It’s been a long, challenging journey for Jeff Green and sometime it’s easy to lose sight of that. Yesterday though was the one-year anniversary of his open-heart surgery. The 26-year-old responded with his second straight strong game and arguably one of his best of the year with 14 pivotal points and a +16 in 25 minutes of action, along with a glorious collection of highlight reel dunks, including a slam in the face of the one and only Jermaine O’Neal. Green also had some revealing comments after the game last night about this journey. Given the microscope he has been under with this team, they are both definitely worth the read for some perspective on the man’s journey back to health and basketball.
On his performance one year after surgery: “It felt good. (long pause) I can’t put it into words. I mean it’s a wonderful day, I had a good game, I’m just glad to be here man. You know, I reflect a lot about what I’ve been through and it’s just a blessing and I’m glad to be here.”
On the bench’s effort: “We’re just playing together. Things are starting to click, were just playing hard. Our main focus is defense. Defense defense defense.” KG’s been playing unbelievable with this energy, Countney, myself and Jet, everyone is playing unbelievable.”
Reflecting on the process coming back: “I don’t cry, but, it was. A year ago I had heart surgery. When I think about laying in the bed when I woke up from it, and to where I am now…it’s a big deal to me. Like I said, I’m just glad to be here, glad to be alive, glad to be playing basketball. The first time I stood up from surgery, the first time I walked, it was painful, but I had to make progress and take steps to get back on the court. Those are memories that Ill never forget. Anything between now and that first step, you know, it was a wonderful journey for myself and an unbelievable process that I went through.”
Does it push you every day? “Oh, most definitely, because I never want to be back at that point, the way I felt when I woke up, I never want to feel that way again, taking 10 steps and getting tired…I never want to feel that way again. I’m gonna push myself to the limits and never be out of shape.”
Doc on Jeff Green’s night: “Yeah, it’s a good night. He got some dunks and looked good. And who would’ve thought it a year ago? So it’s really a – I mean, the doctors, and all that – but 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 of us.”
Doc reflecting on Green’s surgery last year: “I was more concerned about Jeff’s health; I wasn’t thinking about basketball at all, I can tell you that. I didn’t, honestly, at that time I didn’t think he’d ever play. So the basketball part wasn’t even a concern. You know, the two things that bugged me the most, obviously, was his condition, was number one, and then the contract that was voided, because it had to be, legally. And I was thinking, ‘Man, this kid’s worked his whole life to make a living,’ and now he’s signing the biggest deal of his life at that point and it’s gone. You know? And so now he’s back playing, doing well in all those areas, and I’m very happy for him. He deserves it.”