Danny Green is the perfect “LeBron James shooting guard.” He plays defense, moves without the ball and, most importantly, knocks down 3-pointers at an efficient clip. It’s a bit of a surprise, then, that James and Green didn’t team up until last summer, unless, of course, you count the 24 minutes they played together during Green’s rookie season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But while Green and James didn’t play much together during the one season they were teammates in Cleveland, Green got to see James at a crucial stage of his development as a basketball player, and in a recent interview with Omar Raja of ESPN, compared the differences and similarities between James at 25 and James today at 35:
“It’s crazy how long of a year gap that is — 2009 to 2020 — because he’s still doing the things he was doing in 2009. Obviously, he’s just more a mature adult. Obviously, he has kids that are older, teenagers. He’s learned how to win, he’s gone to places and won three titles since then.
“Back then, obviously he was vocal, but not as vocal as he is now — he was kind of sharing the team, him and Shaq. He knows how to encourage his teammates, his IQ obviously was great then but it’s even better now. He knows how to put guys in places to make them successful, so he makes the game easy, man. I think he did make the game easy, but it wasn’t on purpose; it was him just playing and being so great and playing the game, and it was easy for his teammates. Now he’s making the game easy by putting people in places. ‘This is where you need to be, I want him here, I want him in the right corner, I want AD here.’”
James’ leadership and basketball IQ is why he’ll be able to play until he’s at least 40, health permitting. It’s also why the Lakers were so comfortable giving him a four-year, max contract at the age of 33.
James might not have the leaping ability that he had at 25, or the stamina, but he’s grown in other, mental facets of the game, and Green and the Lakers have been the beneficiaries of that growth this season. Let’s hope this small break that the NBA is on doesn’t stunt that growth.