Upon walking into the Nuggets locker room after the Oklahoma City Thunder game on Oct. 8th, I was curious to see how the player's lockers had been arranged or rearranged. As you walk in through the media entrance, the players lockers can be found in a circular fashion to both your right and left (pictured a bit here).
The last four lockers to the lefthand side go: Arron Afflalo, Ty Lawson, Erick Green, and Danilo Gallinari on the end, closest to the showers. Not a bad place to be sandwiched for the rookie Green, right between Lawson's locker and Gallo's locker, two key veterans.
"Gallo is a really great guy: he's talking to me, helping me, making sure I'm here on time ... early, getting shots up, and he's a great leader," said Green. "And Ty man, he's like my older brother: always helping me, taking care of me, and he helps me with the pick-and-roll - how he does his little in-and-out, he's going to teach me that. It has been great with those two."
What also has been great is Green's performance thus far in the preseason. In his first game against the Lakers he scored 10 points on 4-10 shooting from the field (including 2-2 from the foul line). Against the Thunder, he remained consistent and efficient, scoring 9 points on eight shots, including a three-pointer. Green looked very comfortable in Las Vegas at Summer League, and he's looking more-and-more the part of an NBA player in the pre-season.
"In Summer League it's different, it's not like this. Out here it's kind of a little faster for me," Green said. "I still have to slow down a little bit, I'm still learning. I got great vets, Nate [Robinson] and Ty are really helping me out at the point guard position. The key for me right now is controlling the offense and being a leader."
Part of controlling the offense and being a leader on the floor is getting his teammates involved. It took Lawson time to get the hang of the role of the point guard, and Green's development could be similar, as they are both scorers. He did tally three assists against OKC, and distributing is an area that Green believes himself to be capable.
"In Italy, I only played point guard for like three or four months. And I didn't play [point guard much], they put me at the two [guard] because they needed scorers," said Green. "People didn't really know that. I think I can distribute. I'm a scoring point guard and my game is different than a lot of other point guards. Coach likes my game, he wants me to be aggressive and attack. So, when he says that, you know, score the ball and when people are open, dish the ball off. Just do my job."
Shaw has been saying very good things about Green and fellow rookies Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic. After the Thunder contest, Shaw discussed how he likes having more defensive minded guys on the team in Arron Afflalo and Harris, but he also took note of Green's up-court pressure of the opposition's point guards. Anything the team can do to eat into the opponent's shot clock or help create turnovers, will ignite the running game. But Shaw knows where Green can be most successful.
"My instructions to him are, I want him to be who he is," said Shaw. "He led the nation in scoring two years ago when he was a senior in college [at Virginia Tech], and he's a scorer. Even though he's playing the point guard position, I want him to be aggressive and look for opportunities to put the ball in the hole because that's what he does best.
"I think he's an unselfish player and he's going to make the right play when it presents itself," added Shaw. "If somebody's open, he's going to make the right pass or at least try to, but I want him to be aggressive and look to score."
Watch how Green attacks this double-team and how he explodes through the lane for a nice reverse layup:
The Nuggets want to play fast this season. That doesn't mean they want to be just a fast-break team. Shaw wants quick decisions and players to attack. Green's game is built on that and he's picking up tricks of the trade watching one of the speediest guards in the league.
"I watch Ty a lot when he's out there, and how he breaks down a defense off the pick-and-roll," said Green. "In the NBA it's all kind of pick-and-roll, in college, for me, it was all one-on-one. I'd break down my [defender] and go get a bucket. But here it's pick-and-roll and hitting open shots, so it's different."
The pick-and-roll game is a big part of what the Nuggets do, and his success there will be vital. It will be interesting to see what Green learns from Lawson and how he's able to apply it to his own game. Player success is very self driven and it's a great sign that Green is open to what his coaches and teammates are teaching him. But ultimately, it's up to Green to succeed.
"The advice I would give younger players is: It's on you to want to develop," said Arron Afflalo. "You have to have those good veterans to help guide you in times of need, but you have to be able to take some responsibility on yourself to want to learn, grow, and do the right things. You have to be willing."
Green is a very cost effective option as a third point guard, he's set to make just over $507,000 if he makes the roster. He doesn't turn 24 years-old until May 2015 and he is looking more-and-more a part of the Nuggets plan.