The next Tracy McGrady. It was the spring of 2005, and word was getting around predraft that another McGrady type had entered the draft straight out of high school. The age limit was established in 2005, the last year of immediate eligibility. Considering TMac had averaged 32 (!!!) points per game just two seasons prior, this was a lofty comparison for a teenager. That teenager was Gerald Green.
Green came to Boston with high expectations. I was one of the people who expected big things. Fast forward a year to 2006. The Celtics were just completing a forgettable season in which Green looked… green. I was working a second job at a local pizza establishment one evening when the phone rang. I answered the phone to take the customer’s order and recognized his voice right away. It was Ryen Russillo, then of Sporting News Radio and WBCN, and now of ESPN. After confirming that it was indeed him, I immediately began gushing about Green’s potential, expecting him to at least somewhat agree. I had seen Russillo on local TV talking basketball, and I knew he was knowledgeable. Turned out, he basically laughed off my excitement, very confidently cautioning that I should severely adjust my expectations for Green. It was like I told him a good joke. Huh? I did not understand. I saw a can’t miss talent.
In Green’s second season in 2007, the Celtics bottomed out. Despite averaging 10 points in just 22 minutes per game at the age of 21, he was subsequently shipped to Minnesota in the mega deal for Kevin Garnett. He played a half season in Minnesota before being traded to Houston. He played the next season in Dallas. After spending 2010 and 2011 playing in Russia, Green returned to the league with the Nets. After one year there, he played the next season for Indiana. He again left after one year, this time to sign with Phoenix, where he played a half season with Isiah Thomas. After his longest stint with an NBA team to date, at two seasons, he played last year for Miami before spurning the Clippers to return to Boston. Gerald Green is a true NBA nomad.
Green’s 2017 season was littered with DNPs. The reason is the same that precluded Danny Ainge from adding to this roster at the trade deadline: Development. In Green’s case, he was forced to cede minutes to Jaylen Brown. However, in the playoffs, it has been all Green the past three games. While he did not make an impact in Game 5, he will be called on going forward. Give Brad Stevens credit for going small in the face of getting smashed on the glass. The Celtics’ second-highest paid player, Amir Johnson, has not seen action in two straight games in favor of Green. It has clearly worked. In a league now full of average players making eight figures annually, signing Green for a paltry $1.4 million seems like larceny at this point by Ainge.
Now comes the hard part for a young Celtics team. They have showed tremendous resiliency in coming back from down 2-0 to take the lead in this series. This group has not closed a playoff series yet. They have a chance to send a message in not only accomplishing that feat, but doing it on the road in Chicago. Make no mistake: Game 6 is huge. The Celtics will either close this series in impressive fashion or they will face a Game 7 in which ALL of the pressure will be on them. The good thing? I think that, a week ago, every Celtic fan alive would have taken this scenario. Closing time.