By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Gerald Green went 3,462 days between wearing a Celtics uniform before snapping that streak on Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut during a preseason matchup with the Charlotte Hornets. The swingman missed Boston’s first two preseason games last week with a hip flexor issue before getting the green light from the team’s training staff to give it a go while the starters rested.
The 6-foot-7 shooting guard showed signs of rust early against Charlotte, but found his rhythm after intermission, scoring 13 points in Boston’s blowout win. More importantly, he also acknowledged how good it felt to return to some familiar surroundings.
“I’m still not all the way back where I want to be,” Green told reporters after the game. “But today was just a good start for me to go out there and kinda get my feet wet. It feels so good to wear this Celtics green again.”
Green’s return to Boston nine years after being traded away to Minnesota as part of the blockbuster package for Kevin Garnett could come at the perfect time for both parties. Green, 30, has bounced around the NBA with many teams over the past several seasons after a stint overseas but is ready to accept a supporting role off Boston’s bench.
“It’s weird (to be the old guy in the locker room), I’m going to be honest with you,” he said Saturday. “I was the youngest when I first came here, now I’m the oldest. It’s like I don’t know what to do. I still act like I’m the youngest.”
After a rough offensive start for Boston’s second unit in the team’s first two games, it’s clear though that the team is in desperate need of the scoring explosiveness that Green has shown in stints throughout his career.
“We needed someone like him. A guy that can shoot the ball, a guy that can space the floor, and he’s just an instant scorer — whether he starts, whether he comes off the bench, that’s what he’s going to do,” Isaiah Thomas told ESPN.com earlier this preseason. “And he’s explosive. We needed somebody like him and, when we played in Phoenix, it was like we played together for years because we clicked so easy. I know where he likes the ball, I know where his hot spots are. He’s just somebody that’s very excited and something we need.”
That high praise from Green’s former teammate in Phoenix bodes well for the swingman, but does not necessarily guarantee him a spot on Boston’s final roster. The Celtics guaranteed his minimum salary deal for the 2016-17 season, but he’ll have to outplay younger teammates such as R.J. Hunter and James Young for one of the team’s final roster spots. Green has a much stronger track record of being a reliable offensive spark than both of those wings, but he struggled with his shooting throughout much of his last season in Miami. He’ll have to outplay both this month to solidify his standing in Celtic green.
Saturday’s performance was a good first step in that process for the journeyman. If he can rekindle some of his former magic with Thomas when they take the floor together this week, he could be a valuable weapon for Brad Stevens as the Celtics attempt to become one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.