In seven seasons with the 76ers, Willie Green was forever having his role changed. Sometimes, he was a starting guard, other times he was coming off the bench. Sometimes, he was at the point, other times he was off the ball. Sometimes, he was asked to put up early points, other times he was told to concentrate on defense. He played for six coaches, but he was always able to adjust.
"Sometimes it's bigger than just minutes or when you get your playing time," Green said during a telephone interview with the Daily News. "Sometimes, it's just about helping the team. For the most part, it was good times [in Philadelphia]."
The funny part was, even when different coaches said they were going to use others in the backcourt, virtually all of them, at some point, went back to Green. That was because they trusted him, had a comfort level with him. As an example, in 1,553 minutes last season, he committed only 67 turnovers.
But this season would be different. New coach Doug Collins knew he needed court time for young guards Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks and first-round draft choice Evan Turner, the No. 2 overall selection. This time, there finally was no room for Green. He was sent to New Orleans with young big man Jason Smith for veteran forward Darius Songaila and rookie big man Craig Brackins, the No. 21 pick in June (chosen by Oklahoma City and dealt to the Hornets).
Like Songaila and Smith, Green is in a contract year.
Green got the news after an early-morning workout supervised by assistant coach Aaron McKie. Green planned to get in some work before taking his family on a short vacation before reporting to media day Monday and starting training camp that evening. When Collins explained the situation to Green and other players at the Sixers' practice site, Green's 10-year-old son, Ross, walked away in tears.
"That was pretty tough," Green said. "He loves basketball; he loves being around the guys. Kids don't understand. All he knows is, he has to leave his school and go live in a different place, in a different space. And kids don't want anything to happen to their parents. I told him it's nothing to be sad about, that it's exciting.
"And I'm blessed that the Sixers would rather that I be with a team where I can play than to be here and maybe not play at all. Tony DiLeo [the Sixers' senior vice president and assistant general manager] said it best: He said every year people counted me out, and every year I found a way to play. It's all a blessing."
Green, a second-round pick of Seattle in 2003, was traded to the Sixers on draft night. He stayed for 422 games, with averages of 9.4 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He averaged 8.7 points, 2.1 assists and 1.8 rebounds last season, shooting a career-best 45.7 percent from the floor; that included 13.2 scoring and 50 percent shooting as a starter. In '05-06, he played in only the final 10 games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
"In this league, nothing is given to you - you have to earn it, especially when you have it taken away," Green said. "I've had a great run, and I'll ride it while I can, but it's definitely bittersweet. A part of me will always be here."
Green will report tomorrow to take his physical examination and participate in Monday's media day activities.
But it won't be here. It'll be in New Orleans. *
For more Sixers coverage, read the
Daily News' Sixers blog, Sixerville, at