazing. I’m sure it brought a lot of inspiration to young kids as well as older kids, like kids in college and kids in the brink of making it in the G-League. I’ve never gotten a chance to meet him personally, but his story was very inspiring. Also, you know J. Lin [Jeremy Lin]. Obviously, J. Lin has had his ups and down with injuries, but he has a great story. Andre Ingram takes the cake, though. For him to be in the D-League that long and actually struggle and grind it out [was incredible]. He was a teacher grinding it out and never gave up on his dream.
Talk about you joining PUMA and your latest collaboration with them.
I was speaking with [my former teammate] Rudy [Gay] last year about them and I actually met the people, which was great and it helped me be familiar with the movement and the ideas that they had. They’re coming out with a new shoe and it looks kind of cool. I’ve always had good style and obviously Roc Nation has good ties. So because of my relationship with them, it wasn’t hard to get introduced to them and talk to them.
I had a couple of meetings and once I was able to try on the basketball shoe, I saw how comfortable they were and how I felt like I can play well with them. They were a good fit for the basketball court. [PUMA] always had good style and fashion, but they also backed certain movements. I was all for what they were doing outside of sports like backing Meek Mill and Colin Kaepernick. They’ve always expressed how they care about the people that they were about to sign, the movement, and the culture outside of sports and what we’re trying to do.
Which album would you pick to be your soundtrack to your life?
I don’t know what album it would be. There’s a couple that’s pretty good. I remember listening to Take Care when I was overseas. There were different times and different moments where I was listening to different albums. When I was in the D-League, I was listening to certain albums. When I was overseas, I was listening to “Shot for Me” from Take Care. Every time I have a bad drought, I blast that Soulja Boy “We Made It.”
If you could pick any rapper to be the Raptors’ sixth man, who would you choose and why?
[Laughs] I’d probably go with who I think is the best basketball player. If you watched some of those guys, not many of them are very good. Some of them have played for the league and some have played in college or something like that. I think 2 Chainz was probably one of the taller ones that played before when he was younger. The Game played in the Drew League. There’s a couple guys — a short list of them — that are decently athletic and played when they were younger and at a serious level. There’s not too many that come to mind besides those two guys.
Chris Brown and Quavo can ball a little bit.
Chris Brown can do a little bit of everything, man.
Obviously, Kawhi’s laugh really caught social media’s attention and I’m curious: Do you have a Kawhi moment that maybe made you chuckle or caught you off-guard?
Every time he does something funny, it catches me off-guard. Every day he has a different pep in his step because you never know with him. He stays even-keeled and you never know what his thoughts are or where his mind is at. So every time we’re in a group and he says something funny, it catches me off-guard and I crack up all the time. He’s a real funny guy.