San Antonio is where Danny Green went to become an NBA star, and if all goes to plan, he intends on staying with the Spurs.
Green said Tuesday before the Spurs’ match against the Miami Heat that he hopes to remain in San Antonio following this season, the final year with his three-year, $11.28 million contract.
But the former Tar Heel acknowledged there’s plenty of uncertainty with these Spurs, the reigning NBA champions. Along with Green, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Kawhi Leonard are not under contract for the 2015-2016 season.
“This year, for everybody, we want to make the best of it,” Green told the Observer. “We don’t know what it’s going to be next year. We’ve played every year like that regardless. We thought last year was the last year, and then the last year. But after this year, there are so many free agents and guys are older, we don’t know what’s going to happen.
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“We’re going to try to make the best of it, as much as possible. With me, I’m trying to win a championship with this group because I still believe we can do it and let the future and the summer take care of itself.
“I’m just trying to play my best basketball. I’d definitely love to be here and stay here, but we’ll see what happens after the season.”
A key player on North Carolina’s 2009 national championship team, Green has been a model for consistency for the Spurs, an organization that’s also one of the most consistent in recent NBA history. He’s improved nearly every area of his game from the previous year, getting more points (12.1 per game), rebounds (4.5), assists (1.9), steals (1.36) and blocks (1.13) this season than last year.
“He’s not just a spot-up shooter, he’s a basketball player. He’s a throwback,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Tuesday night. “He does a lot of things that he’s underrated for. He has some of the best hands defensively in this game. He can guard multiple positions, he rebounds well. And then as a shooter, he’s an elite spacer, but he knows how to move into open spots.
“The ball will find energy — we say all the time — and the ball finds him for a reason. He’s not just standing, waiting for the ball to come to him. He’s moving to open areas. He’s in a great rhythm right now.’
Meanwhile, the Spurs have found their rhythm after a season full of injuries. San Antonio has rattled off 13 wins in its past 16 games prior to the meeting in Miami and sits comfortably with the sixth seed in the Western Conference.
Still, the sixth seed is far away from the top seed Green and the Spurs had last season when they beat the Heat in five games to capture the franchise’s fifth NBA title and Green’s first as a professional.
In 2013, Green met the Heat in the Finals and lost in seven games. The Spurs led by five points with less than a minute in Game 6, and a win would have clinched the championship and possibly the Finals MVP for Green.
But the Heat rallied at home and won in overtime. Miami followed up with a Game 7 victory to clinch LeBron James’ second title.
Green still feels emotions coming back to AmericanAirlines Arena.
“It’s different than coming back here in the past. Coming here last year, it wasn’t the greatest feeling. Now it’s not so bad,” Green said. “Before I hated, well not hated, but it was a weird feeling coming back to this arena after losing a tough Game 6. But now it’s not so bad. There are a lot of memories, some good memories. But it’s an arena we’re not new to.”
But if this season is it for the Duncan-led Spurs, is it the end of Green’s time in San Antonio? Green has played himself into a deal that will earn him more than his $4 million per year now, and with the NBA’s new TV deal before the 2016-17 season set to increase the salary cap from $63 million this year to close to $90 million, Green could opt for a short-term deal.
But that’s not what he wants—at least in San Antonio.
“I want a long-term. I’m not looking for one or two. One or two is not ideal for me,” Green said. “Obviously there’s the TV thing, and I feel like most guys are going to negotiate with that coming in. I want to be here long term. If I’m elsewhere, then it depends where it’s at. Then I might think about short-term and a one- or two-year deal.
“It depends on what happens this summer — who we lose, who comes back. And that changes everybody’s decision. But for the most part I want to be here and in this organization.”
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9