February 4, 2015
Gerald Green's recent absence from a game and reduction in playing time can't go unnoticed.
For Green, it is a blemish on his season.
"It's like having a pimple," Green said. "Hey, you've got it for a couple days. Hopefully, it's going to pop and you can get back to normal.
"In between, it's gross as hell. It hurts. It's like, 'Damn, I don't feel like doing nothing.' You're just all mentally messed up over it. As soon as it's gone, you're back to normal."
Green had never sat out a game in two Suns seasons until Friday, when Suns coach Jeff Hornacek did not want to veer from how other players were defending Bulls leading scorer Jimmy Butler. Until the Suns' past four games, Green was averaging 21.6 minutes this season. He has played 32 minutes, total, since then, logging 31/2 minutes Monday night in a 102-101 loss to Memphis.
Green's play Monday was affected by straining his left calf on his first play, when he drove and threw a pass away. He said he took a foul on the ensuing trip against Memphis' Jeff Green because his calf was hurting, not meaning to strike him in the face for a flagrant foul.
Green's results did not improve. He had his back turned when he could have helped on a Marc Gasol reverse layup. He was beaten backdoor for a Tony Allen alleyoop. With Markieff Morris posting up guard Nick Calathes, Green's entry pass attempt sailed out of bounds. Once Calathes beat Green on a dribble-drive layup, Hornacek gave him a quick hook and did not bring him back in the second half.
"It's tough," Green said. "I ain't going to lie. It's hard. Man, it's hard. I've just got to just figure it out. At the end of the day, I'm a professional. I've got to continue to work hard. I've got to continue to motivate my teammates. When I got my time to play, I'll be ready. But it's hard as hell. I ain't going to lie. It's hard to deal with. It's easy when we win. When we lose, it's a lot tougher."
The Suns have lost four of their past six games during this stretch of eight consecutive opponents with better records. The Suns (28-22) remain in eighth place but are tied with ninth-place New Orleans (26-22) in the loss column.
Green's shooting has dropped off from last season, when he started 48 games due to Eric Bledsoe's and Goran Dragic's injuries. He is shooting 41.6 percent, including 37.3 percent on 3-pointers, but is still capable of catching fire like few players can.
The main issue with Green is defense. It never has been stellar, but his mistakes have become more pronounced. Defensive plus-minus ratio, an espn.com statistic, estimates a player's on-court impact on the team defensive performance. Green has the second-worst rating among 468 players. Only Minnesota rookie Zach LaVine trails him. Green ranked 301st last season.
"If he could just be solid defensively, that'll help out," Hornacek said. "We've had these tougher games where you've got your main guys in Goran and Eric that need to be out there and Isaiah's played well so it comes up to a minute thing.
"I think he'll be fine. He's going through a tough stretch. He's a big part of what we need to do. He'll get back there and play well for us."
Green has been more foul- and turnover-prone than last season, when he went against starting opponents more.
Highly emotional, Green can be obvious with his displeasure when he is removed from games. With this recent situation, Green has gone the other way and been positive and encouraging, even when he was benched for the entire game in a victory over Chicago.
As the team's second oldest player at 29, Green said he is cognizant of the example he is setting for younger players. To earn back time, he said he will "make more winning basketball plays and more Gerald Green plays."
"I feel like everybody makes mistakes defensively," Green said. "I am one of the guys who make mistakes but I don't feel like I'm the worst defender on the team. I just feel like Coach just sees different matchups that he wants to go with. Whatever decision that he makes since Day 1, I'm going to always ride with him. I'm never going to question him. The reason I'm successful is because Coach got me here this far. He's allowed me to play my game ever since I've been here."