Jeff Green Is the Silver Lining In Celtics Loss to the Heat

The Celtics forward scored a career-high 43 points as the Heat continued their winning streak in Boston.

A few months ago, I briefly interviewed Jeff Green. Another reporter warned me that the Celtics forward might wear headphones during the conversation. When we talked, he kept his ear buds in, as predicted. He did politely answer my questions, but seemed to be somewhere else. All he’d faced—heart surgery, on-court struggles, criticism by the media—had apparently decreased his interest in in opening up. I didn’t blame him. He’d been through hell.

Which is why watching him on Monday night was so satisfying. Sure, the Kevin Garnett-less Celtics ended up losing to the sizzling Heat, 105-103, at TD Garden, but Green scored a career-high 43 points. He was efficient, too, making 14 of his 21 field goal attempts, and 10 of 13 free throws. (He also added 7 rebounds and 4 blocks.) Green didn’t do much in the fourth quarter—he only scored five points in the final frame—but overall it was still an impressive performance. After all, this is someone who, a little over a year ago, underwent a five-plus hour procedure to fix an aortic aneurysm. During Monday night’s game, Jason Schwartz mentioned Jackie MacMullan’s recent profile of Green. The well-told story contains some scary stuff. Like this:

Green’s medical team told him it will be a full two years before he will completely recover. There will be tightness in his chest. There will be strange pains that will go unexplained. He will have days when he will be completely exhausted.

On  Monday night, Green’s performance wasn’t quite enough to stop Miami, which extended its win streak to 23 games. LeBron James finished with 37 points, 12 assists, and 7 rebounds. (He played well enough to incite a vintage Tommy Heinsohn rant, which you can listen to here.) Oh, and he also hit the game-winning jumper—over Green, who, by no fault of his own, was powerless to stop it.

What’s frustrating is that every time Green does anything—good or bad—it becomes a referendum on the trade that brought him here. Inevitably, Kendrick Perkins, who Boston general manager Danny Ainge sent to Oklahoma City for Green, comes up. Monday night was no exception. (Search “Jeff Green Kendrick Perkins” on Twitter.) I still love Perkins, obviously, and wish he were still a Celtic. But I’d like to at least attempt to enjoy the Green era without people constantly trying to justify or condemn his presence.