Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Haaapppyyy Birthday dear Jeff Greeeeeeennn (For Three!), Happy Birthdaaayyy to youuuu! Today is Jeff Green’s 27th birthday, about one and a half years since his open heart surgery. It’s pretty well known that I love Jeff Green so who better to write a post about his birthday than me? Rather than simply wishing a happy birthday & success to Jeff Green, I’ll be explaining Green’s last few years & briefly tell you why I am as big a Jeff Green fan as I am.
It’s February of 2011, it’s almost time for the All-Star break & the Celtics are tearing it up in the East, battling the then newly assembled Miami Heat for the first seed in the Eastern Conference. The 15 game win streak, Rondo’s record for most assists in the first 5 games of the season, Big Baby playing like a Sixth Man of The Year candidate, KG’s regained confidence & trust in his knee, Ray is hitting 3’s, Paul is Paul, everything is going the Celtics way.
But as we’ve seen far too many times in the New Big 3 Era, injuries hit & they hit HARD. Jermaine O’Neal was in (!) & out of the lineup, Rondo had plantar fasciitis around Christmas time, Kendrick Perkins had been rehabbing his knee in Boston, Shaq dealt with some lower leg injuries, even Semih Erden had shoulder problems. Then, Marquis Daniels, the lone backup SF for Paul Pierce went down with a truly horrific injury against the Orlando Magic & that is what I believe eventually led to the trigger being pulled on the Green-Perk trade. I remember getting the text that the deal had went down & remember falling on my beanbag & screaming “No!!!! Why?!?!!!” (I have chosen to not include the conversation I had with my mother after she heard me screaming in my room.)
I reacted the exact same way most Celtics fans did to the trade, loudly asking questions in your room, yelling curse words, “compliments” at Danny Ainge & crying after watching The Association: Boston Celtics episode where they showed how hard Perk worked to return.
So now, the first domino of the Celtics rebuild had fallen & we looked at Jeff Green & said “Well, what are you going to do for us because we traded Perk for you.”
Celtics fans are a lot of things, crazy, sensitive, obnoxious & so much more, but they really give a damn about their Celtics, they want the players that give off an aura of confidence, strength & they really want you to be a damn good ball player. Early on, Jeff Green was none of those things, he didn’t beat his chest like KG did nor did he smirk with the overflowing confidence as the ball was in his hands during crunch time like Paul Pierce did. Green never found his comfort zone with a team that flaunted three Hall of Famers including Shaq & Rondo; quite simply put, Green struggled. He couldn’t adjust from being a starter to a bench player, he couldn’t adjust to the defensive schemes Boston was known for & he couldn’t solidify a set position that he would play every game.
Fast forward to the end of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, the Miami Heat had defeated the Celtics 4-1 & Green was set to become a restricted free agent & there were many people (myself included) that said he isn’t worth bringing back that the Celtics would be better off using their money to bring back Glen “Big Baby” Davis, who was coming off an absolutely terrible postseason (Shows you how much Green struggled to fit in).
Fast forward again to training camp, the Celtics have signed Jeff Green to a one year deal, training camp begins & something strange happens. What is usually a routine, get in-get out kind of deal, Green’s physical showed a potential life threatening condition, an aortic aneurysm.
Jeff Green had to sit out the entire 2011-12 NBA season & undergo open heart surgery.
What fans had labeled a “I’m going to show you how good I really am” season for Jeff Green, was gone & his number one priority swiftly shifted from proving the doubters wrong to am I going to live? After a year of grueling rehabilitation, Jeff Green returned to the basketball court for the Celtics.
Green started out the season slowly, almost on the same level that he played in 2010-11 when he struggled to fit in. Critics jumped on him, from being called soft, overpaid, bum, to the worst contract in the NBA. But something happened -after the All-Star break, Green was no longer just a corner 3 point shooter, no longer was he asked to stand in the corner & be the bailout option when the play broke down. He was aggressive to the rim, getting to the free throw line, knocking down clutch 3 pointers, chase down blocks, attacking mismatches & all those dunks! I think the biggest thing about Green’s post All-Star break performance was that he made defenses account for him; no longer could defenses say “Yeah, that’s Jeff Green, just stand in front of him & you’ll be fine.” No, this dog finally showed its bite after all those years.
All of a sudden, people began to rethink their previous opinion of how the Thunder robbed the Celtics & of how badly Green was overpaid. Fast forward to the playoffs, Green continued his excellent play & was the Celtics best player in the series against the Knicks.
In closing, I guess the reason I’m a big Jeff Green fan is because of how hard he’s worked to not only come back but to excel in the NBA.
People could question his work ethic before the surgery & say “He’s 6”9 & athletic, why can’t he take over games? It should be easy for a guy as gifted as he is!” but after he basically rebuilt his entire body to be able to play NBA basketball (MUCH different than just regular basketball we play) & to play as well as he did should silence any questions of Green’s work ethic. From not being able to fit in, to making people fit around him, Jeff Green has embraced the Celtics & the Celtics have embraced him.
Happy Birthday to Jeff Green, my favorite player & a true inspiration on & off the court.