They’ve had little to show for it — until now.
“I just think he’s more aggressive,” coach Doc Rivers said after the Celtics played back-to-back exhibition games this weekend and Green was the leading scorer in both. “He’s comfortable in his game. He understands how to score, how he can score through our offense. The other part: He’s happy, honestly. The guys like him; he likes them.
“He’s comfortable here now,” Rivers added. “I think last year, even though he didn’t play, it probably did a world of good for him just being around the guys, and they accepted him. I think all that helped him. And he’s got a chance to be just terrific.”
Green struggled to fit in during his first half-season after coming to the Celtics in February, 2011, and he missed all of last year after an aortic aneurysm was discovered during a routine training camp physical. But now, with a full training camp and a healthy heart, Green is impressing his coaches and teammates.
“Jeff’s always had talent. He’s always had high expectations,” point guard Rajon Rondo said after practice on Wednesday. “It’s no different this year with us.”
Green is the leading scorer on the Celtics so far this preseason, with 111 total points, an average of 13.9 per game. He is No. 2 on the team in rebounds to first-round draft choice Jared Sullinger and second to Rondo in minutes played; he also leads the Celtics in blocked shots in the preseason.
Rivers isn’t putting a lot of stock in statistics during the exhibitions, but he said the likes what he sees.
“The guys have confidence in him,” Rivers said.
And Green doesn’t understand the fuss.
“This is the first time you guys even saw me play. That’s why everyone’s doing that,” he said after practice on Wednesday. “I came into the situation when the team was already solid. They’d been here five years; it was tough to pick my spots. It takes time when you come to an organization like this.”
Green was originally drafted by the Celtics with the No. 5 overall pick, but he was immediately shipped to Seattle for Ray Allen as part of the deal that helped Boston assemble the New Big Three. He averaged 13.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in his first four seasons with Seattle, which became Oklahoma City, and Boston.
Green was dominant in the Big East at Georgetown, and was easily one of the best players in the nation as a junior. In 2006-07, he led the Hoyas in scoring (14.3), and was second in rebounding (6.4) and assists (3.2).
The Celtics gave up Perkins, the starting center on their 2008 championship team, and Nate Robinson in a trade to acquire Green and center Nenad Krstic midway through the 2011 season. Green was expected to back up Paul Pierce at forward, and he averaged 9.8 points in 23.5 minutes for the rest of the year.
Boston brought him back as a free agent, but he failed his training camp physical when the aortic aneurysm was detected. The contract was voided, and the Celtics re-signed him this August to a deal that will reportedly pay him $36 million over four years.
Asked on Wednesday what made him want to come back, Green stood up and pointed past reporters to Rondo, who was still practicing long after the other starters had left the court.
“That guy right there,” Green said. “I wanted to play with him. He’s the best point guard in the league.
“We’ve got a heck of a team. Who doesn’t want to be a part of something special like that? I want to win.”