LAS VEGAS -- It's not easy for Gerald Green to think about last season.
"You know the phrase 'harder than pissing in a hot sauce bottle?' " Green said. "That's how hard last year was."
Green has a chance to revive his career in Dallas, which recently signed him to a one-year contract. He welcomes the fresh start after a year in which he was traded twice and released once.
Once considered a promising prospect with Boston, where he averaged 10.4 points in his second season, in 2006-07, Green bottomed out after being traded to Minnesota last summer in the Kevin Garnett deal. In 29 games, the 6-foot-8 swingman averaged only 5.1 points for a Timberwolves team that already had a glut of young players at his position, including former lottery picks Corey Brewer and Rashad McCants. Moreover, frequent mental lapses put Green in Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman's doghouse.
"There were times I would play but more times that I wouldn't," said Green, the 18th pick in the 2005 draft. "I'm not mad at Minnesota. It's a business. Coach is a great guy; he just had a lot of young players and I was on the back burner."
Midway through the season, Green was traded to the Rockets. At the time, the Houston native called the deal "a dream come true," but it quickly developed into a nightmare. After playing four minutes in one game, Green was cut. The Rockets told Green that he was being let go because they needed a roster spot to bring in a big man to help replace the injured Yao Ming. But from the moment Green was sent packing, questions were raised about his maturity.
"I think [Green] has a chance to be a very good player in our league, but he has to mature," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said in March. "Before you can take the next step, you have to understand you need the work and you need to do the work. Gerald does it, just not as consistently as coaches would like him to do.
"He is talented. He has potential. But he's not ready to play in the NBA."
While Green drew interest after his release, he elected to sit out the remainder of the season. He remained in Houston and began working out with former NBA coach John Lucas, who has a well-earned reputation for resuscitating careers.
Lucas emphasized fundamentals with the 22-year-old Green, who jumped right to the NBA from high school. Green would often go hours without hoisting a single shot, focusing his attention instead on ball-handling drills and defensive movements.
"Lucas knows what he's doing," said Green. "I was going to work out with him when the season was over, but when the Rockets cut me I wanted to get in the gym with him right away. I needed to be ready for [this] season because I knew it could be my last chance."
If it is Green's last chance, he certainly couldn't have picked a better situation. In need of help at the wing positions, the Mavericks added Green with an eye toward having him back up at shooting guard and small forward.
Green averaged 15 points in 21.3 minutes in Dallas' first three summer league games. He also proved that he still has his freakish athleticism: In the second quarter against Sacramento on Wednesday, Green caught an offensive rebound over three Kings players and threw down a rim-rattling dunk.
"We're hoping Gerald follows the same path as Brandon Bass," Mavericks president Don Nelson said. "Brandon took advantage of the opportunity he had last season. We haven't had a player as explosive as Green at the 2 position in a long time. And we think playing with Jason Kidd will help him a lot."
Green is looking forward to playing with Kidd.
"When you run the floor with Jason, he's going to get you the ball," Green said. "He's the best point guard I'm ever going to play with, hands down. He is going to make me a better player. And let's be real about it -- if I were to mess around and have a horrible year, it could be my last. I'm not going to do anything to mess up this opportunity."
"Anything" apparently includes the Slam Dunk contest, which Green won in an electrifying manner in 2007 and was runner-up to Dwight Howard last season. Green said that if asked to participate again next season, he will politely decline.
"I'm just trying to focus on the Mavericks," Green said. "I want us to have a good season. And I need to have a good season."