Phoenix Suns: Appreciating Gerald Green

Mar 13, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Gerald Green (14) warms up prior to facing the Atlanta Hawks at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 13, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Gerald Green (14) warms up prior to facing the Atlanta Hawks at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

No one is shedding tears for Gerald Green right now.

Ever since the NBA Trade Deadline, the Phoenix Suns’ playoff chances have gone from narrow to anemic. The Suns sit three games outside of the Western Conference playoff picture, Brandon Knight and Alex Len are both out for the short-term with ankle injuries and the goal of the season has shifted from “playoffs” to “player development.”

Fans want to see Knight and Eric Bledsoe in the backcourt together. They’ve enjoyed watching Len hold down the starting center job when foul trouble and injuries haven’t kept him on the sidelines. They’ve been clamoring to see what youngsters Archie Goodwin and T.J. Warren can do in extended minutes.

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In the process, no one’s really minded the way that head coach Jeff Hornacek has steadily phased Gerald Green out of the rotation.

I’m not here to argue that Green deserves more minutes or that he could help the Suns reach the postseason. That ship has more than likely sailed and Green’s minutes were trending downward before the deadline shifted this season’s priorities. But through it all Green has been a perennial team player and consummate professional, and it’s high time somebody noticed it.

Back on Jan. 30, Green missed the first game of his tenure with the Suns, registering a curious “DNP – CD” against the Chicago Bulls. Hornacek downplayed it afterward, saying it was simply a matter of matchups. Green played 13 minutes in the following game.

But through the first two months of the season, Green was averaging around 22 minutes per contest. Since that game against the Bulls, Green’s minutes have plummeted to 15.5 per game. His production has dropped to 6.4 points per game on 35.8 percent shooting (and an abysmal 22.4 percent from downtown), and he’s registered four more “DNP – CD”s in that 19-game span.

Again, that might be for the best. As an unrestricted free agent this summer, the Suns are likely to use their cap space elsewhere unless they can re-sign Green to a super-cheap contract. But even if they were able to do so, the last few months have indicated that a separation may be mutually beneficial to both parties.

Last year, Green was a Most Improved Player of the Year candidate, averaging 15.8 points per game on 40 percent shooting from three-point range in the best season of his career. For someone who went from being a supernova heat check off the bench to an unused microwave sitting in the corner, it’d be easy for Green to have a bad attitude about the whole situation.

But instead of sulking on the sidelines about his poor play and the short leash that comes with it, Green has been nothing but supportive of his younger teammates that have soaked up his minutes:

Perhaps Green wants to stay with the Suns and is trying to show he’s a team player to build good faith back up with the Suns. Perhaps he knows his time in Phoenix is coming to an end and is choosing to take on a positive attitude about it all. Or perhaps he’s not even thinking about it and this is just who he is.

But either way, Green’s positive attitude — despite his dwindling role — is the exact kind of team-first mentality this young Suns team should strive to adopt as they continue to grow together.

Most likely, some other NBA team won’t read into the reasons behind Green being in Hornacek’s doghouse over the last few weeks, and Green will probably earn a decent contract elsewhere this summer.

But if he leaves this offseason, it’s worth mentioning that even in one and a half seasons with the Suns, Gerald Green became a fan favorite for his competitive fire, his high-flying dunks, his instant heat checks off the bench, and yes, even his terrible shot selection that left us shaking our heads at times.

(Admit it. You can hardly count the time Green caught the ball with his toe just outside the three-point line, launched a shot with his feet barely set, fading away, and you yelled from your living room couch, “No, no, no, NO, NO…YES!” Green is the king of those shots.)

Goran Dragic was the best player of the 2013-14 Suns and Eric Bledsoe was the most promising. But for that ragtag group of role players that came out of nowhere to win 48 games, with almost everyone having the best season of their careers, Gerald Green might have best represented those Suns of Anarchy.

The next few weeks may not be pretty, but at least Green and his fans will always have the highlight reel dunks, the supernova heat checks off the bench (like the time he dropped a career-high 41 points on the Oklahoma City Thunder) and the breakout 2013-14 season in general.

Unlike a lot of players who have become endearing fan favorites for the Suns, Green doesn’t deserve any animosity when his time in the Valley is done.

Despite being loved overall, Shawn Marion (contract dispute), Amar’e Stoudemire (opting out of his contract to become a free agent), Steve Nash (Lakers, BLECH) and Goran Dragic (basically demanding a trade) all drew considerable ire from the Phoenix fan base for the manner in which they left.

At the very least, we know that Gerald Green is going to be a complete professional about it all.

Next: Shorthanded Suns Must Avoid Trap Game Vs. Knicks

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