If, as Doc Rivers supposed last week, the basketball world is filled with people pulling for Jeff Green, then the sentimental epicenter is the men’s basketball office at Georgetown University. When John Thompson III hears stories of the Celtics forward’s blossoming comeback after a return from heart surgery, the Hoyas coach thinks back to the fall of 2011, when Green spent the NBA lockout on campus taking a full slate of courses to complete his English degree, fulfilling a promise he made not only to his parents, but the entire university. Being a coach, Thompson recognized a motivational opportunity. “He’s making a lot of money in the NBA, and yet he’s back here finishing his degree,” Thompson said last week. “What I told my players was, ‘If he’s doing this now, then you had better do the same.’ ” Thompson reads the Celtics box score after every game. He’s absorbed every step of Green’s return from heart surgery, right up through Wednesday night’s 34-point performance against Detroit. The coach gets carried back to the 2007 Big East and NCAA tournaments — and the Final Four appearance that wouldn’t have been possible without Green’s game-winning banker in the Elite Eight against Vanderbilt. After a two-week stretch where Green has averaged 23.8 points a game on 56.8 percent shooting, Celtics Nation sees a player who is finally living up to the hype of that much-skewered trade that sent Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City two years ago. Thompson sees vindication, a reappearance of the quality that made 2007 magical. “He wouldn’t let us lose on our run that year,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t just his game-winner against Vanderbilt. It was the shutdown game he played in the other end. He can control and dominate a game without scoring, and he had come into his own as an outstanding defensive player.” Those qualities have required a long germination period in the NBA. Count Rivers as one of the most impatient Green watchers. When the Celtics coach finally admitted that Green had earned a regular starting job last week, it was with some lingering cynicism. He never expected it would take this long. Thompson, too, admits that Green’s path was diverted, quite unavoidably last January by the surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. “What you see now is what you would have seen last year if not for his surgery,” said Thompson. Asked if Green’s resolve has been underestimated, Thompson said, “Yes, I do think that. He has acknowledged that. He came to Boston and was not as productive as people would have liked at first. “But I am not surprised by what he’s doing now,” he said. “What you’re seeing is really something, when you consider he was traded there at the end of the season and forced to fit in, and then he developed a heart issue.
In Jeff Green’s corner
Boston Herald | Apr 7