Most of you know the name Jeff Green.
Some people may know him from his days at Georgetown where he regularly filled up the stat sheet for a very complete team. Some will know him from his OKC days as he was on the ground floor with that organization. Or you might also know Green from his astonishing highlight jam over Al Jefferson last week.
But the most astonishing thing about Jeff Green has absolutely nothing to do with basketball.
Green and the Celtics seemed like they were meant for one another. Green was drafted by the Celtics back in 2007 only to be abruptly traded (along with other pieces) to the Seattle Supersonics for Ray Allen and Glen Davis.
However, that did not mean by any stretch that the Celtics were done with Green. Danny Ainge proceeded to basically stalk Green for the next five years. He proposed deals many times in the hopes of pulling the versatile forward away from OKC.
On February 25, 2011, Ainge finally got his man. In a largely unpopular move, the Celtics traded Center Kendrick Perkins along with Nate Robinson to the Thunder for Green and Nenad Kristic.
Green had an up and down second half of the 2011 season, but played much better in the beginning of the following year. In fact, he received a one-year extension on December 10, 2011. What happened next, nobody would have predicted. Exactly one week later, Green was diagnosed with aortic aneurism, which would require open-heart surgery.
The surgery meant Green had to question his entire future. Would he be able to play basketball again? Even Green had his doubts about that, but the most pressing matter was of life and death. When Green woke up from his procedure on January 9, he could not move. He compared that feeling to being an infant and having to go through all the little intermediate stages in life before even thinking about picking up a basketball again.
Green began receiving a tremendous amount of support from his teammates and peers. Kevin Durant dedicated his season to Green. All the Celtics rallied around Green like he was a member of their immediate family. He was on the bench for almost every Celtics game, despite technically being a free agent. The Celtics, their players and front office alike, have treated Green as a member of their family. Ainge seems to feel a personal connection to Green, having followed him since likely far before that 2007 NBA Draft. And as soon as Green was given the green light on his health, the Celtics locked him up with a 4-year/$36 million contract.
Ainge took on an immense amount of criticism for that move. Even when Green played for the Celtics he hadn’t shown that sort of worth. Many questioned if he ever would.
It’s one thing to go through open-heart surgery and all that entails. It is a completely different challenge to get back to being a professional athlete afterwards. That is exactly what Green set out to do and so far he is passing with flying colors. He once again has the supreme bounce and athleticism that drew Ainge in to begin with, and he appears to be on the verge of busting out.
Not even a full year after one of the most serious operations in the medical field, Jeff Green is running the floor like a champion. His conditioning still needs work, but less than a year removed from that surgery Green is very close to being 100% of the player the Celtics coveted for so long.
Green’s determination, resolve, dedication and drive have fueled an improbable recovery. Even if he doesn’t score another NBA point, if he bricks every jump shot or blows every defensive assignment there is not one person that can tell Green he failed. Because if Jeff Green is what failure looks like, then sign me up.