Less than one calendar year ago, Green was receiving heart surgery for an aortic aneurysm (via ESPN Boston). In what can only be described as a remarkable recovery, the former Georgetown Hoya is now standing tall as the Celtics' standout preseason performer.
Even his coach has acknowledged said fact.
Per a report via Paul Flannery of WEEI 93.7 FM, head coach Doc Rivers stated that Green "stood out more than everybody" during the preseason. Rivers proceeded to praise Green for a variety of the improvements he has made from past seasons:
I just think he’s more aggressive, obviously...He’s comfortable in his game. He understands how to score, how he can score through our offense. The other part is he’s happy. The guys like him, he likes them, he’s comfortable here now. I think last year, even though he didn’t play, probably did a world of good. Just being around the guys and they accepted him and I think all that helped him.
Doc Rivers has been in the NBA as either a player or coach since the Atlanta Hawks drafted him in 1983. For him to praise a player is equivalent to a virtual guarantee of potential success.
Fortunately for Jeff Green, Rivers was precise in his evaluation. Green is about to become a star in the NBA.
Humble and Ready
Arguably the two most important characteristics for a young star to embrace are those of being humble and a desire to constantly improve. Fortunately for the Celtics, Green embodies those qualities as well as any player in the league.
His comments about Rivers' praise display such:
I doubt that. He’s lying to y’all. I think he was being nice for saying that. I’m very hard on myself. I felt like I could have done a lot more. This was a good start to my comeback, my whole journey coming back and playing again. So I’m grateful for everything that’s happened this preseason, but I’m never content with what I’ve [done].
For those unfamiliar with who Green is as a player, understand what the Georgetown mold has created. He is a skilled forward who passes and handles the ball as well as your average point guard would.
He also has a developing mid-range game, a re-discovered mean streak and an uncanny ability to play well on big stages. In other words, Green is the potential replacement for future Hall of Fame small forward Paul Pierce.
The question is, will he prove capable of fulfilling such high expectations in 2012-13?
Versatility Breeds Opportunity
As Doc Rivers draws up rotations and experiments with starting lineups, there appears to be one thing that many have forgotten. With questions about where Green will fit in, somehow we've lost the fact that he is not limited to small forward.
In fact, Green has spent virtually his entire four-year NBA career at power forward.
Although he is more of a natural 3, the fact that he is capable of playing multiple positions is certain to lead to additional minutes. It will also breed opportunities for Green to both facilitate and score as a part of the Rajon Rondo-led offense.
Whether in the low or high-post, Green can pick a team apart. With this positional versatility, expect Doc Rivers to have the 2007 Big East Player of the Year on the floor as often as he possibly can.
In turn, expect the statistics to be padded and the experience to create a leader of this prominent franchise.
What It Means for the Future
This is not a reason that Jeff Green will become a star. Instead, it is a question that Celtics fans and executives, alike, may fear answering.
If Green emerges as a star player, what is to come of potential free agent forward Paul Pierce?
Will he still exercise his player option after this season? If so, what will come of his career when he's an unrestricted free agent in 2014?
Should Green produce as Doc Rivers expects him to, it would be difficult to justify handing Pierce the near max contract he's likely to request. Keep in mind, Kevin Garnett received a $34 million deal over the span of three years at the age of 36 (via ESPN Boston).
There is no reason for Pierce to expect anything less from the franchise that he has led for 14 seasons. There may also be no rationale in re-signing the 10-time All-Star if Green proves capable of taking over the starting role.
And so we ponder.
Do you sacrifice a surefire Hall of Famer who is still elite for a player who could be a significant member of the team's future? That becomes a question Boston must answer if Green progresses as planned.
The decision will forever alter the direction of the franchise.