Green soaking in every moment with Celtics

Green soaking in every moment with Celtics
September 30, 2012, 12:05 am
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WALTHAM The first day of practice can be a drag for many NBA players.

Not for Jeff Green, who was fighting a losing battle in trying to hide his ear-to-ear grin.

"It was hard," said Green, still trying (and failing miserably) to mask a smile. "I was trying not to smile too much in practice, keep a straight face."

Can you blame him?

The 6-foot-9 forward inked a four-year, 36 million deal with the C's this summer, which is enough right there to be giddy.

But when you consider what he has gone through this past year and how this was his first training camp with the Celtics, being in a jovial mood makes sense.

After being acquired midway through the 2010 season from Oklahoma City, Green had to sit out all of last season after a routine physical showed an abnormality with his heart. That ultimately led to the one-year, 9 million contract he signed being voided, in addition to him needing season-ending heart surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm.

Months of rehabilitation and workouts followed, bringing Green to the Saturday where he was ready to go all-out - literally.

Throughout the C's first practice, Green was doing what he does best - run the floor - which caught the eye of many, including head coach Doc Rivers.

While Rivers was pleased with the conditioning of most of his players, Green stood out.

"Jeff looked great," Rivers said. "He had one of the better practices. His conditioning was phenomenal. I thought that was great."

Even if he struggled, just being back on the floor is a blessing that Green does not take for granted.

He acknowledged that there was a point in which he wasn't sure if he was going to be able to return to the NBA.

Green is not only back, but he's seemingly in even better health than before the surgery.

That bodes well for Green being able to have the kind of major impact off the bench that he and the C's are hoping for.

One way of helping make that happen would be to cut down Paul Pierce's minutes, something Rivers said he will look into trying to do this season.

Pierce, who has averaged at least 34 minutes per game in each of his 14 NBA seasons, said he has no problem with Green getting some of his playing time.

"He's a guy that makes our lineup so much more versatile," Pierce said. "He can switch from the 3 (small forward) to the 4 (power forward), or he can make us a big lineup with him at the 3 and me at the 2 (shooting guard)."

Green said he spent most of Saturday's practice primarily at the small forward position.

But there's no question that with Rivers wanting to play more "small ball" this year, there will be times and lineups in which Green will be called upon to play multiple positions.

Green is clearly more comfortable at small forward.

Considering all that he has gone through this past year, being on the court is a reward in itself.

"I've gone through the tough times and I beat it," Green said. "Now I'm in great condition; my game is getting right and I'm just happy to play basketball."

Green added, "The surgery is behind me. Good times in front of me."