FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — At 28 years old, Gerald Green is entering his eighth NBA season, tying him with Shavlik Randolph for the honor of most-experienced Phoenix Suns player.
“Super weird,” said Green of his veteran status. “I came in the league at 19, so (for) the longest time I was the youngest (and) now I’m like one of the oldest so it’s really changed.”
Then after pausing briefly, he added, “Don’t mention (my age), man.”
Green certainly doesn’t play like a grizzled vet — is that a gray hair?
In his first year with the Suns, Green enjoyed the best season of his career, averaging a career-high 15.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 44.5 percent from the field. He also enjoyed career-high marks from 3-point range (40 percent) and the foul line (84.8 percent) — numbers that earned him a fourth-place finish in Most Improved Player voting.
He performed even better when he was called upon to start. Green averaged 17.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 48 games as a starter, mostly in relief of guard Eric Bledsoe, who missed 39 games last season due to injury.
But the back-and-forth between starter and reserve would occasionally take its toll on Green who, just as he was getting comfortable in a role, would be thrown back in with the first unit or returned to the bench.
“Barring injury, it’ll be a little more consistent for him this year,” said head coach Jeff Hornacek of Green’s role. “I don’t really believe in the whole ‘know their role’ because you just want them get out there when it’s their turn and play the best they can and play as a team and do what they do best.
“Gerald, whenever he gets in there, we know he can light it up.”
Green scored 30 or more points five times last year; he had three such games in his career entering the season. He also had a career-high 41 points, which included eight 3-pointers, in a March 6 win over Oklahoma City.
Should Green see a more consistent role this year, great. If not, that’s fine with him, too.
“I’m still the same guy who came here last year. What did I say? I said I don’t care if I play or not. I just want to win. That’s still my mentality,” he said. “I want to win. I want to win. I don’t care who plays.
“I don’t care if I play 30 minutes or six minutes. I just want to win. Whoever is out there — whoever the best five is out there to help us win — that’s who I want to play.”