Danny Green's rise from role player to NBA Finals juggernaut isn't the first of its kind
MIAMI – Cedric Maxwell was watching the NBA Finals on Sunday night when he suddenly realized he could soon be welcoming San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green into an elite and obscure club he has been the only member of for three decades.
Maxwell is the only NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award winner that was never an All-Star after he led the Boston Celtics to a 1981 championship. He is also one of only two Finals MVP winners eligible for the Hall of Fame but not voted in (the other being JoJo White). Green's record 3-point shooting prowess in the 2013 NBA Finals has put him in position to be an even more obscure MVP winner than Maxwell if the Spurs win it all.
"I'm rooting for Danny Green," Maxwell told Yahoo! Sports in a phone interview on Monday. "He's out of the same mold that I was … If he makes it, I'll have someone else in my troop."
Maxwell averaged 12.5 points per game during his NBA career and 15.2 points during the 1980-81 season. Bird was the big star of that Celtics team, but Maxwell earned MVP honors during the 1981 Finals against the Houston Rockets, averaging a team-best 17.7 points while shooting 56.8 percent from the field. The Celtics won the series 4-2 with four future Hall of Famers in Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish and Nate "Tiny" Archibald.
"Now you kind of marvel in the accomplishment. It was a proud, proud moment," Maxwell said.
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Maxwell didn't receive much publicity for his play as the 1981 NBA Finals were televised tape delayed and were the least-watched in league history until 2003. He did go on "Good Morning America" with then-Celtics coach Bill Fitch and was officially given the award during a press conference at the New York Waldorf Astoria Hotel. But when Maxwell left the award ceremony with trophy in hand, he was disappointed to learn that he wasn't getting the big reward he expected.
"Every Finals MVP before me was given a car," Maxwell said. "But when I left the hotel, the only thing I saw out there was a taxi waiting for me. All I got was a watch."
The Spurs are known for their star trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, who could all end up in the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, Green has quietly worked his way from a seldom-used reserve with the Cleveland Cavaliers to a starting shooting guard with the Spurs. Prior to the Finals, the fourth-year NBA veteran did little to suggest he would be a Finals MVP candidate as he averaged 10.5 points in the regular season and 12 points or less in each of the first three rounds of the postseason.
Now, however, Danny Green is a household name after setting an NBA Finals record for most 3-pointers made in a series (25 so far). He has made at least three 3-pointers in each game, including seven in Game 3 to finish with 27 points. Green is just three shy of tying the all-time playoffs record for 3-pointers made in a series. Heat guard Ray Allen currently owns a share of that record, having made 28 in 2001 with the Milwaukee Bucks (Orlando's Dennis Scott also made 28 in 1995).
"I've been getting lucky," Green said after scoring 24 points and nailing six treys in Game 5. "I was moving around a lot. Our transition helps us, our pace. Tony penetrating and Manu penetrating, making the defense collapse is the reason why I've been getting open. Luckily a couple have dropped for me."
Said Miami forward LeBron James: "Opportunity is everything. [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich] gave him an opportunity. He's trying to seize the moment, and he's doing great for his team so far.”
[Related: Danny Green stays hot, nabs 3-point record in Spurs win]
The Spurs could win their fifth title with a victory in Miami in Game 6 on Tuesday or in Game 7 on Thursday. If San Antonio wins it and Green continues to shoot well, Maxwell says he'd be the sentimental and deserving choice for NBA Finals MVP.
"I'd vote for him for MVP if the Spurs win," Maxwell said. "Especially a guy, who like me, worked hard, kept his nose clean and was able to excel when the lights were the brightest. When people look at me, they know I played for the Celtics and I was a two-time champ, a good player. But they always say, 'You were Finals MVP?'
"I played in that Finals against seven Hall of Famers in Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Tiny Archibald, Calvin Murphy, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish. Green's done what he's done in a Finals with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili."
It's not uncommon to see the Celtics' radio analyst wearing one of his two NBA championship rings at games. But you'll never see him show off his old Finals' MVP trophy. Why? He has no clue where it is.
"I don't know. My mom had it at one time and brought it to a 'Show and Tell' at a junior high," Maxwell said. "My mom had it. It's not one of those things that were overly important to me. The fact that you are named Finals MVP is enough. You don't need a trophy.
"The MVP award of the playoffs is unique in the NBA. One guy once told me that I couldn't hold Michael Jordan's shoes. That's true, but if you call for the Finals' MVPs to go in a room, I walk in the door with Michael."
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