Gerald Green (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)
When Gerald Green took part in his first professional Media Day, he was fresh out of high school in Houston, 19-years-old and a member of the Celtics. He was once again a member of the Celtics when he took the podium Monday, much different than the kid who took the podium 11 years ago.
“I was fresh out of high school so I didn’t really know any better,” said Green. “Now, this is my 12th season professionally so I’m very mature now. I still got a lot in the tank. Legs feel good, everything feels good about myself. I feel like I’ve learned so much about myself. I feel like I’m way better defensive player. I know I’m a way better defensive player than when I first came here. I know all the schemes and terminology. I just can’t wait for [camp to begin].”
Green exited Boston as part of the trade that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston after his second professional season. Since his departure, he’s become the epitome of a journeyman, playing for seven NBA different teams, along with a two-year stint in Russia.
“It’s a great feeling to be back. I’ve been telling everyone since I’ve been back that I never really had hard feelings. Shoot, I would trade myself for Kevin Garnett, too,” he said. “There’s never been any hard feelings at all. I don’t think I left on bad terms. For me to be back here to be playing for the city that has drafted me after all these years, after all of the years that I’ve learned, it’s good to finally be back.”
The stint in Russia vtook a toll on Green. While the situation geographically was not ideal, it was further affirmation that he was an NBA player, not someone with NBA experience that should be buried overseas.
Since his time in Russia, he has been a serviceable contributor, averaging 11.4 points per game with a 42.1 percent field goal percentage since coming back to the States in 2011.
Not only did he return as a more experienced player, but also as a changed teammate.
“You know, when I was in Russia in the freezing cold, eating soup, not really eating right because I didn’t like the food out there. There was a point where I felt like I was an NBA player. I didn’t want to be out there anymore. I didn’t want to play overseas or play in Europe. I wanted to be an NBA player. It was something I had to change for myself,” he said.
“I always used to sit here and point the finger at what everyone else was doing. At that point, I just told myself, ‘What could I do to change? What could I do to change myself? What could I do to change off the court and on the court to be a better basketball player?’ That’s what I tried to do. It worked out for me. I got a 10-day call up in New Jersey and I haven’t looked back since.”
Aside from being the team that drafted him, there was a lot going for Boston when Green decided to make a return. His kids still live in the area, and since playing together in Phoenix, he’s been close with Isaiah Thomas. With a few other teams showing interest in the swingman, however, the close contact with Thomas and his family was enough to coax the veteran back to where his journey began.
“There were a few other teams, but not too many. There were a few other teams I could have decided to go to, but like I said, with my kids being here, [Thomas] being here, great coaching staff, I’ve already been here before, the odds were way more for going to Boston so that’s the way I went.”
He added when asked about Thomas’ impact, “Me and Isaiah always talk. We talked in the summer time. I go to his camps that he has in Seattle. I wasn’t able to go this past summer because of playoffs but we actively talk all the time. During free agency, I remember Danny gave my agent a call and said, ‘Hey, we might be interested in you.’ Then I talked to Isaiah and said, ‘Hey, what’s up? I might be going to Boston.’ He was like, ‘Man, you need to come here.’ I was like, ‘Let’s make it happen,’ so we made it happen.”
Green has made his living as a swingman that can score off the bench — and all things considered, he should be able to fill that role this season. But he is still in a bit of a limbo that goes with the territory of being a veteran journeyman who’s on a team-friendly deal. There is no set role for him entering camp, and as seasoned of a player as he is, he knows it’s about being professional at this point.
“Obviously they told me a lot of scoring. Somebody that can score off the bench. Somebody who can fill the need of athleticism,” he said when asked about what he’s been asked to provide.
“I’m a veteran player so what I’m going to do is be professional. Whatever role they give me, I’m going to do it. If it’s starting one night, coming off the bench one night, not playing another night, whatever it is, I’m going to be a professional about it. I’m going to make sure these young guys get their work in like how I was when I was young. I’m just going to make sure this team has got it together and are ready for this battle that we’re going to have to go through. It’s an 82-game battle before we get to the war.”