Greener Pastures

Veteran Forward Jeff Green Begins Settling In with New Squad

Before the Cavaliers’ 2017 offseason took its epic turn – before Cleveland inked a former MVP and preceding the Boston blockbuster – GM Koby Altman made a pair of seemingly minor moves to fill out the roster with some solid veteran help.

Since LeBron James’ return in the summer of 2014, the Cavs have sought to contain his minutes. So, after Cleveland was eliminated from the Finals in June, the Cavs brass got to work on filling out that critical position.

Not long after the free agent moratorium ended, the Wine & Gold inked veteran forward Jeff Green. And, although he’s one of the squad’s most under-the-radar vets, the 10-year pro has been crushing everything in sight on the practice floor through the first week of Camp, combining unbridled high-flying athleticism with controlled intensity.

Green was originally drafted by the Celtics with the fifth overall pick of the 2007 Draft before being immediately shipped to Seattle in the blockbuster deal that brought Ray Allen and Big Baby Davis to Boston in exchange for Green and our old friends, Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West.

In his rookie year, he and his fellow freshman teammate, Kevin Durant, were both named to the All-Rookie First Team. Green averaged 10.5 points per in his first season with the Sonics and as the team relocated to Oklahoma City, he remained the model of consistency – posting double-digit scoring in eight of his first nine seasons in the league.

Green’s best year came in his second season after being traded back to Boston (along with Nenad Krstic in exchange for Nate Robinson and another old friend, Kendrick Perkins) – starting all 82 games for the Celtics in 2013-14, averaging 16.9 points per.

In 2011-12, Green was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm, forcing him to miss the entire 2011-12 season. That’s where he got his first real exposure in Cleveland, having surgery at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, where he recovered for the next several weeks. To this day, Green has a nine-inch scar down the middle of his chest as a reminder.

Counting his short stint with the Sonics, Green has played for five different teams before landing in Cleveland in early July. He’ll be backing up LeBron James while continuing to carve out his own niche with the Wine & Gold.

While he and the rest of the squad figure it all out with the preseason about to tip off, took a moment to talk with the reserved veteran forward about his new situation on the North Coast …

Jeff Green gets ready to rise up for the jumper during the Wine & Gold Scrimmage played at The Q on October 2nd.
Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Why did you choose Cleveland and why so soon in the free agent process?

Jeff Green: Numerous reasons. I don’t want to go down list, but when you have a team that’s playing for a Championship – and given the opportunity to play on a championship team, to have a role on a Championship team, you can’t pass that up.

That was what I was looking for and that’s what came to my sight – that there was an opportunity here. So, I was thankful for it and I couldn’t pass it up; the opportunity was there and I jumped on it.

It wasn’t a matter of timing or when it happened. It was just when I got the call and thought about it. And I didn’t have to think long. I wrote down the pros and cons of what I wanted. And this situation fit every ‘pro’ on that list.

After spending last season in a rebuilding situation in Orlando, were you looking for a more veteran-heavy scenario?

Green: Exactly. You know, I know T. Lue from my Boston days. And you get the chance to play alongside, and with, or behind LeBron James, to learn a lot from him.

And I see how he’s at the point in his career where he is, and to learn from that and help with my career. I couldn’t pass that up.

What’s it been like going against him in practice?

Green: I go up against him every day. I have been.

It’s great, it’s a challenge with him being who he is and what he brings to the table. And it makes me better. But it pushes me to make him better as well. So, I’m going to do my part.

He’s helping me, making me better.

“I was truly grateful to have that team surrounding me and have them be basically in control of my life, at that time during the surgery.”

Jeff Green on the Cleveland Clinic

Is this the most talented team you’ve been on?

Green: For sure. This is deepest team for sure, without a doubt.

How do you see your role on this team?

Green: Wherever they put me on the floor, I’ll figure it out. So, my job is to go out there and just play basketball.

I’m versatile, a slasher, and I can get to the rim. I’m gonna attack the rim, make the open jump shot. Basically, I’m a point forward — a guy who can do a lot of things.

Coach Lue has talked about how active you’ve been in practice through the first week or so of Camp. How much has that eased your transition with the new guys?

Green: I feel like it’s a progression. I really don’t look too much into how you do in practice. It is more about that you know getting better each day and learning all aspects.

So, that’s all I really think about going into each day.

Heart surgery forced you to miss the 2011-12 season. How did that experience change you as a person and a player?

Green: I was here in Cleveland for that. It was amazing.

Obviously, the surgery wasn’t amazing. Laughs. But the time I spent in the Clinic, the nurses, my surgeon, Dr. Svensson, everything was top notch, everything was amazing – the hospitality that they showed me.

I was truly grateful to have that team surrounding me and have them be basically in control of my life, at that time during the surgery.

I guess that period allowed me to align my perspectives in life, to really put what’s most important in front and not take for granted a lot of things.

You went back to Georgetown and got your English degree during that time. Can we expect a book about your journey after your playing days are over?

Green: (Laughs) Honestly, when I left school, I was taking a lot of English courses. So going back, that was the one degree which allowed me to finish at a greater pace than others. So I stuck with it.

I got the English major with a minor in theology and I was able to graduate in 2012.

I don’t know about the book. My life, my story is truly inspiring, but you never know. Maybe. As of now my focus is only just basketball.

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