Q+A: Gerald Green
The Nets swingman tells SLAMonline about his journey back to the NBA.
by Tracy Weissenberg / @basketballista
For some NBA players, the goal to play pro seems inevitable; for others, it’s a maze of opportunities that inevitably become disappointments. For Gerald Green, it was some of both.
Drafted 18th overall in 2005, Green spent four seasons with four different teams before spending the last two seasons out of the NBA. After stints overseas and playing part of this season in the NBA D-League, the Nets called up Green and, after he played well while signed to a pair of 10-day contracts, signed him for the rest of the season. It is a taste of security that had become so fleeting.
Although Green says he would redo some things if he could, he paints the past as lessons learned, giving him a chance to move forward, but not away from his experiences. And while he may have reached his dream early, he now meets the challenge of holding onto it. So far, he has not only leapt back into the spotlight, but toward longevity.
SLAM: How did you feel after hearing you were signed for the season by the Nets?
Gerald Green: I mean, it felt good. I’ve been out of the NBA so just being able to have another opportunity to play in this league again is always a blessing.
SLAM: Once you’re out of the NBA, does it seem daunting to get back in?
GG: It’s tough, because they say that. The hardest thing in this league is to stay in. Not getting in, staying in—that’s the hardest part because you always got players coming in every year who’s very talented. They’re young, and they have a lot of potential and they have a lot of upside in their career and their game. A lot of times, organizations will make those Draft picks because of the future and potential that those young guys have. It’s tough for older guys getting to the league, and then they get out the league, and try to get back into it. It’s tough.
SLAM: Is that security something players take for granted in the beginning of their careers?
GG: Yeah, they do. I think for me, I grew up a lot and I learned a lot of things later on in my career that I thought I should have learned early on in my career. I wish I could turn back the hands of time but that’s why God has blessed me with a second chance and I know how to do things right this time around.
SLAM: What would you have done differently?
GG: I think I would’ve just been more of a student of the game than I was—like that I am now. I think defensively I’m a lot better. I think I’m a better player offensively too, because I think I use my brain more instead of just trying to use my athleticism. I think I’m a lot smarter than I was when I came into the league.
SLAM: Do you think you entered the NBA too young?
GG: No, not at all. I think it was a good age. Coming out of high school, developing, this is the best league. It’s always the best. Of course, you go to college, you could experience that, cool. But there’s no way of getting the development of [the NBA]. Even college players coming to the League, they have a hard time because it’s a big adjustment. This is a big league and it’s the best [leagues] in the world. I think that me coming out of high school, I’ll always stand with that decision. I just felt like I didn’t do things right once I got there.
SLAM: Do you think that people sometimes don’t realize the importance of being drafted into the right system and being in the right situation?
GG: Oh, well that’s key. You can go all the way from the Jeremy Lin situation. Think about what he’s doing now. He’s all of a sudden just getting an opportunity to play on the Knicks and look at it. Sometimes it’s not about where you get drafted—that does count, but it’s about too the opportunity that you get. Sometimes you might be playing behind some players that are really talented. You might not get your chance there, you might have to get your chance somewhere else. It’s all about just trying to grind the days out, try to get better every day, and hopefully one day, stay patient, and you’ll get your opportunity.
SLAM: What were the experiences overseas and in the D-League like? How much of a sacrifice was it to continue playing basketball?
GG: It’s definitely a sacrifice, especially in the D-League. I mean you get nothing in the D-League. As far as basketball-wise, that’s the only thing that is good about the D-League. You cannot do anything to help yourself out or your family out financially with the D-League. There’s no way. The only thing you can do in the D-League, it’s good because you’re able to showcase your talent to a lot of teams and have another opportunity. Hopefully your talent that you’re showing can open up some different opportunities for you that are better than the D-League. That’s what’s so good about the D-League. Overseas, sometimes you can have a nice job and they’ll pay some money but you’re just not happy because you’re gonna be in a city that doesn’t speak [your] language and this, this and this. But at the end of the day, it’s still basketball. It’s still one of the best jobs in the world to have. It’s just not the NBA, but it’s still a good job. It’s still a really good job to have.
SLAM: Did you have some good experiences overseas?
GG: I’ve had some good experiences, I’ve had some bad ones too. I’ve had some bad ones, but I’ve had some good ones. I think it equals it out. I think that those experiences that I went through taught me a lot as a man. It taught me how to handle things differently, how to handle things accordingly. It just taught me the nature of this business too.
SLAM: What were some memorable experiences you had overseas?
GG: We went to the playoffs every year in Russia. In China, we didn’t really go too far in the playoffs, but just the whole getting ready, getting prepared, stuff like that—that’s pretty cool.
SLAM: What was the hardest aspect of playing overseas?
GG: Just by me not being able to see my family and stuff like that, it’s tough playing overseas for such a period of long time. You don’t get to see your family, or your friends, or close relatives. It’s tough to be in a whole different country when you can’t speak the language and the food’s a little different. It’s a little difficult. At the end of the day man, we have the best job in the world playing basketball.
SLAM: What was your main focus in the D-League this season?
GG: My focus was just to try to stay into it, because the D-League is different from a lot of leagues. You’re not traveling the best or financially, you can’t really make a living by doing this but you still go up against a lot of good talent in the D-League. You get an opportunity to showcase yourself throughout the whole world, especially they have the new Futurecast now that anybody can just see any D-League games around the world. So, it’s a great opportunity. I had a great opportunity in L.A., and [with the] Los Angeles D-Fenders. I had a great opportunity. They gave me a chance to play, and they got to show me what I could do, and thank God I’m here.
SLAM: Did you have fun in the D-League All-Star game? You were named MVP.
GG: Yeah, I did have fun. Just being in the All-Star environment is always a good time. I seen a lot of old friends I ain’t seen since I was in the All-Star game when I was in the NBA in New Orleans for the Slam Dunk Contest. It was good to see some old friends. It was really good; I had a great time.
SLAM: Speaking of the dunk contest, you’re known for dunking, but is that kind of a double-edged sword because you want to be known as a complete basketball player? You don’t necessarily only want to be known as a dunker.
GG: I mean, of course I won the dunk contest, I’ve done a few dunks, a lot of people know me for my dunking. I don’t have a problem with that. It’s not really a double-edged sword, because I’m still able to do the things I need to do. It just motivates me to work on [more] aspects of the game so I can get better as a player…I still have a lot to work on, I still want to add some more things to my game.
SLAM: Do you think this is the start of a new chapter for you? Do you see this as the start of longevity and kind of a new career?
GG: I don’t want to say it’s a new career, because everything that I did in the past, I don’t want to just say that’s over with. I kind of want this to tag along. Even me being overseas, I think that was huge for me because that was a part of my development and me growing up as a person on and off the court. I think now, I think I’m just so much more mature, and I know the business of the game. It’s just a lot more easy for me to focus, easy for me to tie in to what we’re doing as a team, and just to do the little things on the court that makes teams win.
SLAM: How do you want to be remembered as a basketball player?
GG: I just want people to notice I play hard. I just want people to enjoy me as a player like I enjoyed players that I grew up watching. I enjoyed watching players like Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, those guys play, because it was so exciting. I just want the same thing when I retire. I want players to be like, Hey man, when I see Gerald Green, it was fun to watch him. He was a winner, he competed hard. I want to be this type of guy. Hopefully, I don’t want to be talking about retiring any time soon, but when that day does come, that’s what I do want people to think of me.
SLAM: A veteran in the League once told me you have to be “married to the game.” You’ve been in the League, out of the League, overseas. Does that resonate more, how focused you have to be about basketball?
GG: You know what, it does. Sometimes, man, everybody doesn’t get the opportunity to play in the NBA. So when you get your opportunity, you got to cherish it. I got not one, but two chances to play in the best league in the world. So, I feel like I’m the luckiest person on earth right now. Just by me being able to be here, and being able to play basketball again, I’m gonna cherish this moment and I’ma just do whatever I can to hopefully stick.