Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Former Celtic Jeff Green reflects on his journey to an NBA championship

It might have taken 16 years, but Jeff Green finally won a championship Monday when the Denver Nuggets beat the Miami Heat 4-1 to capture the franchise's first NBA title.

Following the victory, Green spoke about his journey to this point -- that included stops with 11 different teams before finally being able to call himself a champion.
"I can't even put it into words," Green said in a postgame interview with ESPN's Scott Van Pelt. "This is what you live for. This is all the sacrifice, all the blessings and tears that count as ours. For me, going through the surgery, like you said, 11 teams, adapted to every environment -- this is what it's all for. All that sacrifice, it paid off."
Green, 36, was originally selected by the Celtics with the fifth overall pick back in 2007 before being traded to the Seattle Supersonics on draft day as part of the Ray Allen deal. Green would be traded back to Boston at the 2011 NBA deadline for Kendrick Perkins. He missed the entire 2011-12 season after undergoing heart surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm. Upon his return, Green played with the Celtics through the end of the new 'Big-3 era' and until he was dealt to the Memphis Grizzles in 2015.

Between leaving Boston and joining the Nuggets, Green had bounced around the league -- with such teams like the Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavilers and Brooklyn Nets to name a few. But the Nuggets is the first destination where Green has played back-to-back seasons since his tenure with the Celtics.

Prior to Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Green gave high praise to former Celtics teammate Kevin Garnett, who said had a positive influence during their time together in Boston.
"When I was with Boston, I didn't talk much. I was very quiet. But now, I can't stop talking, so I guess to a small extent, I'm like [Kevin Garnett]. I think being vocal is big. I think that's something that a player should get comfortable with when you're younger," Green told reporters back on June 3.
The former No. 5 draft pick got more specific on what Garnett would tell him while they were teammates with the Celtics.
"He used to tell me all the time, 'You gotta speak up. You gotta talk. You gotta talk!' continually," Green recalled. "I hear him, but being comfortable in that situation of doing is tough to step out of your comfort zone. I didn't realize that until late. I wish that was something that I did earlier. I think he's one that sticks out because that's something I should have started earlier."
Though Green and Garnett were only teammates between 2011 and 2013, the man they call Uncle Jeff took to heart the simple advice given by a future Hall-of-Fame forward that resulted in becoming a veteran presence on a contending roster and finally winning a championship ring in year 16.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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