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Celtics’ Green needs heart surgery

He’ll miss the season but may be able to resume his career

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / December 18, 2011
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TORONTO - The Celtics yesterday revealed that small forward Jeff Green will miss the season after doctors discovered an aortic aneurysm that will require surgery.

Green, 25, recently signed a one-year, $9 million contract and was expected to be one of the Celtics’ key contributors. But he failed a stress test during his team physical Dec. 9, which sparked a series of examinations.

Green said at the team’s media day Tuesday that he was healthy and only a case of fatigue caused the failed physical. But he received a second opinion Friday while accompanied by team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and surgery was the final decision.

The team said Green will undergo surgery Jan. 9 at the Cleveland Clinic.

The club said Green should be able to resume his career next season, and that if his contract is voided, as expected, the Celtics would have first rights to re-sign him as a restricted free agent.

Green, who could not be reached for comment, did address his situation on Twitter shortly after the announcement.

“Thank you everyone for your thoughts and prayers... much appreciated love you all... and I’ll be back soon stronger and better than ever I promise,’’ he tweeted.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, an aortic aneurysm is an “abnormal bulge that occurs in the wall of the major blood vessel [aorta] that carries blood from your heart to your vital organs.’’

Per Green’s wishes, Ainge and coach Doc Rivers did not speak about his condition, but Ainge did release a statement.

“While we are saddened that Jeff will not be able to play this season, the most important thing is his health, and we were fortunate to have access to an amazing team of specialists to evaluate Jeff’s case,’’ he said. “The entire Celtics family supports Jeff during this difficult time in his career.’’

Rivers hinted after Friday night’s scrimmage at TD Garden that Green would miss extensive time. “I’ll let you guess,’’ was his answer when asked whether he planned to prepare for Green’s long-term absence.

Green was acquired by the Celtics Feb. 23 in a controversial trade that sent Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder. Green’s play was uneven last season, as he averaged 9.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in 26 games.

Green put up shots before practice Tuesday and Wednesday but was not cleared for full contact. On Thursday, when the team worked out at the Garden, Green said he did not want to speak with the media.

According to Dr. Nancy McNamara, an interventional cardiologist at Bakersfield (Calif.) Heart Hospital, Green should be able to resume his career.

There are three types of aortic aneurysms, and it is uncertain which type Green was diagnosed with.

“If one part of the artery becomes weak, it starts to balloon out one side,’’ McNamara said. “As it continues, it can rupture, and that could be fatal. This is highly unusual in a young person.’’

McNamara said that the surgery could entail cutting out the affected artery and replacing it with a Dacron graft. “With that, you can make a full recovery, you can do anything you want,’’ she said. “There’s no reason why he couldn’t continue to play.’’

McNamara said the condition generally occurs in older people and could have been hereditary.

Ronny Turiaf of the Wizards underwent a surgery to repair an aortic root in 2005 and continued his career with no further complications.

The Celtics have the option of voiding Green’s contract, which would make him a restricted free agent next year, or calling for insurance to pay for the contract and applying for an injury exception from the NBA.

The Celtics are losing a versatile player who could score from the perimeter or the paint and would have provided relief to Paul Pierce during a 66-game season compacted because of the lockout. Rivers said Friday night that Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic would become the primary options at small forward if Green were unable to play.

The Celtics also may try to sign another swingman. One intriguing name is ex-Celtic James Posey, most recently with Indiana, who was waived via the league’s amnesty clause. But he would have to accept the veteran’s minimum to come to Boston, which could be a stumbling block.

Nenad Krstic, acquired from the Thunder with Green, signed a contract with CSKA Moscow before the lockout began.

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