Philadelphia 76ers head coach kept Danny Green on the bench as a “second voice” for his young team. The three-time champion was seen shouting encouragement several times during the Eastern Conference semifinals despite missing the series with a right calf strain. The Sixers also needed his tough love at times.
After the Sixers’ Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Green was quick to call the outcome “disappointing” and then he elaborated on what went wrong. The 33-year-old has been a part of many powerhouse teams, but this one lacked a certain mental toughness.
Green didn’t want to call anybody out — in fact, he stuck up for embattled star Ben Simmons — but he sensed the guys may have been looking for a shortcut to the next round. Especially after the two finalists from 2020 — Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat — were eliminated in the first round.
“I don’t want to say we got lackadaisical, I think we just skipped some steps and we got too comfortable,” Green told reporters on Monday. “We were looking ahead like ‘who are we playing next?’ No, we have to win now. We have to win tomorrow. If we don’t respect these guys or take advantage of the here and now, we’re not going to get to tomorrow. So I tried to reiterate it, I tried to let them know it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Green added that the top-seeded Sixers had a “good route” to this year’s NBA Finals since they bypassed Miami in the first round and both Brooklyn and Milwaukee in the second round. That’s not to say they didn’t respect Atlanta, but the path was way easier than it could have been. Normally, in those situations, the better team wins.
“I wouldn’t say we took anybody lightly,” Green said. “Not many times did I feel we were the better team and we lost, there’s not that many times in my career where that has happened and I’ve been lucky. And I felt we were the better team, and not many times does that happen unless there is some kind of mental lapse or some kind of step that is skipped and I think we may have skipped a step or two to where we thought we already made it and we didn’t.”
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Don’t Blame Simmons, Everyone Made Mistakes
As the calls to trade Simmons grow louder and louder in Philly, the guys in the Sixers’ locker room are standing behind him. Green reminded everyone about Simmons’ youth — he’ll turn 25 years old on July 20 — and the off-the-court drama that unfolded in the press. It was a grueling season for him physically and mentally. Show a little compassion.
“Ben has gone through quite a bit this year and it’s not his fault we lost,” Green said. “There’s so many mistakes that happened, we can’t just harp on one player. And to his defense, he couldn’t find his rhythm but he did other things for us … He’s a mentally tough kid, usually. We don’t know what was going on. He’s still a young player and he can still grow.”
The Hawks-Sixers series would have also been a lot different had Green been on the court. He was another defender to throw at Trae Young, another 6-foot-6 body to clog the lane. The 33-year-old veteran started 69 games for Philly and spaced the floor with his deadly three-point shooting (40.5%).
“It would have been an interesting series if I had gotten a chance to play,” Green said. “That’s all I have to say, and it would have been fun.”
Green Updates Impending Free Agency
Green revealed that he would have been back in the lineup if the Sixers had advanced to the next round. His right leg is out of the walking boot and he’s done some jogging and even practiced a few jumpers in the gym.
The North Carolina product is an unrestricted free agent who earned $15.3 million (via Spotrac) so his future is up in the air. That’s a lot of money for an aging veteran, no matter how valuable his leadership was for Philly. Neither side has made a final decision yet on his future.
“I love this city and this organization,” Green said. “I told Doc, ‘I appreciate you and everything you’ve done for me.’ He told me ‘You’ll be back.’ That’s a good sign that they want me back. I talked to the guys and they told me they want me back.”
But Green will likely have other offers to consider. For now, he wants to enjoy the summer and forget the pain of losing. Remember, Green only had six weeks off last year after winning a championship with the Lakers in the COVID-19 Orlando bubble. He’s also getting married this summer.
“I think a lot of the world is shocked. No one expected that to happen,” Green said of the Sixers losing. “For me, we lost the series. We also the series and there were some things that happened that we don’t know.