Green off to tough start in pros

Published: Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 25, 2008 at 12:59 a.m.

In the last year, Taurean Green became a two-time NCAA champion and an NBA second-round draft pick. But none of that impresses his Portland Trail Blazer teammates.

Allen Iverson, Taureen Green
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Allen Iverson, Taureen Green

Former Gator Taurean Green of the Trail Blazers guards Denver's Allen Iverson during a recent game in Portland.

The Associated Press

"We're making him go get donuts on the regular," Blazers point guard Jarrett Jack said. "We might kick the balls in the stands and he goes and gets them. He's been doing a good job with that."

Such has been the life of a rookie. After leading the Gators to back-to-back national championships, the Florida native has had a tough adjustment to the NBA.

Stuck behind veteran guards like Jack and Steve Blake, Green has been unable to get the necessary time on the court to adapt to the speed of the league. That logjam in the backcourt has led to Green watching more practice than he participates in.

To get more practice time, the Blazers sent him to their NBA Developmental League affiliate in Idaho last month. The league was another adjustment for Green, who had to deal with a different type of travel itinerary.

"We had a game in Texas and flew into Austin, but we had to bus five hours to Rio Grande Valley," said Green, who averaged 19.3 points, 9.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 2 steals in four games with the Stampede. "We played Rio Grand Valley that night and then had to bus back to Austin for another five hours. I played about 43 minutes in that game, and we were scrunched up in those little minivans and I cramped up. It was a tough experience."

Green was recalled by Portland on Dec. 23 but has had trouble cracking the team's rotation. Entering Saturday's game at Orlando, he had seen time in six games, averaging 1.5 points and one assist in 5.3 minutes for the 24-17 Trail Blazers.

"He was good (in the NBDL) and it served its purpose, to get him some minutes," said Portland coach Nate McMillan. "He was pretty positive about going down and working on his game. But we like him. We have a young guard that we feel can play in this league. He's going to be OK."

McMillan considered sending Green back for a second stint in the NBDL last week, but reigning rookie of the year Brandon Roy came down with some stiffness in his back and knee that made it necessary to carry another guard.

The injury gave Green a chance to travel with the Blazers for their first trip through Florida. Though he didn't get playing time in road games against the Heat and Magic, the trip gave the former Orlando resident a chance to see some familiar faces.

"It feels good to be back in Florida," Green said. "This is where I grew up and spent pretty much my whole life. I miss Florida. It feels good to be back here, playing games and seeing some of my old friends."

Green started his high school career in Orlando at Lake Howell, the same school that produced current Gators Nick Calathes and Chandler Parsons. His family moved to Fort Lauderdale after his freshman year and Green spent the next three years at three different high schools.

He finally settled in Gainesville, where he led UF to two titles as the starting point guard.

But Green is learning that there is a big difference from the college and the pro game. With the help of his father, Sidney, a 1983 first-round pick of the Chicago Bulls and 10-year league veteran, Taurean is learning that the NBA is more than game-time performance.

"He's in my ear every day," Green said about his father. "It's just about staying focused, staying mentally ready. Staying ready is the main thing. Anything can happen. With our team, we have a lot of good guards. If someone unfortunately gets hurt, I'll be ready to step in."

Being prepared is a key to any rookie's success in the NBA. Although playing time isn't coming early for Green, Roy says that it will come in time.

"He's waiting his turn right now," Roy said. "But the thing about him is that he's a competitor and a winner and he plays smart basketball. He'll be fine. Right now he's just waiting his turn and getting better every day."

While Green waits his turn, he'll continue to get donuts and carry bags, like most rookies do. Just don't expect to see him show off any of his college memorabilia.

"My mom has (my two championship rings)," Green said. "My mom doesn't trust me with them. She said she doesn't want me to lose them, so she takes them."

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