With NBA draft on horizon, Australian Josh Green is staying busy

He learned during his freshman year at the University of Arizona just how hectic a basketball season can get. There wasn’t much time, if any, to see his family, and he knows that won’t change once he’s in the NBA.

“There’s plenty of players who have played 12 seasons in the NBA who haven’t really been able to spend that time with their family,” Green said. “And family means so much to me.

Green is spending the quarantine at his parents’ home in Phoenix with all sorts of newfound free time. He is watching movies with his family, playing video games such as FIFA, Call of Duty or NBA2K with his brothers and kicking a soccer ball with his little sister, all while preparing for the NBA draft.

“I’m just making the most out of it, being around my family,” he said. “And just enjoying that time.

“I’ve been able to enjoy it because I haven’t seen my older brother in over a year now. So being able to spend some good time with him has been great.”

Green, a projected first-round pick who left the Wildcats after one season in Tucson, Arizona, fell into a regular workout routine that is keeping up his conditioning, helping him gain what he thinks will be much-needed muscle and allowing him to keep getting shots up — all while respecting the necessary social distancing and quarantine rules.

Josh lifts weights with his older brother, Jay, a graduate transfer to Northern Arizona University, in a “little setup” at their parents’ home. He tries to lift every day, alternating between upper and lower body. He has also been shooting on the hoop in his backyard, but he insists there hasn’t been — and won’t be — any one-on-one among him, Jay and his younger brother, Ky, who is a rising star in the Class of 2023.

“No, no,” Green said. “I think we’re getting a little too old for that now. It always turns into a huge competition. Especially with my little brother, that doesn’t really go down too well when we do that. We always fight. We try to stay away from that.”

Green also tries to get in some sort of conditioning every day, including hikes with his family.

“As bad as a time as it may seem, I’ve still been able to get in a lot of work and still been able to stay on top of my game,” Green said.

That also means not giving in to quarantine temptations. Green has been trying to eat healthy meals while avoiding junk food.

“I think a lot of people kind of take this time for granted, aren’t eating the best and just being lazy,” Green said.

When he isn’t on a mountain, in his homemade gym or out back getting shots up, Green has been trying to up his game through mental work. He has been reading a book by Tim Grover, who is best known for being Michael Jordan’s trainer, and watching film — lots of film.

Green thinks his ballhandling is one of the things he needs to improve most before the draft. When he watches himself last season at Arizona, he sees that the height of his dribble needs to be fixed, along with the sharpness of his handles. That has led him to study film of NBA players such as Paul George, James Harden and Stephen Curry.

While breaking down the film, Green also noticed small issues with his shooting that are “really fixable.”

“I’m going to continue to work on that, and by the time the draft comes, I think I’ll be more than prepared and fixing those areas,” Green said.

“I’m making sure that I don’t take this time for granted and making sure that I go through that. And then at the same time, I’m definitely still working on my strength. It’s grown men in the NBA, so I need to make sure that I’m ready for that at any time.”

Until the NBA announces a new date for the draft combine and lottery, Green will continue doing what he’s doing.

He understands that there’s nothing he can control about the situation, but he’s trying to stay on top of the latest NBA news — though he knows that if any news breaks, his phone will light up quickly.

The NBA was Green’s dream since he was a kid growing up in Australia.

His family moved to Arizona in 2014, and he prepped at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where he established himself as one of the best high school guards in the country and a top college prospect. He eventually became a standout on the AAU circuit, teaming with future Arizona backcourt mate Nico Mannion, another Phoenix product.

During their season together at Arizona, Green and Mannion tried not to talk about the NBA, despite its gargantuan shadow hovering overhead. Green grew up being taught to stay in the moment, so he pushed thoughts of the NBA out of his head as much as he could. During the season, with two or three games a week, he said he didn’t have much time to think about what is waiting for him at the next level.

He said he didn’t start thinking about his NBA decision until after the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic started. Green’s freshman season ended like most other college basketball seasons this year: suddenly.

He remembers the Wildcats getting ready to board the bus at their hotel to head to T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada, for their quarterfinal game of the Pac-12 tournament against Southern California when coach Sean Miller pulled the players into a room to tell them that the tournament had been canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“There was a lot of mixed emotions,” Green said. “I was very upset. I thought it was finally getting ready to go, and we [were] really reconnecting, so it was really hard. It was really hard to see that just stop.”

Back home in Phoenix, did Green start to realize he had to make a decision about the NBA?

“It kind of didn’t hit me until later on, when my mind was off college basketball and we’re all at home,” he said. “And it kind of came to, like, ‘What’s my decision going to be now?'”

He thought it’d be “cool” to return to Arizona for his sophomore year because of how his freshman season ended, but when he weighed the opportunity in front of him, it became an easy decision.

It was a very hard decision, but at the same time, I felt like it was time. It was the right time to be able to go,” Green said. “I felt like I had a good season at Arizona, and things in the future, they just aren’t promised. You just have to take advantage of things when they’re there. So I think it was a good decision, something I won’t regret it. Me and my family have all thought about it, so I’m just looking forward to the whole process and just how crazy it is, being a kid and never thinking that, like, you’ll even be able to play in college.

“It’s just surreal to be able to look back at it now and to be preparing for the NBA draft.”

Just like during their college decisions, Green said he and Mannion didn’t discuss leaving school early for the NBA. Green announced his decision on April 10, three days after Mannion did so. They sent congratulatory texts to each other and reminisced about their AAU days, when Green was an unranked kid from Australia and Mannion was a “little redheaded kid.”

“It’s just crazy how it’s all come together now, and our goal of making it to the NBA is hopefully coming to reality,” Green said.

Until the NBA is a reality, Green will be at home with his family, hiking, watching movies, playing video games and working out while waiting for the day when it’s time to start his NBA journey.

When he looks back on these months at home, wherever he is in his life or his career, he’ll remember the anxious waiting for his pro career to start, but he’ll also remember the unexpected time he had with those he loves most.

“It’s gonna mean so much just because I know, no matter how far I am in the country or even in the world — like, we’re from Australia, so, like, I still have family over there — but they’re always gonna be with [me] no matter what,” Green said. “Whether it’s a couple months I don’t see them, it’s always going to be the same when I see them next. The bond we all have, it’s cool, and just being able to take this time, I’m very grateful for it.

“No matter where I am in the country, I always know that they’re gonna be right by my side, whether they’re with me or in another state.”