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August 13, 2021

Danny Green explains why he re-signed with Sixers and why he's giving Ben Simmons space

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Danny_Green_1_Hornets_Sixers_Frese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia 76ers forward Danny Green.

Danny Green had options this offseason. Former Sixers teammates tried to lure him with them to new locations, reaching from Milwaukee to Los Angeles. Teams on the rise and looking to make a leap, like the Chicago Bulls, expressed interest. And there were rebuilding franchises who looked at Green as a potential asset to help them reach the next level, though Green never really considered leaving the Sixers for that sort of situation.

"It was very hard to see myself in that situation and trying to help rebuild something," Green said on a Zoom call with reporters Thursday. "I like to win. At this point in my career, I couldn't see myself being the rebuild guy."

So Green decided it was right to come back to Philadelphia, flanked by a team that is big on big names but still in search of the results to match. As the team's lead executive has been happy to point out on social media — much to the chagrin of some fans — Philadelphia's starting lineup was wildly successful last season, pushing the Sixers to a No. 1 seed and within reach of an Eastern Conference Finals appearance. Running it back doesn't seem too satisfying from the outside, but Green was a crucial keep in any version of this team, so his decision to stay means quite a bit.

Somehow finding a moment of time in the days leading up to his wedding this weekend, Green was honest (and verbose) as he almost always is with the media. Firmly in the NBA's middle class of players, free agency is different for a guy like Green than the sort of players who drive headlines and interest heading into signing day. The constant chase for stars means there isn't as much functional cap space out there as it seems, with many franchises either choosing to roll over space or pay the guys they're familiar with rather than locking in a deal for a non-star. 

In Philly, Green was able to split the difference, locking up a decent-sized payday without having to sacrifice as a competitor to make it happen. This is a good situation for a guy in his mid-30s — Green will almost certainly still start, play for a team with at least some chance of contending, and do so while making a nice chunk of change (though the Sixers can get out of the two-year deal before next season if they choose). It didn't hurt to be recruited by two of the team's top players, who reinforced their desire to have Green back in the fold.

"Of course Philly was recruiting me. Joel, talked to him at the end of the season, [and he] sent me a text like, 'I really want you back. I understand the business side of it and you got to do what's best for you and your family, but I would really love to have you here,'" Green said. "Tobias was calling me nonstop, we FaceTimed, we're from the same area so I know him well. We communicated throughout the process of what's going on. He said, 'Look man, I can't go there, I can't lose you to that team,' that type of thing. 'We're going to make something happen, we're going to make something work.' It was great to hear from them throughout the process, great to talk to my teammates and see how excited they were that I'm back."

Getting a recruiting pitch from Harris is a pretty basic part of the program these days. The veteran forward has kept tabs on college players, served as the welcoming committee for new additions, and has consistently been pointed to as a connector in the locker room. But Embiid making an active effort to keep someone around says a lot. The big guy has not been known as the loudest recruiter around these parts, even as he has grown into an All-NBA, MVP-level force who could inspire players to team up with him.

(Perhaps you would break from your habits too if you were a seven-foot center finally playing with a decent entry passer who can shoot and isn't hesitant about letting jumpers fly. I can understand why Green would be a priority for Embiid specifically.)

There were, of course, a lot of other variables for Green to consider, namely if the Sixers had him in the plans in the first place. The word around the organization was always that they wanted him back, but it was unclear right up until the night he agreed to the deal whether both sides were capable of finding common ground to get a deal done. When the Sixers came to an agreement with Georges Niang on a deal (a deal/player Green praised on Thursday, mind you) team sources were dubious they'd get Green's commitment moving forward, potentially leaving them an important piece short.

By his own account, Green wanted to make sure things were staying mostly the same in Philadelphia. Some changes to the bench aside, that is the case at this point in mid-August, though the Ben Simmons question continues to hang over the offseason. In response to what has become a staple question for members of the organization, Green noted that he hadn't spoken with Ben Simmons since around the Fourth of July, though he offered that some of that was a product of his own busy offseason — the upcoming wedding has taken up a lot of the free time he's had away from the game, so routine FaceTime calls with Simmons were not in the cards (and Green says Simmons is, "not a text type of guy"). 

If Green is concerned about the lack of contact, he didn't show it or say it, and he believes distance is something his teammate needed (and perhaps still needs) following a tumultuous end to the year.

"I think with Ben, his personality, the right move was to give him some space early on. Let him just breathe a little bit, let him digest what's going on and happening around him, and hopefully have him refreshed, get a new mind state and state of mind," Green said. "Hopefully, that time has given him time to heal. It's not about him healing physically, it's more mentally and emotionally, to where he can refresh himself, reset and come in and reidentify himself."

On the subject of re-identifying yourself, Green went on to note that he usually stresses that sort of approach to teammates or friends who are on the way out of a situation, an interesting bit of subtext when discussing Simmons, who many believe will be on his way out of Philadelphia sooner than later.

"I usually use that advice for people that get traded. We all hate to move as adults," Green said. "People look at it as a bad thing being traded, I think you look at the positive, another team wants you and there's an opportunity to kind of reinvent yourself, reidentify yourself. And maybe that's why you hear the rumors of him wanting to go somewhere else or the team wanting to move him, maybe he felt like he couldn't reidentify himself here and could do it better in another city. 

"But that's not always true, you can do that in the city you play in, come back a totally different player...that'd be my advice to him of course, but to all players but that have gotten traded, I tell them you got to take this opportunity to reidentify yourself, reinvent yourself...hopefully, he stays with us, but if he doesn't, he can reinvent himself and show he can shoot the midrange, or become a better free-throw shooter, whatever it may be. You can say you came back and this guy actually can do this, bring this to the table, and maybe because his frame of mind is different in this atmosphere."

It's that sort of perspective that made it easy for the Sixers to bring Green back. Beyond being a helpful player, he's a thoughtful voice in the locker room, and they'll need him to use it with or without Simmons in the fold.

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