JaMychal Green averaged 23.0 points and 10.7 rebounds for the Austin Spurs before his call-up to the parent club, which proved to Gregg Popovich that not only can the 24-year-old standout from the University of Alabama play a little bit, but even more importantly, he can listen too.
Like everyone the Spurs cut --most memorably Danny Green-- Popovich and the rest of the Spurs coaching staff gave JaMychal Green some tips on different areas of his game to improve upon. The idea was to advance his skill-set and understanding of the game so that when the real Spurs --or some other NBA club-- came with a 10-day contract offer that they'd be intrigued enough to let Green stick around long-term.
"We talked to him about what we'd like him to do, and he went down to the D-League and did a pretty good job," Popovich confirmed. "But you always talk to guys what we'd like them to end up doing for the club and for themselves."
Among the things the staff wanted Green to work on was his passing and his overall understanding of the offense, and in that latter department it certainly helped that Austin runs the same "motion" system that Popovich does. Late in a blowout loss at Chicago, Popovich called a play where Green got the ball on the move and quickly kicked it out to Danny Green in the corner for an open three once defenders scrambled over to him. Though the shot missed, Popovich was pleased that his newest Spur had made the right play.
"I wanted to put him in a position to make a decision, to make him the center of the play so to speak, so I could see how he'd respond," Popovich explained, adding that Green has " done a good job," and describing him as "an active young man."
The 6'8" 228-pound Green, who's undersized for a power forward at this level, will have to keep expanding his outside shot, specifically from three-point land. The reality is he's probably going to have to play more on the perimeter in the NBA and you can't do that without a respectable stroke from outside (unless you're Josh Smith). Green attempted only 11 threes in 20 games in Austin, but that was still double the pace from his last year there, and he has made four of the 11 (36.4 percent).
"It's something that everybody works on," Popovich said. "Tony Parker was going to stick in the league whether he learned how to shoot a three-pointer or not, but he learned how to shoot a three from the corners, so it's a good idea for everybody to add that. You see (Serge) Ibaka shooting more threes now than he ever did, so for lots of players it's just another addition to their game, everybody wants to get better. I'm not sure that's what keeps you in the league, but having skills makes people take notice and the three-point shot has become so important that everybody spends time on it."
The Spurs will have to make a decision on Green soon --his 10-day contract is up at midweek-- but with no roster moves imminent the expectation is they'll sign him for for another 10-day look-see before ultimately having to make a decision to sign him for the rest of the season or to send him back down to Austin, essentially making him a free agent for any other team to pluck away. As Pop is quick to point out, we're talking about a 15th man here, so unless the Spurs can significantly improve their roster via a trade, the odds seem to be in Green's favor to stick around for the time being. They have less of a commitment to him than first-round pick Kyle Anderson, who needs all the minutes he can get in Austin when there just aren't many available for him in San Antonio.