Published November 20, 2014
It's rare but athleticism can occasionally be a black mark for an NBA player.
Gerald Green is living proof of that. The former 2005 first round pick of the Boston Celtics is a human highlight film, a dunking machine that won the 2005 McDonald's All-American Slam Dunk Contest and the 2007 NBA Dunk Contest, while finishing as the runner-up in the '08 NBA version.
Through it all the 6-foot-7 swingman got a reputation for being just an athlete and not a player.
To be fair Green was extremely raw coming out of Gulf Shores Academy in Houston. The Texas native did not even play high school basketball until his sophomore year, when he toiled on the junior varsity team. In his junior year he made the varsity, but his play was cut short due to academic issues
He transferred to Gulf Shores, a charter school, and took off, averaging 33 points and 12 rebounds per game en route to being named a national All- American.
Green planned on going to college and committed to Oklahoma State. He certainly could have used the experience OSU would have provided but decided to enter the NBA Draft, probably after more than a few scouts and agents got in his ear.
Originally Green was compared to Tracy McGrady and expected to be one of the top few players selected in the '05 draft but fell to the Celtics at No. 18. His lack of experience and the fact that he only worked out for a few teams rubbed a number of executives the wrong way and it probably should have.
You expect a certain amount of immaturity from young people but there are levels and a guy who doesn't seem to care about his own career is high risk.
Green spent most of his time in Boston trying to live up to his prospect label. He showed flashes and actually put up 33 points at Atlanta in 2007 but fell off the map when the C's dealt him to Minnesota in the Kevin Garnett trade.
Short stints with his hometown Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks were also unproductive and it was becoming more and more likely that Green would be defined by his famous "Birthday Cake" dunk in which he blew out a birthday candle on a cupcake set on the back of the rim.
To his credit Green, who is only 26, stuck around with the Lakers' D-League affiliate, the LA D-Fenders, and was named the Performer of the Week last Monday after leading the club to a perfect week with a pair of 30-point games.
Green, perhaps, capped his comeback story on Saturday, scoring a game-high 28 points in the D-League All-Star Game to earn MVP honors and lead the West to a 135-132 win.
It was almost, dare I say McGrady-like.
A call-up by the Lakers seems virtually assured and if Jeremy Lin has proven anything, sometimes players just need a chance.
Or in Green's case -- a second one.