Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Taurean Green is pulling a lot of late nights in the Canary Islands off the coast of northwest Africa.
He has his three former UF roommates to blame: Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer.
Green is recovering from a fractured foot he suffered playing for C.B. Gran Canaria 2014 of the European ACB League in Spain. He’ll spend Wednesday night the same way he did Monday night, flipping on the TV around 1 in the morning to watch Horford and Noah square off in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
He’ll do the same as long as the series between Horford’s Hawks and Noah’s Bulls last. And each time they run up and down the court, Green will be reminded of all those battles the two had in practice as teammates at Florida, part of the famed Oh-Fours that arrived on campus in 2004 and by the time they left in 2007, had led the Gators to back-to-back national championships.
“It is weird, but at the same time it’s fun to watch,’’ Green said on Tuesday. “We had a lot of great times together. I know they both want to win this series.’’
Horford and Noah are in their fourth NBA season, as is Brewer, who is now with Dallas and made an impact in Dallas’ win over the Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals on Monday.
Meanwhile, Green is in place far from the NBA playoffs connected to his former teammates through occasional telephone calls and a big-screen TV. He spoke with Horford a couple of days after the Hawks upset the Magic in the first round, advancing to face the No. 1-seed Bulls.
Green has another year on his contract in Spain and his most pressing task is to rehab the foot injury that has him sidelined. While he works to return to the court, Green is enjoying watching Horford and Noah square off for the first time in the NBA playoffs.
Green was glued to his TV for Game 1 on Monday, a 103-95 Hawks win in Chicago that gave them a 1-0 series advantage. Horford scored nine points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Noah finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.
“I felt that Jo and Al played pretty well,’’ he said. “Both of their teams are guard-oriented, but they did a good job inside and rebounding. ‘’
When they were matched up on occasion, Green’s mind flashed back to the countless times as UF that they faced off in practice or in a summer pick-up game.
“Those were battles,’’ Green said. “They are going to go at each other. They are friends, but right now they are competitors trying to beat each other.
“Both guys have gotten better and stronger. Jo has really bulked up since we played at Florida and Al has continued to develop his offensive game. Jo’s offensive game is also starting to come along.’’
Horford and Noah have played against each other in the regular season, but this is the first time the ex-Gators have met up in the playoffs. Atlanta entered as the No. 5 seed in the East and pulled a bit of a surprise by knocking off Dwight Howard and the Magic in the first round.
Meanwhile, some see the Bulls as the one team in the East that could prevent the Heat-Celtics winner from advancing to the NBA Finals, led by league MVP Derrick Rose.
Which former teammate does Green see winning the series?
“With Kurt Hinrich out [for Atlanta], I figured Chicago would have an advantage,’’ Green said. “But if Atlanta keeps shooting the ball like they did in Game 1, they are going to be tough to beat. They are a confident basketball team. They beat Orlando after losing to them last year, and some of the guys have really improved.’’
As you can see, Green isn’t picking sides in this one. He plans to sit back and enjoy watching his former teammates do their thing on the court.
“Those are two competitors,’’ Green said. “I’ll definitely be watching.
The same year as Horford, Noah and Brewer were all first-round picks, Green was a second-round pick by Portland. He played in 17 games with the Blazers and Nuggets in his rookie season in 2007-08, but opted to move overseas for more playing time and a chance at a unique experience.
He spent a season in Greece and the past two seasons in Spain. After his contract runs out after next season, Green hopes that he’ll get another shot to join his former teammates in the NBA and perhaps add more memories to the Oh-Fours’ collection.
“That’s the goal,’’ Green said. “The way I look at it, I’m just taking a different route to the NBA. By coming over here, I’ve gotten to start and play a lot rather than just sit on a bench in the NBA, and it’s helped me become a better player. I feel I’ve gotten better in all aspects.’’
Green has worked hard on his leg strength and quickness and running a professional team. He didn’t know much about the European professional leagues coming out of college but has quickly learned.
“It’s competitive,’’ Green said. “I’m pretty sure I didn’t know how good the players were over here when I first got here. There’s a lot of talent on all the teams. You’ve got a lot of guys who are NBA players. Basically, it’s a different kind of game but the talent level is still there.’’