CAMDEN, N.J. — The Philadelphia 76ers announced that forward Danny Green tore the anterior cruciate ligament and lateral cruciate ligament in his left knee in Philadelphia’s season-ending loss in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Miami Heat on Thursday night.
Green was injured when 76ers superstar Joel Embiid crashed into him in the first quarter of Game 6, falling into Green’s left leg after a shot attempt and sending the 13-year forward to the ground in a heap. Green initially said he wasn’t aware of just how serious the injury was until he attempted to walk off the court after spending time on the court in pain and his knee buckled when he stood up.
“I was trying to get in there, saw him drive to the basket, trying to get inside position to either get a rebound or not let the other guy double,” Green said during his exit interview earlier Friday afternoon, before he got the results of his MRI that morning. “Joel got to the rim, I saw him lay it up … I didn’t know if it went in or not, but I just remember taking a tumble. I tried to move, but I couldn’t get out fast enough. It just happened so fast. But I saw it happening and I was trying to like, pull my leg out, but it caught beneath me and he rolled into it.
“I knew once it happened, I felt it. I knew I wasn’t able to return to the game, but I didn’t realize how serious it was until I tried to put weight on it, and it buckled. Then I realized it’s probably gonna take some time.
“I heard some sounds that were not comforting.”
Green had been saying, when his interview began, that he was optimistic and hopeful the injury wouldn’t be “as bad as it looked” and that he could potentially avoid knee surgery and be back in time for the start of next season. However, that will no longer be the case, as he will all but certainly require surgery that would sideline him for, at a minimum, the vast majority of the 2022-23 season.
Green, who will turn 35 next month, said that this was the first time he had suffered any sort of knee injury in his career and that he had never needed to have surgery before.
“Kinda sucks,” he said. “Year 13, as you get older, it gets tough to deal with … it’s not the most fun thing to think about when you’re starting your summer. I think the worst of it was just knowing that I couldn’t help the team and watching things kind of unravel the way it did when I’m not on the floor … the energy changed.”
76ers coach Doc Rivers and Green’s teammates praised him for his decision to come to the bench and cheer on the team in the second half of the game. Green, though, said that, for him, it wasn’t much of a decision to do so.
Instead, his frustration came from it taking so long for the team’s doctors to allow him to get out there.
“I just thought it was important that I be there with them,” Green said. “I was trying to come out earlier, but the [doctor] didn’t think it was a good idea. He wanted to keep the swelling down for the MRI and wanted me to stay in the back. But I was like, ‘Let me just put my sweatshirt on, and I could sit at a table and watch the game, whether it was help coaching or encouraging, just to have my energy there for them.
“But if I’m not able to go out there, I know something is really wrong, so it took me a long time to get out there. But I was able to find a shower and sneak out there at the last couple of minutes … just to see my guys and say goodbye to the fans.”
Green’s injury closed an up-and-down season for him, as he wasn’t a regular starter for the first time in a decade and had his lowest average points and minutes per game since his first two seasons in the league, when he was shuttling back and forth between the NBA and the G League (then called the D-League) as a fringe player for the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs. Green, who has won championships with the Spurs, Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers, said this was the most challenging season of his career. He said that was the case not only from a personal standpoint but because of everything the team as a whole dealt with, including Ben Simmons holding out to begin the season and the acquisition of James Harden midway through the year.
“By far,” Green said. “I’ve probably had more injuries this year than I’ve had in my career total combined. Starting, not starting, playing less minutes. The injuries alone were more frustrating than anything else. That’s two years in a row now here in the postseason where an injury happens where I believe I can help my team so we can get to that next level, and we come up short and I had to watch from the sidelines. That is never great. But, yeah, figuring out rotations, having guys not playing, trades, who’s gonna be traded, trades happening, new team, new faces, trying to adapt and adjust. It was a roller-coaster year, especially with the injuries.”
When asked about what transpired over the course of the season with the team’s play on the court, Green became the latest player to highlight some version of mental toughness as a problem plaguing the roster.
It was noteworthy how often it came up over the past 24 hours, with at least three players — Green, Tobias Harris and Georges Niang — all highlighting some aspect of mental toughness, intent or focus as something that has to change moving forward.
“We’ve been through a lot throughout the season,” Green said. “There was a lot of distractions, a lot of different, you know, it was a roller-coaster ride. Ups and downs. I think for the most part, we have a lot of young guys as well. They handled it well. Extremely well. But we do have some ways to go when it comes to that being mentally tough and I think just being mentally focused and mature. Staying locked in for 48 minutes for the duration of the season. That comes with some age and maturity. So we have a lot of young guys, and they’re just getting it, they’re just learning it. Some of them have never seen it or know how to win. So, learn how to be professionals. But I think we have a good foundation. And if we were able to have everybody back next year, that’s a pretty good start. We’d be ahead of the curve to start the season. I think we will be back, right back into the talks of contention.”
As for Green’s own future, he has a non-guaranteed contract worth $10 million for next season that will guarantee on July 1. When asked about Green’s future later Friday, 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said it was too early to decide what the team would do with his deal moving forward.