The first day of training camp on Saturday marked Jeff Green's official return to basketball in a Celtics uniform.
"I’ve gone through the tough times," said Green, whose aortic aneurysm was discovered during C's training camp a year ago. "I’ve beat it, and now I’m in great condition. My game is getting right, and I’m just happy to play basketball."
Green hadn't suited up in green since Game 5 of the 2011 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Heat.
"I was trying not to smile too much during practice," he said. "I had to keep a straight face. It’s hard. I let some emotions go, telling all the players that I’m happy to back, encouraging them, just talking a lot for no reason, because I was glad to be back on the floor."
Despite undergoing season-ending heart surgery in January and being subsequently released by the Celtics, making the 6-foot-9 forward an unrestricted free agent this summer, Green remained around the team during their run to the Eastern Conference finals.
"That meant a lot," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "No. 1, he wanted to be here. He had some suitors, and he really didn’t listen to any of them. I know it, because his agent is my son’s agent [David Falk], so it never failed: When I was talking about Austin [Rivers], somehow we got back on Jeff. And I thought he was frustrated at times, because Jeff didn’t want to hear anybody else’s offer."
Still, that didn't prevent the Celtics from rewarding the 26-year-old Green with a four-year, $36 million contract.
"I wanted to come back," said Green. "I wanted to be a part of this organization and play with these players, so that’s why you saw me around and being a part of the team as much as I could be."
After the Celtics acquired him in the deal that sent Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder in February 2011, Green averaged just 9.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in 26 regular-season games for the C's, so Saturday marked the start of his first training camp in Waltham.
"I think he’s very comfortable here," said Rivers. "I think he really wants to play well here. He feels like the first time he was here, that was not the Jeff Green that he knows that he is. So, he just wants to be better, and he wants to really help this franchise."
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