8.09.2016

Gerald Green Awaits Next Opportunity

3/25/16

It's the same scene every night. As Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside and his other teammates finish answering postgame questions and the bright lights of the TV cameras flip off, Gerald Green bounds into the locker room dressed in sweat-drenched practice gear.

It's another game in which he didn't play, or barely played, and that's been a difficult reality to absorb after being one of the Heat's key bench players the first four months of the season. His minutes have plummeted since the team signed Joe Johnson at the end of February. Greentypically heads upstairs to the practice court immediately after the final buzzer to get a game-like workout. 

None of his teammates are up there. While they're trying to get out the door, Green's working like crazy with a team staffer to get back in the action. He sprints the length of the floor and spots up for a jumper, then does it again and again. He runs pick-and-rolls at full speed, posts up against ghost defenders, pelts the net with 3-pointers -- all of it just in case.

"I just try to stay in shape and continue to do the things I'm supposed to do," he said. "I'm going to be ready. I stay dialed in to film sessions. I still go through game days and shootarounds like I'm going to play. I have to take the same steps as before.

"Hopefully my time comes, but if not, I'm still going to be a professional and cheer my team on and try to lead by example. I'm still going to go hard in practice and do the things I can control. And when I'm not playing, I'm going to enjoy somebody else's success."

While the odds are against Green reasserting himself in the rotation, especially with Johnson lighting it up since the day he arrived, he's likely to be relevant down the stretch as the Heat fight for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. That chase continues in today's home game against Orlando (8 p.m., Fox Sports  Click for Enhanced Coverage Linking SearchesSun).

Any injury to one of the wing players could mean more playing time, and Green probably is coach Erik Spoelstra's first choice to start if Wade misses time over the next three weeks.

Green was a decent bench contributor before things unraveled last month. In his first 43 games, he averaged 10.5 points on 40.4 percent shooting, including 32.8 percent on 3-pointers, while showing modest improvement defensively. He nosedived with the worst imaginable timing, though, as his shooting accuracy dropped to 28 percent over the three weeks leading up to Johnson's signing.

In 13 games since, Spoelstra kept Green on the side five times and gave him 10 minutes or less four times. His most extended work came when Wade sat against Toronto and in two lopsided games, including Wednesday's 112-88 loss to the Spurs.

"It's tough," Green said. "It is. But at the end of the day, I came here to win."

At the end of a victory over Denver two weeks ago, Spoelstra called Green to him and pointed at former Heat sharpshooter Mike Miller and told him a story about the 2012-13 season. Miller was in the same spot, glued to his chair at one point for 19 of 29 games late in the year, before coming up big to help Miami win the NBA Finals.

Green clings to that idea, and teammates see his dedication. If the Heat need him in a significant role again, they are confident because of how he's stayed engaged.

"There's moments you see a guy who's down, but he's picked himself back up," Wade said. "He's gotten back into it. He's done everything he can to make sure he'll be ready."

From Green's perspective, he came into this season intent on changing his reputation after a decade of questions about whether he'd ever become more than an erratic scorer. He made some headway on that, even after a bizarre off-court incident that cost him six games in November, and believes he has preserved his career.

He's still loaded with athleticism at 30 and was a 38 percent 3-point shooter for two seasons in Phoenix before signing with the Heat last summer on a minimum contract. He viewed that as a one-year audition that could ultimately land him long-term stability in Miami, and the work he's doing now might help him get that.

"Hell, yeah, I want to be here," Green said. "I love it here. That's never changed with me. I still see myself here. I hope the organization does."

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