By: Kenny Doyle
Yes, that Gerald Green. That Gerald Green that was known as just a “dunker” for most of his career. That Gerald Green that was traded away from the Celtics in the Kevin Garnett deal almost 10 years ago now. That Gerald Green that at just 23 years old had to go play overseas because he couldn’t get an NBA contract. That Gerald Green that over a decade ago was thought of as a promising young Celtic prospect, has won the Celtics a playoff game.
To get to this point, Green had to go through a lot. His NBA journey has been one of the toughest of any player in the league today. It started with a bang. Green wow’d NBA fans with his incredible athleticism during All-Star weekend with legendary dunks just like this one:
Despite the incredible shows Green put on in his dunk contest appearances, he didn’t have the same success in the real games. In his one year with Minnesota he played just 33 games and shot 33% from the field. Minnesota quickly traded him to Houston where he was cut not even a month later. Green clearly lost his way, leading to a 2009 Bleacher Report article entitled Gerald Green: A Cautionary Tale. The piece talked about Green getting a big head and declaring for the NBA draft straight out of high school under the assumption he would be a top 6 pick. His failure to find success in Minnesota and Houston led the writer, Frances White, to say “I would like to see the Celtics trade for him... I believe that is where he needs to be.” Not even 1 year later, Green was out of the NBA and in Russia, and it appeared his NBA days may be numbered.
Thankfully, 2 years later, Green got his chance to get back into the league with the Nets. In 2012, the Nets had just traded for Deron Williams and were trying to build around him, and in the meantime, Green was a way to sell tickets. He was there to dunk. And he did just that:
Green only played 31 games for the Nets that season, but he was back on NBA radars. He went on to play for a contending Indiana team the following season and credited Larry Bird with saving his career. When the Pacers traded him to the Suns for Luis Scola in the offseason, Green was broken up about it, but that is where his NBA career was truly saved. Green averaged a career high 15.8 points per game that season and, if nothing else, showed he belonged in the league. He was finally flashing the ability that Danny Ainge hoped he could when he took him 17th overall. Green spent 2 years with the Suns and in his last he played a few games with a young 5’9” scorer the Suns had signed in free agency, Isaiah Thomas. This wouldn’t be the last time Green shared the court with IT.
Flash forward to 2016, and Green was a free agent struggling to find a spot. He was coming off a solid year in Miami, but no one was biting, and Green was in danger of falling out of the league once again. Then, the Celtics called. After missing out on Kevin Durant, they still had a roster spot to fill, and Gerald Green was their guy.
"It’s weird, I’m going to be honest with you," Green said of being back with the Celtics 10 years later. "I was the youngest when I first came here; now I’m the oldest. It’s like I don’t know what to do. I still act like I’m the youngest."
It didn’t stay that way for long. Though Green may have felt awkward at first being the Celtics veteran leader, he’s turned out to be the perfect mentor for Isaiah Thomas and rookie Jaylen Brown. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if Gerald Green sees a little bit of himself in Jaylen Brown, and Green’s guidance has likely helped Brown throughout his rookie campaign.
When Brown was invited to the dunk contest, Green offered his advice. Green then said to the media “You get in the dunk contest and they kind of label you as ‘just this, or just that. I think for him it’s something that if he wants to do it, he should do it. If it’s kind of up in the air, I don’t think he should do it.” Brown ended up passing on the dunk contest.
Whether Gerald Green will continue to start is still an unknown, but after being traded in the deal that landed the Celtics the superstar to lead them through the playoffs, it's now Green who is winning the Celtics playoff games. Who would have thought back in 2007, that in 2017, we’d be celebrating Gerald Green as a Celtics savior. Green has made his mark on the NBA playoffs, and has showed everyone that he is more than just a dunker. But don’t you ever forget, he’s still a damn good dunker.
Photo: (CBS Boston) (Fansided)