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BOSTON (CBS) – On January 9, 2012, Celtics forward Jeff Green was just waking up in his hospital bed.
He had just undergone major heart surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm, and faced the great unknown from that point forward. Green missed the entire 2012 NBA season as he recovered, and there was no timetable for when he could return to the court — if at all.
But just one year later, Green is back. On the one-year anniversary of his surgery, the 26-year-old helped lead the Celtics to a 87-79 win over the Phoenix Suns — Boston’s fourth straight.
“I can’t put it in words how I feel,” Green said after his 14-point performance that included a pair of emphatic dunks in the second quarter. “It’s a wonderful day. I had a good game. I’m just glad to be here, man. I reflected a lot about what I’ve been through; it’s a blessing to be here. I’m just happy.”
Jeff Green On His One-Year Anniversary:
“I don’t cry, but it was (emotional),” he said fighting back tears. “A year ago I had heart surgery. I think about lying in bed, when I woke up from it, to where I’m at now. It’s a big deal to me. I’m just glad to be here, glad to be alive, glad to be playing basketball.”
“It’s a good night,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “He got some dunks and looked good. And who would’ve thought it a year ago? It’s really a testament to Jeff, in general. The fact that he worked himself into the condition that he did. There had to be some kind of fear, somewhere, because to work yourself into condition you have to use that muscle. So it’s just really cool that he’s playing, and he’s playing well for us.”
The 365 days that followed the surgery were tough for Green, but he is back to doing what he loves. He remained with the team throughout his recovery, feeding off the energy his teammates provided him as he watched from the sidelines. He was determined to make it back, and Wednesday night was just another step forward.
Prior to the game, he tweeted out a photo of him laying in his hospital bed after surgery:
It’s a memory that Green will never forget, and always use to fuel his passion on the floor.
“The first time I stood up from surgery, the first time I walked it was painful, but it was me taking steps to getting better; the start of my progress to being back on the court,” Green said. “Those are memories that I’ll never forget.”
“I was more concerned about Jeff’s health; I wasn’t thinking about basketball at all, I can tell you that,” Rivers said. “At that time, I honestly didn’t think he’d ever play. So the basketball part wasn’t even a concern.”
“Now he’s back playing, doing well in all those areas, and I’m very happy for him,” added Rivers. “He deserves it.”
Green signed a four-year, $36-million contract in the offseason, one year after the one-year, $9-million deal he signed was voided prior to his surgery. While it’s been a bit of an up-and-down campaign for Green thus far, he is forming into shape as the Celtics look like they are turning their season around.
Wednesday night’s 14-point performance was a nice follow-up to his 16-point, seven rebound showing against the New York Knicks on Monday. Green has been much more aggressive attacking the basket, and his highlight dunks are just a couple examples of what he can bring to the team when he puts his head down and goes to the rim.
It’s an amazing comeback story for Jeff Green; one that is still being written. The Celtics and Green are hoping there are a few more chapters to be added in the near future.