WALTHAM — Jeff Green knew he was ready to come back when he was playing a pickup basketball game at his alma mater.
He told those in the game, “When I get the ball, I’m going to drive to the lane and I want you to hit me.”
Sure enough, they tested Green, making contact with his chest in the area of his heart where he had surgery last January to fix a faulty aortic valve.
“I wasn’t worried at all,” Green said. “When I got hit, I got hit right in the area where I had the surgery and it didn’t affect me at all. I think that is what got me through the rest of the summer as far as confidence and being able to build on what I’ve been trying to do. It was mind-boggling to go through it. First time, I was very winded but it felt very good to be back out there.”
Now for Green, it’s onto the business of getting back into the Celtics system, something he thinks will come quickly.
“I don’t think it will take me long at all, with me being around the team last year,” Green said. “I’ve been here since beginning of September and I’ve had talks with Doc and assistant coaches just to figure out different schemes on the floor. Just to put it [to work] on the floor, maybe a day.”
As far as what the surgery experience taught him, Green said he has more perspective now.
“It made me appreciate the little things,” Green said. “When I had the surgery, I couldn’t move, couldn’t do a crunch, couldn’t turn left or right so it made me appreciate life itself and all the little things. Definitely helped me open my eyes and made me realize life is short and you have to enjoy every moment of it.”
Green and Chris Wilcox both had surgeries on their hearts last season. “I call him my scar buddy,” Green said with his trademark wide smile.
“Who?,” the 35-year-old Terry said with a straight face. “No, we’re two different players and hopefully, I’ll bring something that Ray didn’t and some of the things that he did. Obviously, Ray was a great player for this franchise for years, brought them a championship in ’08. But, again, our games are totally different. He’s 6-5 and I’m 6-2, but I am “The Jet” and I like to fly so we’ll see what happens. A lot of those comparisons will be thrown out there but we’re two totally different players.
“For me, my job, it doesn’t change. I’ll be thrust into the sixth-man role. But hey, I’m on one of the best. It is what it is, and I take pride in it. It’s something every team needs, that spark, that energy off the bench and that’s what I’m here to do. Anything other than that, I won’t be doing my job. I don’t want to let these guys down. KG has already talked to me about what it means for him to win another championship, [Rajon Rondo] tells me every day what it means to win another one. And Paul Pierce, he’s looking great and he’s in great shape and condition. They know, they’re champions.”
Terry said he’s been inspired by the veterans like Rondo, Pierce and Kevin Garnett to be a leader for the bench.
“So now, for me as a veteran player, it’s [my job] to help these young guys, those guys we’re going to need off the bench, be the leader for them and help them understand what it’s going to mean to win a championship,” he said. “There is no other goal. The goal is to win a championship and I believe this year we have the talent, the coaching staff, the fans to get the job done. We believe it, we believe it to a man that we will win.”
That much was obvious two weeks ago when Rondo took it upon himself to invite Celtics players out to Los Angeles for a pick-up game/workout and a friendly game of flag-football. The reason? Team bonding.
Rondo made it clear Friday at Celtics media day how big of an impact Garnett has had on him in his career. Rondo said after losing Game 7 of the Eastern finals to the Heat in Miami, the first thing he did when he got on the bus was to ask Garnett if he were coming back.
“I can probably say Kevin is my closest friend on the team,” Rondo began. “Kevin always wants to see me do well. From Day 1, I think my second year when he first came in, he told me he would be disappointed if I wasn’t the MVP of the league one day, if I wasn’t considered one of the best point guards one day so he’s always pushed me and expected more out of me than a lot of people did. He’s always showed me how to become a better person each day. Whenever I mess up, Kevin’s always the one who tells me you should do this, or conduct yourself this way or handle it that way.
“He’s been kind of like a big brother/mentor and he’s always wanted the best for me so that’s how we sort of gravitated toward each other. Obviously, off the court, we have a lot of things in common. We share the same interests in a lot of things. He’s been like a big brother to me. The way he goes about the game, the way he approaches the game. He’s a future hall of famer, I consider one of the greatest players to ever play the game who’s been in front of me. So, he’s inspired me to work hard, come in every day, come in get extra shots, taking care of my body, getting proper rest, getting massages, getting treatment and getting stretching. This is how to have longevity in the NBA. He’s played for 17 years and only two or three players can say that in this era.”
As for those who doubt whether a 36-year-old Kevin Garnett can be productive, Rondo said Friday he knows better.
“I don’t take it personal because I’m not him but I kind of laugh when people say he’s old or he doesn’t do this or he can’t do that because if you know the game of basketball, it’s one thing but when you play with Kevin, he does so many little things that don’t show up in the stat book,” Rondo said. “When you play with another big guy that isn’t Kevin Garnett, you know what you’re missing out there on the floor. Obviously, in the playoffs he had a great run. If you look at the stats, the plus-minus when Kevin was on and off the floor, there was a big difference. (more…)