During Celtics media day before the start of last season, Jeff Green acted like any other player as he got his picture taken, taped radio promos, and talked to reporters. A red flag had just come up in Green’s physical, but the lanky forward cheerfully answered questions about it. The Celtics were holding Green off the floor for the first day of practice, but Green said he thought he’d be back soon. Nothing to worry about, he said.
A few days went by and Green still wasn’t on the floor. On Dec. 18, the team announced that Green had an aortic aneurysm, a condition that required surgery. Green, a centerpiece of Boston’s attempt to get younger and faster, would soon struggle to walk.
“So many things [were on my mind],” Green said Thursdsay in an interview with Celtics.com. “First family. My life. Basketball came last.”
Green had surgery in January, and during his recovery basketball wasn’t close to being an option. For a long time, he said he struggled to do even simple tasks.
“I view things differently now,” said Green. “I don’t take a lot of things for granted. After the procedure, just doing a situp was hard. Walking from door to door was hard. Catching my breath was hard. All the things that I do now were taken away from me. A procedure that only took a couple hours.
“It was hard. It was like starting from scratch.”
While he couldn’t play basketball, Green made good use of his time. He spent time with his family. He finished college, walking at Georgetown’s graduation in May. Green said everybody he knew from school previously was gone.
“I felt a little old,” he said.
As he got better, Green began to focus on basketball. He became a constant fixture at TD Garden, hanging out with his former teammates in the locker room and sitting near the Celtics bench during some games. On not being a part of the Celtics’ surprising run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Green said, “It was real frustrating.”
Green said he supported the Celtics because of the support they gave him during his recovery.
“They helped me along my route,” said Green. “It was a no-brainer for me to come back and support the fellas and the whole organization as a whole. They were there for me through my stress of going through the surgery. I did whatever I could to pay them back by being there to support those guys, trying to be a helping hand around the team.
“They searched high and low for the best doctor, for the best clinic to go to handle the procedure. Everything that I needed. I didn’t want the surgery. I didn’t want to have this, to have to miss the season. They made it easier every step of the way.”
Green officially signed with the Celtics Wednesday, agreeing to a four-year deal worth $36 million. Hold-ups in getting the deal done included issues with the new collective bargaining agreement and insurance issues, sources told the Herald’s Steve Bulpett. When the deal was done, Green tweeted, “FINALLY!!!” He later tweeted, “Been waiting to say this for a while… #iamaceltic”
Green projects as a backup to Paul Pierce at the small forward position this season. He’ll also play some power forward when the Celtics go small. The size of his deal indicates that the Celtics expect him to be a starter a couple of years down the road.
Green told Celtics.com he didn’t expect much would change in his game, but he did acknowledge he has a different approach.
“I’ll still be the same player,” said Green. “But I think the outlook on the time I have in this league, I think I have to be more aggressive in different areas. I have to change my outlook and my approach of the game. That time that I had off, I’m seeing certain spots on the floor that I can help.”