By Jeff Nations
Erick Green has long dreamed of a career in the National Basketball Association.
The Winchester native, a former standout at Millbrook High School and Virginia Tech, has toiled for years to improve his jump shot, his passing skills, his defense ... anything and everything to make it into the league.
Green is on the cusp of making that happen as he wraps up his first year of playing professionally overseas for the Italian League's Montepaschi Siena. The Denver Nuggets, who traded for Green on draft night after he was selected by the Utah Jazz in the second round (No. 46 overall) in the 2013 NBA Draft, still retain his rights for the coming season.
Green hopes to be in the NBA next year, and he's positive the league he hopes to become a part of is better today than it was on Monday. Green credits NBA commissioner Adam Silver for that, with his decision to issue a liftetime ban on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling in response to racist comments he made which surfaced last week in a recorded conversation.
Silver also fined Sterling, the NBA's longest-tenured owner, $2.5 million and said he'll try to force Sterling to sell his franchise. The penalty, which comes three days after the scandal emerged over the weekend, is among the stiffest ever issued to an owner in any professional sport.
Green, still in the middle of his European League season with Siena, said during a telephone interview Tuesday that he was surprised by the severity of Silver's actions. Green had expected a fine, perhaps even a suspension -- in effect, a half-hearted response from the league.
"It was kind of crazy when I first heard about it," Green said. "I'm glad the commissioner took the action that he did. He took a stand and made a statement that they aren't going to put up with anything like that in the league."
Green, a 6-foot-3 point guard who was the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year in 2012-2013 after averaging 25 points per game for the Hokies, wasn't sure how he'd react if faced with having to play for an owner like Sterling.
"I don't think anybody wants to be a part of something like that," Green said. "You think race wouldn't be an issue in the NBA with so many different ethnic groups a part of the league."
Green's own experience in Italy has been positive, despite hearing conflicting reports about what it would be like to play overseas before he agreed to a one-year deal with Siena. The team is currently second in its division, with designs of winning an eighth straight Italian League championship.
"I can honestly say I heard a lot of about going overseas -- some good, some bad -- but it's been a great experience for me," Green said. "It's taught me to grow up, and I know I'm a better player."