Jeff Green Is Ready for 2012-’13 Season

Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green is excited to be back on the court after having surgery for an aortic aneurysm last December.

After being away from the game of basketball for a year, there is nobody who anticipates  the commencement of the 2012-’13 NBA season more than Boston Celtics forward, Jeff Green.

When the NBA lockout ended and teams began practicing in December, Green failed his physical due to an aortic aneurysm. The 6-foot, 9-inch Green had surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. During last year, he rehabbed and occasionally showed up at TD Garden to watch his teammates play.

Last week, Green said he was given full clearance to participate in everything. He signed a four-year, $36 million contract in August that gave him long-term security for a franchise that initially drafted Green out of Georgetown University. The Celtics selected Green with the 5th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft as part of an agreement with the then-Seattle SuperSonics for Ray Allen and the 35th choice (Glen Davis) in the same Draft.  The Celtics also sent Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak to the Sonics .

After the Seattle team relocated to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder, they drafted more young players in point guard Russell Westbrook and James Harden to go with budding superstar Kevin Durant. Green was never a player who demanded the ball even during his days at Georgetown. He became lost amongst the group of young talent in Oklahoma City. While Green provided solid scoring statistics, the Thunder did not want to pay a player who was of similar stature to Durant and who was not the force that Durant became. Also, Green had problems rebounding and defending.

At the trade deadline in February of 2011, the Thunder shipped Green to Boston along with reserve center Nenad Krstic for Celtics center Kendrick Perkins and backup guard Nate Robinson. This was a move of needs for both squads. The Celtics had to get someone who could give quality minutes off the bench and have the height to cover forwards such as LeBron James of the Miami Heat and Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference. Also, the Celtics knew they could not afford to rely on an aging Paul Pierce to run with James and Anthony for 40-plus minutes in a seven-game series. Meanwhile, the Thunder was desperate for a young center that could provide an interior defensive presence.

There were many fans and media personalities who criticized Danny Ainge for getting rid of a player like Perkins. Perkins brought a lunch-pail attitude to the Celtics. He was a player who made tremendous strides from the days when the Celtics took a flyer with the 27th overall pick in the 2003 Draft on the overweight 18-year-old out of Beaumont, Texas.

The Celtics are hoping they will finally be able to see a return on this acquisition. This will be the first full season for Green in a Celtics uniform.

The 26-year-old can play multiple positions, but he will mostly play the “3” or “4” in a small lineup. Green can score and cause mismatches with his length. Before his half season with the Celtics, Green has never averaged below double digits in points. Green averaged 9.8 points per game in 26 appearances on the court for the Celtics. While Green is a solid free throw shooter (77.3%), he is not particularly a deep shooter. He is a career 33.7% shooter from beyond the three-point line. He can run in transition. Green and Rajon Rondo had many opportunities to work the fast-break in Green’s short stint as a Celtic in 2011.

The intriguing thing to watch in the preseason and early portion of the regular season is how the chemistry develops between Green and guards Rondo and Jason Terry. The assumption will be that the Celtics will begin the 2011-’12 season with Green on the bench. It has been 16 months since Green last played in an NBA game so he will need to work on his conditioning and acclimating himself onto the court. The Celtics are deep in the frontcourt with Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox, Darko Milicic, and Jason Collins. In 2011, the Celtics brought over new players Troy Murphy and Carlos Arroyo along with Green who did not have a training camp to work the kinks out. Also, Terry is a better passer than Arroyo and he can provide spacing on the court with his ability to shoot as well as penetrate to the basket.

Doc Rivers’ son, Jeremiah, was a teammate with Green on the 2006-’07 Georgetown team that advanced to the Final Four. Rivers went to several games to watch that Georgetown team so he had a good understanding of the intangibles brought by Green.

The coaching staff and Garnett will need to work with Green on improving this part of his game as well as his defense for the Celtics to be able to get past the Heat. The defending NBA champs are the presumed favorite to win the Eastern Conference again after knocking off the Celtics in seven games last year. Green will need to show that he can cause problems for opponents on the defensive side because everyone knows the impact he can create on the other side of the court. He has trouble stopping the pick-and-roll and post-ups in the paint. Most of this could be attributed to playing with other young players in a switch system with Scott Brooks and the Thunder. It didn’t help that the Thunder had slow-footed Krstic. Green’s instincts tend to be off at times. The Celtics will give him about 20 minutes per game and rely on him to guard opponents on the wing.

With Allen in Miami playing for the Heat and Green back with the Celtics, that fateful trade in 2007 has become an afterthought. Now, Green is set to show the Celtics and observers around the league that the Celtics did not make a mistake a year and a half ago.

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