Commentary

Green out to change his rep with Dallas

Originally Published: July 20, 2008
By Tim Buckley | Special to ESPN.com

Gerald GreenMelissa Majchrzak/Getty ImagesFormer dunk contest champion Gerald Green is out to prove that he is more than a high flier.

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah -- A staff worker walked through the hallway carrying a tray full of fresh plastic-wrapped sandwiches, and Gerald Green swooped in for the steal.

With one clean swipe, he had cold cuts in hand.

The Dallas Mavericks youngster readily offered to pay but was given a friendly free pass.

How fitting for someone urgently trying to prove he has much more game than mere high-flying flash.

"Everybody thinks I'm just a dunker,'' Green said at Salt Lake Community College, where he has been the Mavs' leading scorer in each of their first two Rocky Mountain Revue NBA summer-league games. He scored 15 points in a reserve-role showing in Dallas' 79-62 win Saturday over the Beijing-bound Iranian Olympic team, a game in which he soared for one especially impressive slam. Against Atlanta on Friday, he had a 20-point effort off the bench.

"So, I honestly try not to do a lot of dunking. Really. That's not my game. I'm not no dunker,'' Green said, desperately trying to sell his point. "I think I work on other things besides that, and I'm just being able to show people and show the Mavs organization that I'm more than just that.''

The verdict on whether the Mavs will buy long-term is still out, though they did sign the unrestricted free agent to a one-year contract earlier this month.

"He still has to work on his shot selection; he still has to work on body language out there. But he's been a great student, putting in the work. Wants to get better, wants to be good,'' said Mario Elie, the longtime NBA swingman now working as a Mavericks assistant and Dallas summer coach under new head coach Rick Carlisle. "And I think under Rick's system he can play -- especially with the ball movement, the way we like to play.

"He shows flashes of just amazing leaping ability,'' Elie added. He thinks Green can become a rotation regular in Dallas. "But I'm always working on him, [saying], 'You've got to be a better defender, you've got to be a better driver.' Ain't no reason that guy shouldn't go to the free-throw line eight times a game, with his athleticism and quickness.''

I'll tell you what: One thing my job is is to make sure everybody pays for passing on me or for letting me go. That's just my job in my heart.

--Gerald Green

When we last saw Green -- save for a few days he spent with his hometown Houston Rockets before being unceremoniously released in early March -- Green was busy blowing out a candle on a cupcake.

The amazing trick came just before he dunked, a signature entry during the jam contest won by Dwight Howard at this year's NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans.

Before that, Green won the 2005 McDonald's All-American and 2007 NBA dunk contests.

Those (and a 33-point game against Atlanta in 2007) have been the highlights for someone selected No. 18 overall by the Boston Celtics in '05 straight out of Houston's Gulf Shores Academy.

He played sparingly as a rookie in Boston, much less than he thought he was ready for -- even as a teen.

Green did play 81 games for the Celtics during their miserable 2006-07 season, but Boston cut ties with its first-round pick after just two years -- shipping him to Minnesota as part of the summer deal that brought the Celtics Kevin Garnett and, eventually, an NBA title.

The trade kicked off a trend of short stays that continued with the Timberwolves and Rockets last season.

"That just gives me more motivation,'' Green said. He averaged 13.3 points during four games for Dallas in this month's NBA Summer League at Las Vegas. "When teams give up on me, it makes me better. The Dallas Mavericks sure like me. This is the team that I chose. But I'll tell you what: One thing my job is is to make sure everybody pays for passing on me or for letting me go. That's just my job in my heart.

"Most definitely, right now I'm playing with a chip on my shoulder,'' he added. "You know, I've been cut. I've been traded. I've been on a team where I think I should have played. And it just goes on.''

The questions about Green, according to one front-office type at the Revue, revolve around whether he has the mental wherewithal to play systematic basketball.

Elie tries to tell Green what it will take for him to shed that rap and for the merry-go-round to finally slow. "Gerald has to realize it's not always offense,'' he said. "I think he can be a great defender, and I think that's gonna be our challenge.

"I think a lot of it has to do with maturity. A guy coming out of high school, high expectation, slam-dunk champ. He really had a lot of pressure on him. But now when you go through things like [he has] it sort of humbles you a little bit. I think Gerald has to really get his swagger back, and he's got to prove to the people in the NBA that he's a legitimate NBA player.

"I think he's maturing a lot more. He's eager to prove people wrong,'' Elie added. "I keep telling him, 'You're 22. You can't put it all together in one year. You've got to concentrate on getting better on two or three things each year, and when you finally put that package together, I think it can be scary.'''

Who's hot

Guard Devin Green -- who played 27 games for the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2005-06 NBA season but spent last season in Italy after getting waived in October by the Miami Heat -- had a team-high 19 points and shot 5-of-9 from the field as the San Antonio Spurs beat a collection of D-League players 68-65 in the Revue's middle game Saturday.

Who's not

The Jazz dropped their second straight Revue game Saturday, falling 72-63 to Atlanta in the nightcap. First-round rookie Kosta Koufos had a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double but hit just 3-of-11 from the field in 22 minutes.

Notes

A hundred or so members of Utah's Iranian community and their supporters chanted, waved flags and made their presence felt during Saturday's Revue game against the Mavs. Some even had their faces painted in support of Iran's national team, which will cap a week's worth of pre-Olympic training in America with Monday night's Revue game against the Jazz.

The Iranians pushed the pace but couldn't keep up with Dallas' summer-leaguers -- and they threw up their arms in frustration when the Mavs were awarded a free throw on an NBA defensive 3-second technical-foul call that they and their Serbian coach, Rajko Toroman, seemingly did not understand.

Iran was without its injured usual starting point guard and without ill 7-foot-5 center Jaber Rouzbahani -- who made himself eligible for, but was not selected in, the 2004 NBA draft.

It's uncertain whether Rouzbahani, who apparently is battling a cold, will play Monday.

Iran's appearance at the Summer Games in China next month will mark the country's first Olympic men's basketball competition since 1948.

• Veteran point guard Speedy Claxton of Atlanta, trying to bounce back from knee surgery that cost him all of last season, is playing in the Revue. He successfully made it through the Hawks' two-a-day practices and has averaged 16 minutes off the bench in two Revue games. He's shot only 2-for-9 in those two outings but hasn't had any problems with the knee, Hawks summer coach Larry Drew said after Saturday's game.

• American-born Koufos could learn sometime this week whether he'll be added to the national-team roster of Greece, which qualified Saturday for the Olympics. Koufos skipped the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens to play in the Revue.

• Jazz 2008 second-round draft choice Ante Tomic may be added this week to the roster of his native Croatia, which also qualified Saturday for the Olympics, even though the 7-foot-1 center didn't play for Croatia's entry in the FIBA Qualifying Tournament. Tomic is not at the Revue, and Utah has no plans to bring him to the NBA next season.

• The Utah Flash -- the NBA Development League affiliate of both the Jazz and the Celtics -- are expected to announce Monday that they will host the fifth annual NBA D-League Showcase at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah. The four-day January event in offers exposure for D-League players and coaches to NBA scouts and general managers.

Tim Buckley covers the Utah Jazz for the Deseret News.