The Kenner Summer League features 12 teams that include some of the best college players in Washington, D.C. and Maryland, as well as NBA players. Last year, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche, and Roy Hibbert participated in games at McDonough Arena.
This past Saturday, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Jeff Green made an appearance with The Tombs. Green played alongside Georgetown’s leading returning scorer Austin Freeman and incoming Hoya freshmen, Markel Starks, Nate Lubick, and Moses Abraham. Green displayed his collegiate 3-point shooting ability by knocking down numerous 3s, including one at the buzzer for a 72-61 Tombs victory.
For Green, these games are tools for conditioning rather than showcasing a new skill or dominating amateurs. Still, Green highlighted his ability to play in control, hit open shots, spread the floor, alter shots on defense, and play a team game.
His deficiencies were also apparent. With about two minutes left in the game and his team only up a handful of points, Green attempted to drive past his man from the top of the key. He turned it over instead and committed a foul on defense in frustration.
But who could blame him? In the NBA, Green plays on a team with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. Thus, the opportunity to create his own shot is rare.
In addition, Green played the power forward position for the Thunder rather than his natural small forward position. He has guarded every position on the floor, from point guard to center. In one playoff game against the Los Angeles Lakers this past year, Green had to guard Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant, and Derek Fisher.
If teams truly want to utilize Green’s effectiveness, he needs to be allowed to focus on only guarding a shooting guard or a wing player, much like how teams use Trevor Ariza, Ron Artest, and James Posey.
The Thunder are indeed considering moving Green to the wing position. Oklahoma City drafted 6’11” Cole Aldrich and 7’1” Tibor Pleiss for size in the 2010 NBA Draft in addition to drafting 7’0” B.J. Mullens in 2009.
Although Green will be more comfortable as a swingman next year, he is uncomfortable about his future. Durant recently signed a 5-year, $85 million extension and ESPN’s Chad Ford predicts that Westbrook could receive a similar max extension next summer. Ford believes Green’s restricted free agent status next year could mean that the Thunder will not want or be able to give Green a max offer anytime soon.
Will Green leave for a bigger role somewhere else like Trevor Ariza did? Is he tired of playing in Kevin Durant’s shadow? Will he take less money to stay with the Thunder? These are all questions he is sifting through.
But for one afternoon, he didn’t have to worry about his contract, which of the five players on the floor he may end up guarding, or being in someone else’s shadow. For one afternoon, Jeff Green just balled.
Yoshito Tsuji has been an avid sports fan his entire life. His ultimate dream is to become an NBA GM one day.