There are not many NBA players who can tell a personal story like Jeff Green can. What Jeff endured a couple years back was one major obstacle in his life, personally and professionally.
He had plenty of doubts and concerns before the surgery; how would his life continue? “I didn’t know if I was ever going to play again. I didn’t know if I was going to make it through the surgery. I didn’t know if I was going to see my family again,” Green had to say. It was all he could think of.
Luckily, the heart issue is now just a story to tell for Jeff.
Now he has certainty. He’s got a nice contract and a starting role on the Celtics. As simple as that may sound, for Jeff it was huge. “That day when I signed the contract I cried. I mean, to come from heart surgery to sign any contract it was a blessing.”
“Nobody knows what I’ve been through; nobody knows what I’m still going through,” Jeff said last year. And he’s right, no one but he can know. What we know is that he worked his ass off to come back, and not only that, but to come back as a great NBA player.
He showed to us what he can do and what he can become last season. He has some new aggression and passion, has a soft jumper, and a desire to win. Last year’s playoffs, in which he averaged 20.3 points on 44FG% and 46% from downtown, may have just been the beginning of everything.
By all means, Green’s goal for next season should be winning the Most Improved Player Award. I’m not saying he will win it; I’m saying he has the tools to do it and should go for it.
Last season, Green’s averages were 12.8 PTS, 3.9 REB and 1.6 AST. For comparisons sake, Paul George’s averages the season before he won the MIP were 12.1 PTS, 5.6 REB, and 2.4 AST. The thing I see is that Green has more room to improve, at least stat-wise.
As a plus, Green will have the ball on his hands on a team with not many other available scorers, while George had David West, Roy Hibbert and even George Hill. Green has Rondo and other guys who have never been able to score consistently on the NBA. Jeff will be in charge of scoring the ball next season. Besides, George did not have a pass first point guard there to facilitate his job. Guess who does have one next to him?
Not everything is scoring, I know, but allow me to reinforce that aspect. Many will say Jeff will be far less efficient with the ball in his hands so much. I see that and I respect it but let me go against it. For one, Green’s jump shooting should not take a step back by any means. Really, with a long summer to work in his game, it should have improved, even. Second, Green’s best stretch last season was when the Celtics basically allowed him to do whatever he wanted. “Just go save us, Jeff.” Now, he will have that role again, but for the majority of the season Rondo will be there to help him. Not only helping him run the offense and carry the load, helping him set his own offense. Rondo can give him set-feet jumpers, Rondo can actually throw the ball to him on the post (sorry Avery), and most importantly, Rondo can run with him. Getting 2 or 3 fast-break scores a game will be huge for Jeff’s efficiency and with Rondo and other quick guys by his side (sorry KG and Paul) that should be happening a lot next season. Also, any NBA player will tell you how much dunks boost their confidence. Jeff should be getting lots of those on the break. Just run and Rondo will find you.
An award is not just scoring, but that’s a big time part of it. Still, his other stats should be on the ups, too. Early in the season without Rondo, Jeff will have the ball in his hands all the time, allowing him to create for other as much as for himself. His drives usually ended up in him shooting or getting fouled, but that was because the attention was not on him. Now, it will be on him, meaning other guys will be open for shots and cuts. Jeff will find those open guys, and there are your assists. As for rebounds, Jeff never has been and probably never will be a great rebounder, but more minutes will allow him to get more, simple as that.
For Jeff, he has to play with all he passion he has inside. He has to play with a desire to be the best on the court every second of the game. Celtics fans know how he’s willing to work, because if he wasn’t he would not be playing basketball right now. Iron-Man will bring the effort and heart to put a huge season out there.
When he is at the top, let KG’s words come back to you. “You know what it is, he’s so good that we forget he’s been through major heart surgery. That’s what you forget.”