December 7, 2015
MIAMI -- That balky pain in Luol Deng's left hamstring that just won't go away? It has made Gerald Green stronger.
No, this never was part of any plan, this emergency insertion of Green into the Miami Heat's starting lineup five games ago, with Deng sitting out with a strained left hamstring. But after missing two weeks himself, the extra opportunity has Gerald Green again feeling like Gerald Green.
And looking like Gerald Green -- especially to Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov, with Green soaring above both for the game's most dramatic moment in Saturday's 99-84 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Green's dunk was practically an exclamation point of his revival from the six games he missed in November under still-sketchy circumstances. In his five starts in place of Deng, Green has scored in double figures three times, including his 12 points Saturday.
"I don't want to see a teammate out," Green said as the Heat turned their attention to tonight's game against the Washington Wizards at AmericanAirlines Arena, the final game of this four-game homestand. "I'm ready for Lu to come back, because I know we're going to be that much of a better team.
"But I'm just taking this time to just kind of get my game back, get my feet back under me, get confidence in my defense and just go out there and just try to help the first unit win."
While Green largely is viewed as an energy player, he said he also is a rhythm player. And this steady stream of minutes with the team's best players has helped him ease back into that rhythm.
"Just being able to get out there, really get my rhythm right," he said. "My shots are still not falling. But I think that's going to come. I'm starting to feel very confident, feel like every shot I take is good.
"I feel like I definitely getting my legs really under me."
The explosiveness no longer is in question. It's back, with highlights again being delivered on a nightly basis, further energizing the home crowds.
"Some nights you're going to have a lot of energy, some nights you're not," he said. "The great ones find energy from nothing. I'm just trying to be consistent with my energy, be consistent with my defense on that end, and just try to knock down open shots."
Those are the elements the Heat sought when the veteran swingman was added as a free agent in the offseason. After a solid preseason, the results were uneven at the start of the season. Then came the disturbance at his Miami condo building, his four-game illness absence and two-game team suspension.
But now, it's as if Green has arrived as advertised.
"He just gives us an activity, the athleticism, obviously," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "His effort level has been great. And he's been committed to learning our system.
"It takes time, but the commitment is the most important thing, his approach to trying to become a complete basketball player. That can impact winning on both ends of the court."
Deng could be back as soon as tonight. That means a move back to the second unit is imminent. And that's fine, too. Green said now that his rhythm is back, any role will be easier.
"Most of my career, I've always kind of been off the bench, so, for me, it's not about if I start or not," he said. "For me, it's at this point, when I do play, give it as hard as I've got, the next-man-up mentality, play great on the other end and just knock down open shots."
And whether those wakeup calls come early or later in games, it is clear that Green again is playing in his rarified air.
"I'm a wild guy, anyway," he said of a celebration of Saturday's dunk that was almost as enthusiastic as the dunk itself. "It's just one of those thing where I got caught up in the moment. I just wanted to attack the basket. Obviously I haven't been shooting the ball as well as I want to, so I just try to take it to the basket and be aggressive and try to make a play."