After the Lakers beat the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, I was curious about why veteran guard J.R. Smith had played three minutes in the third and fourth quarter of a nominally close game despite not appearing in any non-garbage time moments since the first round of the playoffs.
When I asked head coach Frank Vogel about it, he said that it was mostly because Danny Green was dealing with a hip injury suffered earlier in the game. Green has already been listed on the Lakers’ injury report with a volar plate (finger) injury for the last several games, and while the Lakers didn’t add his new hip issue to their status update before Game 3 of the Finals, Green admitted when I asked him at the Lakers’ shootaround that he wasn’t feeling 100%.
Still, he said his health is not currently his primary concern. Winning is.
“I’m not worried about my body right now. I’ll worry about it when it’s over. We’ve got to win two more games,” Green said. “Then I can rest it as long as I want to.”
Green is also more than aware that at this point in the season, “a lot of guys have bumps and bruises.” He and other Lakers may be dinged up, but they can hardly complain about injuries when they look across the gym and see the Heat missing Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic for at least one game (Adebayo has said he plans to play in Game 3, he and Dragic are both listed as doubtful).
But even if that’s the case, we can all admit that Green looks far from 100% right now. He appeared noticeably gimpy during Game 2 (likely the reason for Vogel subbing him) and a finger injury likely doesn’t make it easier to shoot. He may not be making excuses, but that doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge reality.
Green deserves credit for fighting through and still trying to make an impact, and for as much criticism as he’s taken for missing shots, the Lakers are still 20.1 points per 100 possessions better in the playoffs when he plays than when he sits, the second-highest net rating differential on the team behind Anthony Davis (and ahead of LeBron James).
That isn’t to suggest Green is better or more impactful than James, but he at least isn’t weighing down lineups with his mere presence. And as long as he can stay on the floor, he plans to keep fighting and trying to help the Lakers capture a title.
“Hopefully it doesn’t break down, but we’re all feeling something at this point in the season,” Green said. “(Am I) where I want to be? No. I’m never where I want to be physically or just performing-wise. I always want to do better.
“But I think I’m good enough to get what I need to get done and hopefully support my team and do what we need to do on the defensive side of the floor, and hopefully the offensive side of the floor as well. To do my job,” Green continued. “We’ll see tonight how it goes, warm it up, and like I said, hopefully (my) body can sustain winning two more games.”
The Lakers will have to hope so too, because even if he’s become the internet’s favorite Lakers scapegoat, Green’s continued minutes and status as a starter make it clear that the team is more than aware of how much he still can help, even in a reduced state.