The Associated Press

PHOENIX Phoenix ironman A.C. Green doesn't get to strut in the bright lights during the pregame introductions, but he's the super backup the Suns hope will lead them to the NBA Championship.

Green is a true power forward 6-foot-9 and 225 pounds. That was a problem on a team with Charles Barkley, who muddles the distinction between the forward positions by playing bigger than his 6-6 frame.

Coach Paul Westphal started Green for 55 games before deciding that small forward Cedric Ceballos was a better complement to Barkley to begin every game.

Green didn't complain, and he went on to average 34 1/2 minutes per game while extending his league-leading streak of consecutive games to 649, sixth in NBA history.

"He's a real professional guy," teammate Danny Ainge said. "He really goes about his job the way you're supposed to. He comes to work early, he works harder than anybody else, and he really prepares himself."

Green was fifth on the team in scoring (14.7) and second in rebounding (9.2). And he stepped up his pace in the first six games of a season-ending, seven-game win streak to 16.3 points and 12.7 rebounds.

"We're sure counting on him," Westphal said, looking forward to Friday night's first-round playoff opener against Golden State. "I think he's the kind of guy you love to have on your side."

Westphal should know.

With Green playing for the

Los Angeles Lakers last year, the Lakers won the first two games in Phoenix, then nearly eliminated the Suns in Game 5 before Barkley and Oliver Miller rallied Phoenix to a 112-104 overtime win.

Suns president Jerry Colangelo made hiring Green his No. 1 priority in the offseason, and a five-year, $17 million contract convinced Green to leave Los Angeles after eight years.

Green said he's learned to squeeze everything but basketball from his life during the playoffs.

Even shopping or hanging out are anathema to Green, who doesn't like to think about teammates in sports bars or movie theaters.

"Those are the things you've got to cut out and make sure you get even more rest than usual," Green said.

He said he learned from Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who would work for hours on free throws or perfecting outlet passes after a rebound. Read Next Article