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April 3, 2020

No Talking Heads, Just Talking Hoops

A Career in Retrospect: Jeff Green

Just under a month ago, December 23rd, the Utah Jazz released forward Jeff Green after a rough start to the season. While it is very possible that he may be picked up by another team, the 11 year vet appears near the end of his career. I originally wasn’t planning to write on this, but after seeing the way people view Green’s career and talked/tweeted about him, I found myself wanting to write about him at an ever increasing level.

Jeff Green wasn’t a superstar, an all-star, or a champion. He is however, one of the most disrespected players of the past decade.

When fans and analysts talk about Green, they speak of untapped potential, inconsistency, and disappointment. And I just think that’s an unfair assessment. I think of Green and I recall an incredible comeback, a humble man, and envision some of the most incredible poster dunks of the 2010’s.

Green was drafted 5th overall to the Seattle Supersonics in 2007, and flashed great potential when the team moved to Oklahoma City, posting 15.6p/6.1r/1.8a on 44.5%/34.2%/78.2% with 49.2% effective Fg%, from 2008 to 2011 before being traded to Boston.

Green came off the bench the rest of the 2011 season for Boston and resigned with the Celtics shortly before the 2012 lockout ended. Green’s season ended before it could start due to the diagnosis of an aortic aneurysm.

For reference, an aortic aneurysm is a weakened part of the aortic wall (the aorta is the main artery of your body) per Mayo Clinic. These are at an extreme risk of bursting when under stress like heavy exercise. If it bursts, it is usually fatal. Green was extremely fortunate to have caught this and it’s a miracle that he’d played for so long prior to his diagnosis. In order to correct the aneurysm, Green received open heart surgery and missed the entirety of the 2012 season.

The man had his chest sawed open and played in the NBA again.

That Green was able to even run again is incredible, let alone that he played another eight seasons in the league.

Jeff Green’s story told after his return during the 2013 NBA season

Green returned in the 2012/13 season for all but one game and had arguably his most impactful season of his career. He posted averages of 12.8ppg/3.9rpg/1.6apg while shooting nearly 39% from three and 47% from the field (both very efficient marks). Against the title-reigning Miami Heat, Green put up a career high 43 points, stepping in for Kevin Garnett in the starting lineup and absolutely thrashing Miami’s defense. Green would also greatly step up in the playoffs that year leading the Celtics in scoring before the aging roster was ousted by the Knicks in six games.

He went on to command the post Big-3 Celtics rebuild and then bounced around the league. Green found his way onto the 17/18 Cavaliers team that made the finals and was a key contributor throughout the year into the playoffs.

Green’s work ethic is unquestionable. Coming back from open-heart surgery; that shit just doesn’t happen. Did Jeff Green have the tools to be a star? Undoubtedly. But, it’s unfair to hold that against him and his career. Not every guy figures it out and becomes an all-star. And given what Green went through and the way he came back, I’d argue that that means so much more than any other accolade.

Jeff Green is an incredible talent who has provided some breathtaking moments and flashed in ways that most players can’t even fathom. I sincerely hope he gets a shot on another team this year so I can witness him throw down a couple more tomahawk jams over a helpless defender.

References: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/thoracic-aortic-aneurysm/symptoms-causes/syc-20350188

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