Payday coming for free agent Green

Eleven months ago, Spurs guard Danny Green was on a flight to Slovenia, staring out the window across a vast ocean and toward an unknown future.

He had agreed to spend the NBA lockout overseas, playing for a modest paycheck and some much-needed experience. He did not know if there would be a job waiting for him when he returned stateside.

“It was kind of a difficult situation,” Green said.

Green couldn’t help but flash back to that flight this week, in the early hours of free agency.

After establishing himself as a bona fide NBA player in 2011-12, starting 38 games at shooting guard for a Spurs team that made the Western Conference finals, the 25-year-old Green has earned a pay raise — in San Antonio or elsewhere.

The Spurs have extended Green a $2.7 million qualifying offer, more than triple the pro-rated $854,389 he earned last season, giving the team the right to match any offer sheet he signs on or after July 11.

For the first time in his four NBA offseasons, however, Green can exert a modicum of control over his future.

“It’s the exact opposite position from where I was a year ago,” said Green, who was waived three times in two seasons after becoming Cleveland’s second-round pick in 2009.

“Instead of my agent calling teams, trying to get them interested, teams are calling me. It’s a better position to be in.”

Utah is one team that expressed interest Sunday, the first full day of free agency. Green expects there will be others.

For the Spurs, who ended with the best record in the Western Conference last season at 50-16, the crux of this offseason is to bring back as many pieces as possible, rather than recruit major reinforcements from outside.

Tim Duncan, the Spurs’ 36-year-old pace-setting power forward, is the team’s first free-agent priority.

A notch below are Green, forward Boris Diaw and backup point guard Patrick Mills.

After spending his first two seasons bouncing between Cleveland, San Antonio and the Development League, and beginning 2011-12 as a non-guaranteed training camp invitee, the light went on for Green last season.

He is set to cash in after averaging 9.1 points and 3.5 rebounds and shooting 43.6 percent from 3-point range during his first season as an NBA regular.

Green was the only Spurs player to appear in all 66 games during the regular season and averaged 10.3 points in the first two rounds of the playoffs against Utah and the L.A. Clippers.

The Spurs have shown interest in bringing Green back, despite an 8-for-31 shooting slump against Oklahoma City in the conference finals.

Green says more is at stake for him than just the number of figures on his next paycheck.

“A lot of young guys are just looking for the money,” said Green, who won a national championship at North Carolina in 2009. “For me, it’s a balance of the money, the team, the fit. I’ve been in a winning organization my whole life. I want to continue to be on a winning team.”

Though Green is determined to explore other options during the free-agency process, he says he would like to return to the Spurs.

“I really do like San Antonio,” Green said. “Hopefully, they have faith in me and will do what they need to do to bring me back.”

The Spurs have made an offer. Green’s future, for the first time, is in his own hands.

Twitter: @JMcDonald_SAEN

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