When the Lakers assembled their roster in the offseason, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that Danny Green would be the team’s third-best player behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He was coming off winning his second NBA title in 2019, and had just had the best shooting season of his career. A 3-and-D veteran like Green would thrive next to the superstars, as he has throughout his career.
Instead, that third-best moniker has moved up and down the Lakers roster. Dwight Howard held the mantle for a moment, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope briefly claimed it with a hot shooting spell, and Kyle Kuzma re-entered the conversation in the bubble.
Green hasn’t exactly seized the crown. He didn’t play as well this season as he did with the Raptors, and though it’s tricky to compare the overall arc of this season with any other, Green posited a theory on the latest episode of his podcast, “Inside the Green Room”.
The 33-year-old guard said that he plays better when he’s mad, something that his high school coach and Gregg Popovich would use to great effect, but Frank Vogel doesn’t like to be mean:
“I like Frank, but Frank is just too nice sometimes. I’m not saying I wish he would be more hard on me, but there’s times where he could be honest a little bit more, or give me more of a task, more of a challenge so that I could step up to the challenge. But I think he tries to — especially in regular season games — tries to save me some, tries to see how my body is. But I’m like ‘nah, I’m gonna be okay man, don’t worry about it, I can handle this, I can get this done. I’ll step up to the challenge. Just challenge me sometimes. It’s okay to do that.’
“But he’s a great coach, and I have great teammates who are encouraging. But Bron, Bron will challenge you. And some of our guys will challenge us, and we need that. Just to have that edge, that little bit of fight in us. Especially for the next round coming up. It’s only going to get harder each round. But I have full faith in us. I think we can get four wins in the next round, whoever comes out of it. It will be a test, but I think we’re capable of being the last team standing.”
The first-year Laker averaged 24.8 minutes per game this season, his lowest total since 2013-14 and fifth on the team behind James, Davis, Caldwell-Pope, and Kuzma. At times, it has felt like Vogel has been selectively resting him to load manage him for the postseason, especially since Green had an extended playoff run last year.
Green has a history of coming up big in important moments — he hasn’t been in three NBA Finals and won two by accident — so it stands to reason that he can show more than he has thus far in a Laker uniform. His minutes went up to 26.8 per game in the first round, and the Lakers will likely need him even more against whoever they face in the next series.
If anything, this admission is a gift to Vogel. Coaches dream of players who want to be coached harder and who want to assume a bigger burden. Green is ready to lift up his level of play as the postseason continues, and he’ll take on whatever challenge the team gives him.