NEW YORK — With his left leg in a full-length cast, Danny Green used crutches to hobble onto a raised dais for last month’s end-of-season press conference. It was a reminder of the cruelty of injuries, the result of two torn ligaments that sent him to the floor clutching his knee in pain in the 76ers’ Game 6 loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
That same day, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and coach Doc Rivers said their primary concern was for Green’s health and well-being. But Thursday was evidence that the NBA is a business. The Sixers traded Green, along with 23rd overall draft pick David Roddy, to the Memphis Grizzlies for De’Anthony Melton, ending an up-and-down two-year tenure with the Sixers for one of the prime 3-and-D players of the past decade.
Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle also were floated as possibly tradeable Sixers contracts leading into draft night. But Green’s deal was different because the final year of his deal ($10 million) was nonguaranteed until July 1.
About a year ago, some believed a calf injury to Green was the difference between the Sixers beating and losing to the Atlanta Hawks in the playoffs’ second round. That turned out to be an unfortunate precursor to an injury-riddled 2021-22 season that Green called “by far” the most challenging of his career.
The 34-year-old’s offensive numbers — 5.9 points per game on 39.4% shooting from the floor in the regular season — were his lowest as an NBA rotation player. He also missed 20 regular season games, the most in his career.
But he was playing his best basketball of the season down the stretch, when he moved back into the starting lineup partially because of Matisse Thybulle’s unvaccinated status and ineligibility to travel to Canada for games against the Raptors. Green shot 41% from beyond the arc in the playoffs, including a 7-of-9 outing in Game 3 of the Heat series, and played steady defense on the perimeter.
After his knee buckled, however, Green faced surgery for the first time in his career and the lengthy rehab that follows.
“I probably had more injuries this year than I had in my career total, combined,” said Green, whose other ailments included to his hip and finger. " … It’s two years in a row now, being in the postseason, where an injury happens where I believe I can help my team to where we can get to that next level.
“And to come up short and have to watch it from the sidelines, it’s never great.”
Green’s calm leadership and pedigree as a three-time title-winner made him beloved by his Sixers teammates — and beyond. An example: When, after multiple COVID-related delays, he finally received his 2019 championship ring from the Toronto Raptors in April, the home fans gave him a rousing ovation before the game and at a lively taping of his popular podcast “Inside the Green Room” at a downtown venue the night prior.
Assuming Green stays with Memphis — and no matter how long he is sidelined with the serious injury — he will bring that presence to a rapidly ascending Grizzlies team that finished with the Western Conference’s second-best regular season record this past season. And in Melton, the Sixers get back a much younger player who fits the Green prototype. The 24-year-old is a long and physical wing defender, and developed into a 39% three-point shooter over the past two seasons.
As the final seconds of the 2021-22 season ticked down last month, Green made sure to grab his crutches and join his teammates on the bench. That turned out to be the final time he took the floor as a Sixer.