MIAMI -- The beaming lights and sea of orange and red seats engulfed the 6-9 forward as he stood on the court of the American Airlines Arena. Jeff Green's eyes glimmered while he slowly looked around the building. He paused, losing sight of the present for just a moment and thinking ahead to Opening Night.
The first game of the 2012-13 NBA season. The first game of the Boston Celtics quest for Banner 18. The first game for Green since heart surgery in January.
"It's like fireworks," he told CSNNE.com as a smile crossed his face. "It's like the Fourth of July."
Green and teammate Chris Wilcox underwent season-ending heart surgery in 2012. Green never suited up for the Celtics last season -- he last played on May 11, 2011. Wilcox appeared in 28 games through March 7. Both have been cleared to play this season, starting with Opening Night in Miami on Tuesday against the Heat.
"It probably hasn't really hit me yet," said Wilcox. "Probably when I get in the locker room and see everything and get ready, it'll probably hit me. The first time I saw my jersey when we were overseas, I got emotional. It's here now. It's a blessing."
While Green and Wilcox are proud to wear the Celtics uniform (each re-signed with the C's this summer), they are even more proud of what is underneath their jerseys. Both players have scars that run down their chest as a result of their surgeries.
The two were overcome by emotions the first time they saw the permanent reminders. Green had never undergone surgery before and considers waking up from the operation to find IVs, tubes, and bandages as the most difficult point of the process.
"It wasn't me," said Green. "I cried because I'd never seen myself like that. I'm a fit guy, I love taking care of my body. The first time I looked in the mirror with the slash down the middle, my body wasn't the same. It wasn't a good thing to look at at first."
Wilcox was so anxious about the procedure he lost weight due to loss of appetite two weeks before his surgery. Facing his own image following the operation was challenging.
"When I first looked in the mirror, it was tough because I was like, 'I've got to live with this (scar),'" he said. "I was like ashamed of it, like I have to walk around with this. But now it's like, it's me. I'm more ok, it is what it is. I'm more confident with it. Now it's like a blessing. When I look at it now, it's just like motivation for me."
Green emerged as the Celtics standout player of the preseason, averaging 13.9 points and 4.9 rebounds using his length and athleticism with an inside and outside game. Wilcox was hampered by a back injury but looks to return as a big man who can play two positions (forward-center) and run in transition with Rajon Rondo.
They hope 2013 will be a season of new beginnings for Green and Wilcox. They always have reminders of past to make them appreciate their future in the NBA.
"It means a lot," Green said of his scar. "It's the new me. My whole character now and it shows what I've been through. I'll never forget it."