The first sign that Danny Green might have been more hurt than he and the Lakers were letting on during the NBA Finals came during Game 2 against the Miami Heat. Los Angeles won the game, but Green did not look to be moving well and got subbed out early for J.R. Smith, who had barely played any meaningful minutes in the playoffs prior to that moment.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel chalked that substitution up to hip soreness that Green was dealing with — but was never listed on the injury report — in addition to the finger injury that Green was being listed with prior to every game. The second sign that those two dings might not tell the whole story came when Green was asked about his health heading into Game 3.
“Hopefully (my body) doesn’t break down, but we’re all feeling something at this point in the season,” Green said then. “We’ll see tonight how it goes, warm it up, and like I said, hopefully (my) body can sustain winning two more games.”
Essentially, Green sounded like he didn’t want to make excuses, but there was clear subtext that suggested he wasn’t all the way healthy while trying to gut out the NBA Finals and help the Lakers capture banner No. 17. The latest such signal came on the newest episode of Green’s eponymous podcast, “Inside the Green Room.”
While talking about the Lakers getting back to Los Angeles after they won the title. Green mentioned yet another area he was having pain that was never on the injury report (emphasis mine):
“When I got off the plane, man, all the adrenaline wore off, all the injuries came back to life, felt like a newborn baby deer. My legs were numb. I felt my hip, my Achilles, my whole body. Like ‘damn, all the drugs and adrenaline wore off!’ I needed a couple of days before I could celebrate. People were like ‘let’s turn up, let’s drink.’ I’m like ‘nah, I need a couple days. Let me just relax first and get some sleep.’”
For context, Green literally disembarked the plane with a foam roller in his arms. And that was before he says the pain started hitting again:
The most concerning part of the quote above, though, is obviously the mention of the Achilles tendon. Now, Green obviously didn’t tear it — he wouldn’t have been able to play. But soreness there can precede a more serious injury, and Green deserves a ton of credit for bravely fighting through to help his team win. Those are the risks taken and sacrifices made by some professional athletes to try and win, but not all of them would do so, and what Green did took serious commitment and competitiveness.
Green joins Anthony Davis among Lakers to reveal they were more hurt than they had previously revealed after winning the championship, with Davis playing through a secret ankle injury to win his first ring. Both deserve to be appreciated for doing so to help their team bring another banner back to Los Angeles. Davis has gotten that, but Green also deserves love for gritting his way through injuries that limited him and helping the Lakers with his defense anyway — even if his shots weren’t always falling — not the death threats and online hate he ultimately received due to how he didn’t look 100%.
With no basketball for a few months, there is still plenty of time for real fans to let Green know how much they appreciate his toughness and contributions. He may not have wanted to make excuses, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t respect what he was fighting through in retrospect.