What has happened to Gerald Green?
Now you see him... now you don't.
Just last season Gerald looked like he had finally gained his footing. He had bounced around the NBA and overseas since 2005, compiling just 50 starts for six NBA teams in six seasons. Then came his renaissance.
Green started 48 games last season and had career highs in minutes played (28.4), points per game (15.8) and three point shooting percentage (.400). Green was fourth in the league in made three pointers (204).
For his efforts Green was recognized by receiving the fourth most votes in the 2014 NBA Most Improved Player voting. Gerald's end of season report card on Bright Side of the Sun was effusive in its praise of his breakout season and the fans overwhelmingly agreed with the sentiment.
Green also had a career high in dunks (57), many of the incredible jaw-dropping variety. When Gerald entered human torch mode he was must see tv. An electrifying dunk or offensive explosion was always potentially mere moments away.
Just earlier this season in a 120-112 victory over the Denver Nuggets Green still appeared to be an integral part of the team.
Green came up jumbo large in a period spanning the end of the third and beginning of the fourth period. His 16 points were mostly of the spectacular variety and energized the crowd while demoralizing the helpless Nuggets. Gerald scorched Denver with a season high six long distance bombs and elicited the "you're like a video game" compliment/assessment from teammate Goran Dragic.
Green had scored at least 23 points in five of 16 games at that point in the season. I detailed his exploits in another Going Gorilla post two months ago when Gerald appeared to be well on his way to playing a very productive role for the Suns.
My encomiums may have been premature.
Green has failed to reach 23 in any game since, and hasn't broken the 20 mark since January 7th.
Including his recent DNP-CD, Green has failed to reach double digits in scoring in eight consecutive games. Prior to this he had never failed to do so in more than two consecutive games for the Suns. The game he sat as a healthy scratch was the first game he missed in two seasons on the team.
Green is 16-51 (.313) over this eight game stretch. He is a pitiful 5-28 (.178) from three point range. Over his last three games the three point shooting dips even further to 1-16 (.062).
With Alex Len (ankle) and Eric Bledsoe (baby) both out of action for Sunday night's game against the Sacramento Kings Gerald failed to capitalize on the most playing time he received in the last eight games, going 0-7 from three point range. Green's confidence seems shaken.
Coach Jeff Hornacek has pointed to defensive shortcomings as the main reason for Gerald's reduced role. The Suns have indeed limited opponents to less than 100 points four times in their last seven contests. However, after a stretch where the Suns had only been held under 100 points once in 19 games Phoenix has now been held under 100 four times in six games with Gerald mostly watching from the bench.
It's a limited sample size, but this further evinces that Gerald is a one way player. Although he provides a punch on offense he often gives back the points on the other end. When he's not scoring he's a liability.
If the Suns are trying to build a defensive identity Green doesn't really fit in.
Green hasn't fit in any rotations in close games for quite some time, either. The days of game winning jump shots like last season's victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves are gone.
Last night with the Suns missing two starters (Bledsoe, Len) the five man lineup of Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, P.J. Tucker, Markieff Morris and Miles Plumlee finished the game. Marcus Morris has even played some late minutes for the Suns over their last nine games that have been decided by five or less points (in which they are only 3-6, different story). Green is the odd man out and has become embarrassingly expendable. It is really starting to appear the Suns have moved on.
Phasing Gerald out of the rotation seems like a logical move if the team plans on moving him before the trade deadline on February 19th. It certainly minimizes any adjustment period if the team has basically adjusted in advance.
The confluence of circumstances really appears to make Green's exile more than temporary. It might be game over for Mr. Video Game.
Maybe in the final examination Gerald was just that super hot girlfriend the Suns had a whirlwind romance with, but after being together for awhile it turned out there really wasn't much of substance beyond the bodacious curves. The cracks in the foundation became more and more salient with time.
Maybe this was inevitable from the day Phoenix signed Isaiah Thomas, relegating Green to fourth guard duties.
Maybe 10 years later Gerald became another incarnation of Quentin Richardson, who led the NBA in made three point field goals (226) in the 2004-05 season before being shipped off to the New York Knicks. A shoot first ask questions later player who was moved in favor of a defensive presence (Kurt Thomas). Of course Q couldn't abuse the rim like GG with his high flying theatrics. Very few can.
So Gerald's meteoric rise is now crashing back down to earth as he appears to have lost favor with his coach. It's unfortunate, because his time in Phoenix has been mostly productive and at times amazing.
More and more it appears that Green's days as a Sun are numbered, because even though he's not gone yet he's already vanishing.