Several players on the Boston Celtics’ roster this season are likely to have a productive season. One of those players—Jeff Green—is set to have a breakout year.
Green initially arrived in Boston on Feb. 25, 2011, via a four-player trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder. In 26 games with the Celtics that season, Green averaged 9.8 PPG on 48.5 percent shooting in roughly 23 minutes on the floor each night.
During that time, the 26-year-old impressed the Celtics’ brass and proved to be a valuable asset to the team. As a result, he was rewarded with a one-year, $9 million contract offer from the team on Dec. 10, 2011.
Unfortunately for Green, fate would step in.
Only seven days after the offer was made, Green was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm. The condition would sideline him for the entire 2011-12 season. Even worse, since he was unable to pass a physical, the Celtics’ offer was revoked.
Green would spend the season as an unrestricted free agent.
Now, 10 months and one surgery later, Green finds himself back in a Celtics’ jersey—the team resigned him to a four-year deal in August—and playing arguably the best basketball on the team thus far during the preseason.
It’s a significant turn of events for someone who spent the early part of the year relearning how to walk, drive and sleep comfortably.
But while Green’s story can be seen as an inspiration to many, he hopes it’s his performance on the court that they’ll be talking about.
So far, he’s off to a great start.
After three preseason games, Green leads the team in points (15.0 PPG), field-goal percentage (58.6 percent) and minutes played (26.7 MPG). It’s even more impressive when you consider that he’s come off the bench in all three games.
Green has even discovered his touch behind the arc, shooting 66.7 percent—a significant upgrade from his 33.7 percent career average.
Green is hopeful that he can replicate his production from his two-and-a-half seasons with the Thunder.
From 2008-11, Green averaged 15.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG and shot 44.6 percent from the floor. He started in all but one of his 209 appearances with the team.
In 29 appearances with the Celtics, Green has only started twice—but it’s all for good reason.
With Paul Pierce locked into the small forward position to start off the season, it’s understandable why Green should expect to be given a reduced role.
Pierce has led the Celtics in scoring every year since the 1999-00 season—his first full year in the league. Even last season, in what was easily one of his worst shooting seasons in his career, Pierce still averaged 19.4 PPG—higher than Green’s 13.4 PPG career mark.
At 6’9”, Green could also figure to fit in at the power forward position. But with Brandon Bass, Kevin Garnett and Jared Sullinger looking to be the majority of the rotation at the position, it’s highly unlikely that Green will see significant time there.
However, his strong preseason performance hasn’t gone unnoticed by everyone.
Head coach Doc Rivers has been impressed with what he’s seen from the Georgetown product thus far. So much so that he even went as far as to potentially include Green in his list of players he would entrust with the task of finishing games.
That’s a high honor for a player whose signing many—including ESPN Insider’s John Hollinger—criticized.
If Green can keep his successful play going, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Green eventually end up splitting time with Pierce, who at 35 is starting to wear down physically.
With the Celtics in the midst of a youth movement, Green serves as the perfect player for Pierce to pass the torch off too.
Call me crazy, but I see that hand-off taking place before April.
Now, wouldn’t that be something?
You can follow Sebastian on Twitter at @SP7988