In December 2011, Gerald Green was a lost NBA player without a team. That was until a phone call by former NBA D-League coach Eric Musselman that convinced Green to sign with his NBA developmental team, the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
Musselman, the current ASU Associate coach, recalled his experience coaching the former D-League all-star Friday on the Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
“He came in as a player who obviously had unbelievable athleticism, but he was really lacking confidence,” Musselman said. “He’s so humble and he’s so appreciative of the way his career has gone. I saw him a couple weeks ago after a game and I don’t know if I’ve ever been around a player who is so appreciative of where he is.
“I told him that night he’s got NBA All-Star potential if he plays both ends of the floor and stays focused. Gerald can drift a little bit during the course of the game, but he’s such an underrated shooter, it’s unbelievable.”
Green was named the D-League All-Star Game MVP in the 2012 campaign, while Musselman earned the league’s award for Coach of the Year. Green was later signed to a deal with the New Jersey Nets to finish the year.
“The first thing we had to do was to gain his trust,” Musselman said. “We wanted him to be an NBA player, and through the course of winning games that year, that team shattered every D-League record there was, and now I’m wondering how we even lost a game as I watch Gerald just pummel teams like Oklahoma City.”
Green exploded on Thursday night for a career-high 41 points, including 25 in the third quarter, to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Before Green’s arrival in Phoenix, his accomplishments in the NBA included just a Slam Dunk Contest championship he won in 2007. Musselman recalled the 28-year-old, who is with his seventh different NBA team in seven years, refusing to participate in the 2012 D-League Dunk Contest to change the public perception of his game.
“I kept saying it was more notoriety for him, but his big thing was, ‘I’m an all-around basketball player and I don’t want to be known anymore as just a dunker,'” Musselman said.
“I know our coaching staff thought, ‘Wow, this guy is serious about developing his overall game.’ He was coming in early for practice to get perimeter three-point shots up and he really worked on his ball handling.”
The former 2005 first-round pick out of high school has been averaging career highs of 15.6 points and 3.5 rebounds this year, including an average of 17.9 points without Eric Bledsoe, who has been sidelined due to a meniscus injury since Jan. 2.