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Suns land ‘much improved’, ‘more mature’ player in Gerald Green

He has yet to put on the uniform, but already has a number-one fan in the Valley.

“He’s one of the all-time favorites that I’ve ever had,” ASU associate head coach Eric Musselman said of forward Gerald Green, whom the Suns acquired this summer as part of the trade that sent Luis Scola to the Indiana Pacers.

Phoenix is Green’s seventh NBA stop.

The 2005 first-round pick bounced around from Boston to Minnesota to Houston to Dallas during his first four seasons in the league. In 2009, Green found himself overseas, playing first in Russia and then in China. When he returned stateside in 2011, he joined the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA Development League.

Musselman was the head coach.

“I thought he was by far the best player in the league,” he said. “I thought he was too good to play in the D-League. We were shocked that he lasted as long as he did in the Development League.”

In 22 games, including 13 starts for Musselman, Green averaged 19.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists.

“Gerald is fun to watch,” Musselman said recently from his office inside the Weatherup Center. “He’s such a great athlete. He’s got great explosion. I think he’s a much improved player from what people remember of him when he played with Boston. Everyone remembers him from (the 2008 NBA Slam Dunk Contest). He’s a more mature player.”

Green was 19 when the Celtics made him the 18th overall pick. Now 27, he’s improved his work ethic, spending hours in the gym working on his game according to Musselman.

“He does understand that coming early to practice is important, staying late is important,” he said. “It’s hard when you go directly from high school to understand (that). You get NBA money. You’re staying in NBA hotels and sometimes your vision can get a little bit cloudy. He’s probably no different than anybody else. He’s a guy that now really, really respects the NBA world and wants to stay in it and contribute.”

Musselman said he and Green, who played with New Jersey before landing in Indiana last season, still keep in touch.

“I look at him as a guy that in 20 years I’ll still be talking to him,” Musselman said. “When he was with the Nets and they played the Lakers (in L.A.) he came back to our practice and sat for a two-and-a-half hour practice, and it was on a game day. You don’t see many NBA players leave their hotel on their own, figure out a way to get there, stay and then hang out with (his former) teammates in the locker room afterwards. That’s the type of person he is.”

Musselman added Green is also a good locker room guy, someone who will keep the mood light with jokes and impersonations.

“He does me very well,” Musselman laughed.

“I think the Suns have done a great job of getting a guy kind of under the radar that you can have in your rotation. He gives you energy and an identity because he can get up and down the floor, which is what coach (Jeff) Hornacek wants to do. And he’s a better defender than people think as well. Sometimes he needs to be a better off-ball defender, but that will come in time.

“I think the Suns organization is really going to like him.”