Danny Green has been watching the same Lakers games the rest of us have. He’s had an up-close-and-personal look at how many jumpers he’s missed, and is more aware than anyone that he’s only shooting 38.8% from the field and 25% from three. He’s likely seen that his name has been trending on Twitter during games for all the wrong reasons.
But Green has also gone through cold streaks before. He’s confident this one — like all of its predecessors — will eventually turn around.
“As a shooter, that happens. We all go through phases and lulls. But the odds are in my favor at this point,” Green said on Zoom after the Lakers’ practice on Saturday. “I’m looking at the positives and the bright side of it. I have not lost any confidence, I’m not hesitating in taking my shots. I feel very comfortable and like I’m starting to get back to my normal self.”
To Green’s point, he did shoot a personal bubble-high of 60% from three (3-5) in the Lakers’ win against the Denver Nuggets, but he’s otherwise been ice cold, going 4-23 (17.3%) from distance in the other games he’s suited up for in Orlando.
Making matters potentially more distressing is that it’s not like Green isn’t getting open looks. Quite the opposite, as the majority of his threes in the bubble (14) have actually been classified by NBA.com as “wide-open,” meaning the nearest defender was more than six feet away. Green has made just two of them.
That’s obviously an exceedingly small sample size, but it’s a continuation of a season-long trend for Green, who has taken more wide-open threes this year (137) than any other type, and has shot just 35.8% on such looks. Weirdly, his success has gone up the more tightly covered he is, as he’s shooting 37.2% with his defender within 4-6 feet, and 38.8% when his defender is 2-4 feet away.
I asked Lakers head coach Frank Vogel if he had any idea what might going on with those numbers, or if he had seen anything like it before, and he had a theory on the reason behind what on its face might appear to just be statistical wonkiness.
“Sometimes a shooter will slow down his rhythm when they’re wide open. rather than just catching it in rhythm and shooting the shot when somebody is running at you. I have seen him do that once or twice,” Vogel said. “I don’t think that’s the total reason for any discrepancy, but all shooters — not just Danny — could have a tendency to do that, and I just think it’s important in those situations to shoot it in rhythm.”
But whatever the reason for it, Green’s shooting isn’t the only thing he’s working on as the Lakers get ready to start the playoffs on Thursday.
“My biggest focus is defense more than anything. Trying to stop those guys, whoever it is that we end up playing, is going to be a tough task defensively. We have to get out and run, that’s our best offense for us, and we’ll get some easy shots,” Green said.
What he’s not doing, though — at least according to him — is getting in his own head or beating himself up about the futility of his jumper right now. Both he and the Lakers have constantly reiterated that they are confident their shooting will regress upwards to the mean.
“I’m not worried about it too much, the odds are in my favor,” Green said. “I think the numbers will turn for us in general as a team, because the team hasn’t shot great, but I think we’re starting to find that rhythm. We’re starting to make that extra pass and trust each other better.”
The Lakers will just have to hope the results of those efforts start to show up when the playoffs start on Tuesday, no matter who they’re playing.