BOSTON — Danny Green remains relatively early in his recovery, returning only nine months removed in February from an ACL tear he suffered on the final day of the 76ers’ season last May.
Philadelphia traded him for De’Anthony Melton and Green landed in Memphis, where he spent almost the entirety of his time rehabbing, playing three short stints last month before the Grizzlies traded him in a larger deal for Luke Kennard. The deal sent Green to the Rockets, who bought him out after initially hoping he’d stay.
“I was looking to see the right fit, a team where I thought there might’ve been a need for me,” Green told CLNS Media on Wednesday, explaining his mindset in free agency. “Most teams have their rotations, most teams are set with how they’re doing things and it was going to be hard … someone else could come right in and fit, it was going to be different for me coming off injury, but also the team that was most interested.”
That team became the Cavaliers as they searched for wing depth and a veteran presence, Green sporting two championship rings many buyout candidates choose to pursue as their career concludes. Green’s choice involved recovering, breaking back into the league and finding a destination that could commit to him longer-term. He zeroed in on Cleveland, the Celtics and his former Lakers initially before joining the Cavs, who he played 10 points across three games with, not appearing in their latest loss at Boston.
The Celtics — who remain without a 15th player on their roster after the Noah Vonleh trade earlier this season — kept that position open beyond the Mar. 1 deadline for players bought out and remain eligible join a playoff roster. Green emerged as an option in mid-February, according to multiple reports, but told CLNS after Wednesday’s loss that the Celtics lacked interest in pursuing a longer conversation about a role, so he moved on.
“We didn’t have a conversation,” he said. “There was some interest, but then I think they were not ready to make any moves, so there was no conversation up until that point. There was some interest, but not a lot of interest.”
Green, a champion in 2019 with the Raptors and during the 2020 Lakers Bubble run, would’ve likely intrigued former Celtics head coach Ime Udoka, a former teammate and eventual San Antonio coach who lost out the battle for a final roster spot against Green in 2011, ending his NBA career. Derrick White and Green shared a season in San Antonio, Green’s last, but the connections ended there. Cleveland provided a full circle moment as the team that drafted him in 2009 with the No. 46 overall pick.
Brad Stevens acknowledged the Celtics would not rush to fill their final roster spot after the trade deadline, placing a priority on not pulling minutes away from players already on the roster. The Mike Muscala addition, however, created a recent battle in certain minutes between him, Grant Williams and Sam Hauser. Declining to pursue a wing maintained a lane for Hauser to reemerge in recent weeks, but Green could’ve balanced rehab and recovery while helping Boston rest starters, similar to how Blake Griffin did through the early portion of the season.
“I would say very good team, they present challenges for every team, contender,” Green said. “They went to the Finals last year, they’re the team to beat in the east. There are challenges all over the floor, especially for a young team like us. We just have to find our way to find ourselves and our maturity, and get some experience, even though we have no playoff experience, but as much as we can, playoff reps in these regular season games to finish up the season.”
Other buyout candidates largely signed new contracts at this point, including Will Barton with Toronto, Terrence Ross with Orlando, Russell Westbrook returned to LA and Patrick Beverley signed with the Bulls. Plenty of veterans remain, including Goran Dragic, Nerlens Noel and Stanley Johnson, with younger prospects also available to sign 10-day contracts.
Boston’s own players, including Denzel Valentine and Luka Šamanić, could do the same as their season wanes. It’s clear the Celtics don’t have minutes to offer veterans. Stevens looked to the G-League to fill out roster spots last year, signing Malik Fitts and Kelan Martin. Overseas seasons will also end in the coming months. As for Green, the acclimation process continues in Cleveland, where he’s fighting for a role alongside Isaac Okoro, Cedi Osman and Dean Wade at a legitimately important and thin wing position on the Cavs roster.
“I thought they needed a veteran, a person in the locker room and also some shooting, so that’s what led me to believe I’d be a good fit for them,” Green said. “(I’m) still figuring it out. It’s very early, still seeing where I fit, learning the ropes and seeing where it goes from there.”