Jeff Green Takes Criticism of Play, Body Language in Stride as Celtics Forward Finds His Rhythm

Jeff Green, Goran Dragic, Luis ScolaJeff Green thoroughly enjoyed Notre Dame and Louisville’s five-overtime thrill ride two weeks ago, likes girls who are “sneakerheads” and could not challenge anyone to a snowball fight during this month’s massive snowstorm because he does not have gloves.

Then again, you know this already — if you follow Green on Twitter.

The Celtics forward is one of the most active professional athletes on the social media network, tweeting everything from congratulating Kevin Garnett for reaching 25,000 career points to more mundane day-to-day observations, such as his favorite old-school jams and reality television. During last month’s presidential inauguration, Green gave CNN and FOX News a run for their money by tweeting about the proceedings throughout the day.

Of course, there is good and bad to such an open avenue to communicating with the public. The unabashed Barack Obama supporter received plenty of dissenting opinions that day, and he has not been insulated from basketball-related criticism, either. A vocal portion of the NBA fan base believes the four-year, $36-million contract the Celtics gave him last summer was too rich, and that has taken too long to get back into his old form after last January’s heart surgery — as if there is a set timetable for such a recovery.

Green tries to keep the negative comments from getting to him, even if any fan can share their opinions with him, 140 characters at a time.

“I don’t stress out about it,” Green said shortly before the Celtics embarked on their current five-game road trip. “Everybody has their opinion. You have your opinion. Everybody in the media has their own opinions. I could care less what people have to say about me. If it’s positive, I take it in stride and I thank them for it, whatever they have to say. If it’s negative, so be it. People don’t hurt my feelings. That’s what they fail to realize. I’m going to continue to live my life and be in the position I’m in.”

Green’s detractors are finding it harder to take issue with his play lately. Even before he erupted for 31 points, seven rebounds and five blocks in Friday’s win over Phoenix, Green had stepped up his play of late. Since the beginning of February, he is averaging 16.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 10 games. Not only is he driving past bigger forwards and posting up smaller ones, but his teammates are recognizing those mismatches and getting him the ball in ways they were not earlier in the season.

One of the few people who know exactly what Green went through in the past 14 months is Chris Wilcox. Green’s aortic aneurysm, which necessitated the surgery, was discovered in training camp, but Wilcox’ own heart ailment was not diagnosed until March. Early in preseason, Green jokingly called Wilcox his “scar buddy” for the long surgical scars running down their chests and abdomens.

Coming back from heart surgery is a matter of more than just getting your wind back, according to Wilcox. Early in the season, when their hearts would start pounding the way any person’s heart does during strenuous exercise, they would talk about what they were feeling to make sure it was all normal. The normal physical preparations for the season had an added mental challenge.

“Everybody from the outside looking in, it’s easy to talk about something you don’t know about,” Wilcox said. “That man comes in here and works hard every day, grinding, and that’s all we ask him to do. Everything ain’t going to be how you want it to be. Nobody knows how that man’s feeling but him.”

In fairness, nobody knows what Green is feeling because he does not let it out. Although he has adopted the “Iron Man” gesture to celebrate his more rim-rattling dunks, he does not bark at the crowd like Garnett or zoom down the court, arms spread, like Jason Terry. He was a relatively unemotional player before heart surgery. He has not changed after it.

Players and people come in all shapes, though, and Green will remain the same, even if his body language suggests to some observers that he is disinterested or moping.

“People outside this locker room they don’t know me,” Green said. “What they see on the court is me not being a Kevin Garnett, but I play this game with 110 percent all effort, all heart and I give it my all. The only people that know me are in this locker room. They know my personality. They know I am emotional. I hate losing. I’m a competitive person, I just don’t show it on the exterior. I’m going to go out there and play my hardest but if you don’t know me you would think that’s the case but it’s not.”

Green could make his life a little easier. He could engage TV reporters with a smile and a quip instead of a far-off gaze and a monotone answer. He is certainly clever enough to do so. But that would not be him. That would be phony. After a health scare that forced him to change the way he looks at life, Green has no time to be phony.

If anybody has a problem with that, they can tell @unclejeffgreen themselves. They should be careful, however, because he just might respond.

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