Allen Iverson leads the NBA in scoring, minutes per game and field goals attempted. Willie Green leads the 76ers in patience.
Maybe that was part of the reason the Sixers selected Green as the spokesman for their initiative to gather children's books for charitable organizations. After Saturday night's 94-88 loss to Chicago, he signed about 700 autographs for fans who donated 952 books.
Green is the second-year guard who, in the words of coach Jim O'Brien, was competing for a starting position during training camp and the preseason. He has, in fact, started 20 times, and been a DNP-CD (did not play, coach's decision) 13 times. He also hasn't played really meaningful minutes since Feb. 7, when he started against New Jersey. Let the record show that he's the starter at the point any time Iverson is unavailable, but he rarely plays with Iverson.
When the Sixers acquired Chris Webber, Michael Bradley and Matt Barnes at the trade deadline, league rules dictated that all three had to go on the active roster. To clear space, Green ended up on the injured list for the mandatory five games. Since then, he has played a total of 43 minutes in the eight games for which he has been eligible, all but 13 of them coming in losses to Miami, Golden State and Toronto.
He didn't play against the Bulls, but he was as patient as ever at the postgame meet-and-greet.
"It was awesome," he said. "It just shows the dedication that the fans have. It's great when they can support you in what you're trying to do, and we were trying to demonstrate to youth the importance of reading. I didn't know exactly how big it was going to be, but once they promoted it I tried to put my heart into it."
It takes patience and concentration to sit and read. It takes patience to sit and wait for the chance to play.
"I don't think [my patience] happened because it was my nature," Green said. "I think it's something I just had to get used to, because coming up, in my struggle to get in the league, took patience.
"Things don't always come easy. It was always tough to get an edge. I basically kept a chip on my shoulder; that made me realize you're going to have to work hard for everything you get. Patience is a virtue; if you don't have patience, then you're not going to get what you want."
Green couldn't help hearing a fan at the Bulls game, winning a prize for an unrelated promotion, blurting out on the arena screens that it was time for Green to get more minutes. Should we be surprised that Green has not blown up in frustration?
"I'm waiting, too, just like everybody else is sitting there waiting," he said. "I think I should be playing. I think I'm going to have an opportunity, but it doesn't look like it's going to be right now. When the time does come, when I am in that position, I'll appreciate it even more. I'll know what it took to get there."
He can become a restricted free agent July 1. It has crossed his mind that his lack of exposure could limit the contract available to him, but he remains as patient as ever.
"My whole attitude is, wherever I am, whatever I get, it's going to be what I need," he said. "I'm a student of the game. I think people understand when somebody can play and when they can't. The Sixers know I can play; other teams know I can play... I'm a firm believer that, if I'm good at my craft, the money will come."
While he waits, he reads motivational, self-help and religious books, soaking in as much as he can. It helps him relax, focus, avoid being distracted "by problems or things going on around you."
"Just as quick as you can pick up an Xbox or a Game Boy," Willie Green said, "you can pick up a book."