Jeff Green 'thankful for everything'

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Jeff Green 'thankful for everything'

WALTHAM Jeff Green was with his family for Thanksgiving a year ago, with the biggest care in the world being whether he and the rest of his NBA brethren would have a season to play.
Thanksgiving is a time of reflection for most and Green is no different.
But for him this holiday has a deeper, more significant meaning now.
That's what happens when life throws you the ultimate change-up that puts you in an Intensive Care Unit in Cleveland for a week for heart surgery and puts your life -- not just the game of basketball -- in jeopardy.
And as if that wasn't scary enough, Green told CSNNE.com that doctors had to go back inside a second time to repair some internal bleeding which extended his hospital stay.
"I didn't realize that (happened) until I left the hospital and I was talking to one of my good friends," Green told CSNNE.com. "What I had was bleeding internally. So they had to go back in and fix what it was."
Green added, "Everything that I have ever owned, everything that I have ever gained, everything I ever accomplished, was almost taken away from me in a matter of hours."
Jeff Green sits on one of the cushioned seats aligned against the wall at the Boston Celtics practice facility, his mind taking him yet again on a journey into his past, the present and what he and the C's hope will be a bright, promising future.
The 6-foot-9 forward will be the first to tell you that he has a lot to be thankful for today; first and foremost for being alive.
"To reflect on that makes me appreciate everything that I've done, everything that's coming towards me negative or positive, makes me appreciate it that much more," he said. "Who knows if I didn't find out? I might not be here. I might not ever play basketball again. I might not be alive. With the whole incident, it was a blessing. It opened my eyes and makes me appreciate a lot of things a lot more."

GETTING THE NEWS
After what had been a challenging adjustment period following the trade from Oklahoma City to Boston in the spring of 2011, Green was eager to prove his worth to Celtics fans heading into last season.
"I was feeling great," Green said. "I was ready."
During the lockout, Green still prepared himself as if there would be a season with workouts and pick-up games around his alma mater, Georgetown University. He participated in basketball charity events like the one hosted by Rajon Rondo at Harvard University, and wowed the crowd with electrifying dunks and a steady perimeter game.
All that remained was an NBA season and a new contract from the Celtics. Once the lockout was over, the C's inked Green to a one-year deal worth 9 million.
"We were very optimistic about Jeff and the role that he would play in our team heading into last season," Danny Ainge, Boston's president of Basketball Operations, told CSNNE.com in an earlier interview.
But a routine physical following the agreement changed everything.
"Like I said, I felt good, I felt ready," he said. "But that, obviously, wasn't meant to be."
There were some abnormalities detected involving his heart that prompted more tests.
Green initially shrugged it off, chalking it up to him being a bit more fatigued that day than usual and that with additional tests, it would work out fine.
But further tests only confirmed those initial findings.
Green left a preseason practice in December early to meet with doctors, as well Ainge, at Massachusetts General Hospital.
"They took me into a small room, just me, Danny, the doctors, and my agent (David Falk) on speaker phone," Green recalled. "And they ... they just told me. The measurements of your left valve ... you can either run the risk of not doing anything and it rupturing and being fatal, or get surgery."
There was no choice in Green's mind.
"'Surgery it is,'" he said.
Green was diagnosed with an aortic root aneurysm that would require immediate surgery.
And from there ... silence.
Like still waters that run deep, Green's silence masked a rush of emotions and concerns and fears that truth be told, Green simply could not express or put into words.
"I was in shock," said Green, visibly subdued as he recounts that day. "That's how I felt. It was like I just got shot, hit with a stun gun. Everything from my family, basketball career, my life ... I was seeing life flash before my eyes, that's what happened. You hear people talk about it, but you never believe it until it happens to you. I played back everything. Me getting drafted, going to Georgetown, me playing basketball ..."
And then it fades to black, bringing Green back to the reality that at this moment, all of those memories could be just that -- memories -- with no future add-ons unless this surgery works as planned.
"It was like boom ... that's all put on halt," Green said.

ANOTHER FIRST FOR GREEN ... SURGERY
While there have been questions about Green throughout his career, health has never been one of them.
Not including last year when his heart surgery kept him out for the entire season, Green has appeared in 327 out of a possible 340 regular season games between Oklahoma City and Boston.
"That's why the whole idea of me needing surgery, heart surgery at that, was so tough for me," Green said. "I had never had surgery before that; I had always been healthy, or at least I thought I was."
The surgery took more than five hours, with Green's heart stopped for about 90 minutes in between.
But even with his heart fixed, Green's thoughts immediately weren't on getting back to the court.
"There was so much I had to re-learn," Green said. "In a lot of ways, it was like being a baby all over again."

ROAD TO RECOVERY
After being released from Cleveland's Clinic, Green spent his first few weeks back home sleeping on the family couch.
"I couldn't lay in my bed," he said. "It's soft. I couldn't lay straight in my bed. I couldn't stretch out my chest or lay on my stomach for a while."
So Green essentially slept with his feet propped up on the couch, his body forming the shape of an 'L.'
"That sucked," he said. "I didn't get much sleep those first few weeks, months after surgery."
And when Green was able to sit up in his bed, he initially needed help getting out of it. From there, he progressed to getting himself out of bed by pulling on his shorts to lift one leg up, then the other.
It would be several weeks before he could do something as simple as turn to his left or right, and not feel pain.
For a player known for his athleticism, those initial days following surgery were a cruel reminder of just how special his set of skills are.
"Because by me being who I am," Green said. "Being able to run up and down the floor, being athletic, being able to move side to side as quick as I can, and all of sudden I can't sit up by myself? I can't move? I can't turn my torso to the left or right? It makes you appreciate those things a little more."
It also helps having a teammate like Chris Wilcox, who also underwent surgery for an aortic aneurysm just a few months after Green did.
Like Green, Wilcox sees this holiday from a different perspective as well.
"I definitely have a lot more to be thankful for this year," Wilcox told CSNNE.com.
And while the goal for both Green and Wilcox is to contribute as much as they can to help the C's, both understand that it's going to take time before they are able to contribute at a level each is accustomed to with the kind of consistency they would like.
Each player has had their share of critics for their slower-than-expected start which truth be told, doesn't make them all that different than the rest of the Celtics (6-6) who have collectively lost three of their last four games.
"A lot of people, they have a lot of stuff to say," Wilcox said. "But me and Jeff, we've been through a lot. For us to be at this point in our lives and doing what we love and we're just six, seven months, nine, 10 months out of heart surgery for Jeff, ... people expect you playing ball, you should be doing this, you should be doing that, but it takes time after something like what we've gone through."
Doctors told both players that it would likely be a year or so before they were completely back to full tilt.
"And we're out here just months out of surgery," Wilcox said. "That should tell you how much we both love this game, love being a Boston Celtic. This is the kind of dedication we have to this game we love."
Green's critics have been especially vocal in part because the C's signed him to a four year deal worth 36 million, which in the eyes of some is seen as excessive for a player who missed the previous season following heart surgery.
His agent David Falk said that there were avenues in which Green could have potentially landed a more lucrative deal elsewhere.
"But he made it clear that Boston is where he wanted to be," Falk told CSNNE.com. "And I give Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers and the entire Celtics organization a lot of credit. The way they handled Jeff's situation was first-class, all the way. There's a large reservoir of good will that exists between Jeff and the Celtics, and Danny and Doc, as well as myself.
Falk added, "there was a good bit of give-and-take on both sides. It wasn't like we were miles apart to start. I explained to Danny, Jeff was willing to take less money to return to Boston. It's where he wanted to be."
Green impressed many with a stronger-than-anticipated preseason in which he was arguably the Celtics' best player. He averaged 15.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and one blocked shot.
However, his play during the regular season has not been nearly as impressive.
In 12 games this season, Green has come off the bench and averaged 7.9 points in 21.3 minutes -- both career lows.
Green will be the first to tell you that he has to play better. But if there's one thing he has learned throughout his journey back to the court, it is patience.
Not only with his game, but also with people who expect him to contribute significantly right away.
"That's why you see me smiling everyday," he said. "I enjoy what I have, I enjoy what's going on whether it's good or bad. At the end of the day, through everything I've been through this whole year, as far as personally or with the surgery, I'm thankful for everything."

Blakely: Tatum's character separates him from many of the other rookies

Blakely: Tatum's character separates him from many of the other rookies

BOSTON – With his new head coach Brad Stevens and Boston Celtics ownership and front office officials surrounding him, Jayson Tatum’s mind seemed to be somewhere else briefly.

He looked ahead, way, way ahead to the other end of the Celtics’ practice court where there were banners, lots of banners, raised high above all else in the gym.

This wasn’t just a passing glance, either.

TATUM SPEAKS

It was clear that the newest Celtic was in deep thought as he stared at the 17 banners and the one left blank, a steady reminder of what this franchise is about, past and present.

Yes, it’s a lot to soak in for anyone let alone a 19-year-old kid whose career with the Celtics can be timed on a stopwatch.

But the soft-spoken 6-foot-9 forward has been here long enough to understand that success around here is about more than playing well; it’s playing to win a championship.

And that in many ways separates Tatum from his teenage brethren who made up the majority of Thursday night’s NBA draft which included an NBA-record 17 players taken in the first round who like Tatum, were just one year removed from high school.

All come into the NBA with lots to learn, as well as goals and aspirations for this upcoming NBA season.

During an interview with CSN on Friday, I asked Tatum about what in his mind would make for a successful season.

And his answer initially was to ask me a question, “Individual or team?”

So I replied, either one.

“To get back to where they were last year and get over that hump,” he said. “Championships, chasing that number 18, that would be the ultimate success for me.”

That served as a reminder as to why despite having a handful of players under consideration at No. 3, the Celtics did the right thing in selecting Tatum.

His words may seem like the politically correct response, but take a look at the kid’s basketball resume and you’ll quickly see he is indeed about winning and doing so in whatever way possible.

After missing his first eight games at Duke with a foot injury, Tatum gradually improved as the season progressed and wound up on the all-rookie team as well as being named to the All-ACC third team.

Once the Blue Devils got to the ACC Tournament, Tatum became a different, better, more dominant player.

Indeed, Tatum led the Blue Devils to their first ACC championship since 2011 and did so in historic fashion as the Blue Devils became the first ACC school to win the conference tournament with four wins in four days.

Late in the title game against Notre Dame, Tatum put together a sequence of plays that speaks to why the Celtics were seriously considering taking him with the number one overall pick had they not been able to trade it for the No. 3 and a future first-round pick.

With the scored tied at 65, Tatum made a free throw that put Duke ahead.

Moments later, he blocked a shot and finished off the play with a lay-up that gave Duke a three-point lead.

After a Notre Dame basket, Tatum connected with a teammate for a 3-pointer that pushed Duke’s lead to four points with around a minute to play.

And then there was the 3-point play Tatum converted after getting fouled on a dunk which secured a 76-69 Duke win over the Fighting Irish.

Free throws. Blocks. Getting out in transition. Passing.

When his team needed him most, he gave whatever was required at that moment which is one of the intangibles that makes Boston feel good about his future.

“He does whatever he has to do to help you win,” said an NBA scout who said he has seen Tatum play “at least a dozen times.”

He added, “Like all of these kids coming into the league now, he has some things he has to get better at, get more consistent with. But he makes winning plays, whether it’s for himself or others. He’s a lot more unselfish a player than he’s given credit for being.”

And he’s 19 years old, which is both a blessing and a burden when you’re an NBA team executive charged with committing at least two years and millions of dollars into a young man.

Part of the process when making a draft choice, especially when it’s one of the top picks, is character evaluation.

Of the players at or near the top of the draft board, multiple league executives contacted by CSNNE.com in the past couple of weeks said this was an area where Tatum stood out in comparison to all of the top prospects.

“He’s the kind of young man you’d love whether he was a basketball player or not,” one Western Conference executive told CSNNE.com. “If you’re ranking guys on character alone in this draft, he’s your number one pick.”

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, acknowledged the challenge of differentiating between miscues made by a teenager as being problems of concern going forward, or whether that’s a teenager making the kind of bad/questionable decisions most teens make.

“It’s dangerous to play too much into a 19-year-old kid’s behavior,” Ainge told CSN’s A. Sherrod Blakely and Kyle Draper on Friday. “But I think that, with all the things we do, from physical, emotional, mental, character, work ethic and their skills … it’s just really hard at 19. You hate to just be labeled what you are at 18.”

But in regards to Tatum specifically, Ainge added, “Jayson is a high character guy. We know he will get better because of his character and his work ethic.”

Said Tatum: “It’s a great feeling. Being part of a great organization like the Celtics; think of all the great players of the past and you can follow in their footsteps.”

And in doing so, blaze a trail of his own in the pursuit of Banner 18.

David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

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David Price improves command, indicates he's pitching through ailment

BOSTON — David Price and Rick Porcello showed improvement on back-to-back nights Friday and Saturday, important signs for the Red Sox after a difficult month for both pitchers prior to this homestand.

Price on Saturday night went six innings and allowed three runs, two earned, in a 6-3 loss to the Angels. He fanned five and his velocity has been consistently better this year than last year.

But the most important number was his walk total: one. He walked three batters in his previous start, and four in both of his starts prior.

“Two outings ago, the first start here in Fenway,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “There was better timing in his delivery and overall better separation over the rubber. And he carried that through I thought, even though there's a higher pitch count in Houston, and has been able to maintain it here. I can't say there was one specific thing. It's been more the timing over the rubber. And you're seeing him pitch out of the stretch exclusively. Just less moving parts in a better position to repeat it.”

After Price’s final inning, the telecast captured Price calling pitching coach Carl Willis into the tunnel. Neither Farrell nor Price detailed the conversation. 

“Yeah, everything was fine,” Farrell said of the conversation. “Everything is OK there.”

Price made it sound like he’s dealing with some sort of physical ailment, but was vague.

“There's a lot of stuff going on right now,” the pitcher said when asked about the desire to stay out there. “You don't want it to linger into the next start, or two or three weeks from now, and that's why we did what we did.”

Asked to elaborate, Price reinforced that the decision was to save his body for another day.

“You never want to come out of a game. But you have to look forward at the time,” Price said. “You don’t want today to cost you your next start or you know, the start after that. So that’s what happened.

“It has nothing to do with my elbow or anything like that. This is — you get past one thing and there’s another So that’s what it is.”

Price in New York in early June felt a blister develop on his ring finger. He missed an in-between start bullpen because of it.

Asked about the blister Saturday, Price said, “That one’s gone.”

Farrell indicated the blister was diminished, if not entirely gone.

“He's been dealing with that,” Farrell said. “I think while it's still present and maybe not as severe as it was when it first happened, I'm sure he's going to check on it occasionally."