New Raptor Danny Green Explores the Culture of Toronto

TORONTO -- Danny Green knows what it means to be well-traveled. This summer alone, he vacationed in Greece with his girlfriend, visited the Dominican Republic and spent weekends in Boston and Scottsdale. He also hosted basketball camps all over Texas—Corpus Christi, McAllen, Laredo, El Paso and San Antonio—and worked out in Los Angeles with the Toronto Raptors and San Diego with teammate Kawhi Leonard.

But Danny’s nomadism didn’t just begin this year.

His basketball journey brought him from the suburbs of Long Island to the hallowed hoops halls of Chapel Hill, and onto a non-linear professional path. He bounced around Cleveland during LeBron James’ first go-round with the Cavaliers, made multiple stops in the D-League (now G League), and ventured as far as Slovenia before finding a steady home with the San Antonio Spurs. Seven years later, he’s an established veteran, NBA champion and historically deadly three-point shooter.

But even now, at 31, with nine years of NBA experience under his belt, Danny has to adapt. After months of rumors and internal rifts, the Spurs sent Kawhi to the Raptors and included Danny to make the mechanics of the deal work.

With this move comes a new jersey, a new country to call home and an opportunity for new experiences.

“It was a hectic day. I didn’t get a chance to really sit down and be by myself and actually just reflect,” Danny tells CloseUp360. “It was a process. I knew it would be, but I adapted, adjusted and felt more comfortable sooner than I thought.”

Danny Green sits inside Hotel X in Toronto, Canada. (Elijah Marchand)

Danny Green relaxes inside the penthouse suite at the new Hotel X in Toronto. (Elijah Marchand)

Having to pick up your things and start anew, nearly 1,700 miles from where you left off, is never easy. But Danny’s prior time across the Canadian border helped to smooth the transition. He has spent five summers taking part in the Olympia Sports Camp, located in Huntsville, Ontario, about 140 miles north of Toronto. Between his own explorations and road trips up north during his NBA seasons, he's already garnered a respect for Canada's most populous metropolis.

“You can ask anybody in the NBA, top five favorite cities in the NBA, probably 95 percent of them will say Toronto is up there, probably top three,” Danny says. “Being able to explore Canada a little bit, and then being able to spend some of the time and weekends here in Toronto has been great. It’s helped me with this adjustment, being a little familiar with the area and also being close to New York, where my family can visit.”

Becoming a Raptor over the offseason, instead of during the hectic in-season schedule, has given Danny some breathing room in his transition. Rather than flying in for a physical, house hunting, and sorting through his family situation while trying to learn his new teammates and plays in a matter of days, he’s grateful to have had the summer to work all of that out.

Danny spent two weeks in LA during the offseason to practice with the Raptors’ players and coaching staff. Both have been helpful with getting him integrated on the court.

“The coach, Nick Nurse, and even assistants, you know, Nate [Bjorkgren], coach [Jim] Sann, they’ve done a great job of helping me, teaching me,” he says. “And even the players, too. My teammates have been teaching me the system of how to get through it and how to remember certain things, and also talking me through a lot of stuff.”

Danny walks around his Toronto home eager for his belongings to arrive from San Antonio, including his two Pomskies (Nuke and Gizmo) and two boa constrictors (Jade and Jon Snow).

He refers to the new crib as a “model home,” with lots of decorations he likes. He’s captivated by the creative clocks and contemporary artwork, along with the outdoor deck, fire pit and yard for his dogs to play. He talks of turning one guest bedroom into a closet, so he and his girlfriend can have sufficient space for their clothes. He finds comfort in the constant scent of his surroundings, ingrained from years of humidifiers used by the wife of the NHL coach who owns the house.

In the city, the Toronto faithful have more than done their part. While touring around town during one of his first days in “The 6,” Danny receives a private tour of the never-before-used rooftop and penthouse suite at the chic new Hotel X. And with many of his clothes still en route from the U.S., he’s treated to a private shopping experience at the showroom of TNT - The New Trend, a popular Canadian-owned contemporary fashion brand.

The early support has even extended to the airport.

“The guys at customs, you know, they’re always, ‘You gotta win a championship for us, we’re big Raptors fans, we’re rooting for you,’” Danny explains. “I wasn’t getting the same type of attention or love before coming through the airports—even last year, five to six years ago, for sure. Nobody even knew who I was. They don’t care who I was.

“Now, everybody knows. Even in the streets, they’re like, ‘Danny Green!’ … It’s amazing to see how much the fans really love their Raptors and how much they’re passionate about the game of basketball here.”

Danny Green kicks back at TNT - The New Trend in Toronto, Canada. (Elijah Marchand)

Danny inside the showroom of TNT - The New Trend, located in the fashion district of downtown Toronto. (Elijah Marchand)

Basketball is obviously Danny’s meal ticket, and he’s put in work—training in San Antonio, Los Angeles and on the beach in San Diego— to deliver on those fans’ hopes. His goal is to be healthy enough to play all 82 games, after fighting through through a groin tear last season, and propel the Raptors to a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference.

Danny also wants to help the younger players on this roster find their championship mindset. The lessons learned playing with San Antonio’s legendary “Big Three” of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker will come in handy. They would dine with Danny after games, bestowing him with bites of basketball wisdom. And although the Raptors will offer a different team culture, he wants to use his experience to guide the youthful Raptors around him.

Meanwhile, Danny has been expanding his resume off the court. He recently inked a shoe deal with Puma, which has made a splash this year in trying to reclaim a foothold in the NBA footwear space it once held decades prior. He joins the top two picks in this year’s NBA draft, Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III, among other signees meant to bring the brand back to prominence.

“Puma’s amazing, man,” Danny says while sporting a black shirt and sweatpants from the brand. “I’m excited to wear some of the new colorways, and I was hoping that if we played in the old school jerseys here in Toronto, that we’d have some purple and red. And now that the league is letting us wear whatever colors we want, Puma’s got some stuff up their sleeves. … They’ve been taking great care of me and all my people around me, so I’m excited about it. And I’m very for the movement, culturally, of how they do things.”

Danny Green Puma

Danny shows off his new Puma gear. (Elijah Marchand)

Danny has also added podcasting to his CV. This offseason, he teamed up with Harrison Sanford, a high school friend who's since gone on to a career in sports media, to found Inside The Green Room. It’s a show in which they discuss hoops and life beyond the court. So far, Danny is enjoying his new duties, and sees plenty of potential in the venture.

“First episode comes out, obviously it talks about the trade, you know, and it blows up, man,” he says. “I’m just venturing out and trying different things. … I’m trying to prepare as early as I can and build a resume, get some film work or put together some hours in on the road or whatever it is I’m doing. So I’m comfortable with whatever it is that I choose to do when I’m done playing, that I can just jump into it.”

Danny describes the show as a clean version of barbershop talk, and a chance to tell his and others’ stories to his family, friends and fans. He wants it to be a fun and free forum to discuss topics outside of basketball, where his guests can speak their minds without having to worry about getting hit with a “gotcha” question or being judged.

His dream guests reflect his new home and non-basketball interests: Toronto-born artists like Drake, The Weeknd and Tory Lanez. He’d also like to talk to athletes in sports he’s less familiar with. Ultimately, to him, the podcast is an opportunity to learn about people’s pursuits.

“I would love to get one of those [artists] on a podcast or even a baseball guy to give us their insight behind the scenes, because everybody’s great at their craft, they’re professionals,” he says. “We all are interested in the inside and the behind the scenes of actually how their day goes, or their routine goes and how they operate. We respect everybody’s craft because they’re professionals at it, they make a lot of money doing it.”

Inside The Green Room

This summer, Danny linked up with Harrison Sanford, an old friend of his, to start Inside The Green Room. Check out the latest episode of Danny's podcast.

Now, Danny has to focus on his own craft in a new environment. He enjoyed the city of Toronto during the gorgeous summer months, and developed inroads on and off the court. It’s no surprise from someone who has always had to acclimate to changing circumstances.

“It’s a fresh start,” Danny says. “You know, I’m feeling kind of like a rookie. Season 10 for me coming up, but gotta start all over—learn the system, learn a lot of stuff going on around this area, this city. I think it’s an exciting time.”

 

David Vertsberger is a veteran NBA writer based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter.