The blonde hair is a little longer, which needed a thick white headband to keep it out of the eyes. The shoulders are slightly wider, a manifestation of the 17 extra pounds AJ Green has gained in a calendar year.
The Milwaukee Bucks, who went undrafted out of Northern Iowa last season, signed Green to a two-way contract last season — a 6-foot-4 rookie with some potential. Namely, his ability to hit three-pointers at a high, high level.
For the soft-spoken guard, the deal put him on the doorstep of a dream: Playing in the NBA.
That part came true on Oct. 22 when he made his NBA debut, playing 2 minutes, 22 seconds against Houston at Fiserv Forum. He would appear in 35 games for the Bucks and another 15 for the organization’s G League affiliate, the Wisconsin Herd.
“Everybody knows the big goals, but I just try to focus on the little, daily habits and the little things,” Green told the Journal Sentinel. “I believe they add up over time, and if you continue to do those things the right way, whether you achieve your big goals and big dreams or not, you’ll probably end up somewhere close to it. I just try to control the little things daily.”
Those daily little things led to a 41.9% mark from behind the three-point line in just under 10 minutes per game. game with the Bucks. Green made multiple threes in 18 games and hit at least three in seven contests. He made 5 three-pointers on two occasions, at Miami on January 12th and at Chicago on February 16th.
That game allowed another dream to come true: A guaranteed contract for this season.
“He can shoot the ball — he can shoot it at a high level,” Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin said. “The way we play and our personnel, especially with Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and Khris (Middleton) and Jrue (Holiday) on the floor, you need some shooters out there.
“But AJ has some other things in his game. He’s a tough kid. I think he competes on both ends of the floor. We’re going to need his shooting and his competitive spirit.”
It is the first season of one three-year agreementand it represents another step in the career of the soon-to-be 24-year-old.
“It’s crazy,” Green said with a small smile. “It’s always been the dream, the goal, but I still feel so new and like to be fresh on things that it’s hard because I feel like I haven’t really done anything yet. But like really, I’ve worked my whole life for this and I’d like to think that last year was a solid year for me.
“(General manager) Jon (Horst) and the rest of the organization believe in me, and I’m extremely grateful for that. I just want to continue to work hard and get better every day.”
Questions and answers:Bucks GM Jon Horst on new ownership and Giannis’ health
Griffin said he’s seen the same things the previous regime has — that outside of Green’s shooting ability, there’s not just a desire to work hard defensively, but an ability to do it well enough to stay on the floor for long periods of time stretch.
“I think it’s just the feel of things and understanding how the game is played, the speed at which it’s played, what works and what doesn’t in terms of my game offensively and defensively,” Green said of , how he has grown over. the last year. “I think it’s that year of learning and being able to now apply it and work on it has just been the biggest thing that’s helped the most, I’d say.”
However, there was one part of his offseason that needed a little extra attention.
Green left the penultimate regular-season game early against Memphis on April 7 with right foot soreness and then missed the finale in Toronto on April 9. Green had an injury to the deltoid ligament and the medial malleolus bone on the inside of his ankle and it carried over the summer into the beginning of Summer League.
He returned to play in the final games of the Bucks’ slate in Las Vegas. He played just over 10 minutes per game. game and made 42.9% of his three-pointers in that stretch – along with all of his free throws.
“Just some stuff in there, nothing serious, but let’s take some time off, let it all heal and build it a solid base to work from going forward,” Green said. “I could have been back (in early July) but there was no need to push it. I’d rather be patient, do it the right way and be done with it. So I feel good.”
While he said getting healthy was his focus, Green outlined his focus for the offseason heading into his second — but first full — NBA season.
“Continuing to be able to just move, really just make the most of the physical tools I have on both ends,” he said. “Just learning to move better on defense, what works, what doesn’t, and moving in different ways. Kind of unlearning old habits from college that don’t work.
“So offensively, just getting more comfortable putting it on the floor, one, two dribbles and getting downhill, making plays. And then just shooting. I want to be the best shooter I can. I put a lot of time into just on a lot of shot variation, to find a varied, wide bandwidth of my shot, to make different shots with different variables.
“So that’s something I’ve really been working on daily.”
More:How the Milwaukee Bucks are set to struggle under new CBA restrictions