On Wednesday night at the TD Garden, Delonte West returned from an ankle injury to rejoin the Celtics' second unit just in time for the stretch run. He quietly contributed two points and three assists to a 92-80 win. The star of that bench unit, though, was Jeff Green, who carried the C's offensively in the first half and finished with 19 points.
Wednesday night was far from the first time that West and Green had shared the same basketball court.
If you're into the NBA, you probably remember that they were teammates before, as they were traded from Boston to Seattle together on draft night in 2007. They played one season together with the Sonics, Green's rookie year of '07-08.
And if you really know your stuff, you might know this — West and Green share a lot of the same childhood roots. They're both natives of Prince George's County in Maryland, just north of Washington, D.C. They both learned the game on the same old stomping ground.
"He went to my rival high school," Green said of West. "There's a long history between us two."
West graduated from Eleanor Roosevelt High, in Greenbelt, Md. He led the Raiders to the Maryland state tournament for the first time in the program's history, and he nearly took them all the way. They lost the final game to Magruder High in 2001, West's senior year.
Green did him one better — in 2004, as a senior at Northwestern High in nearby Hyattsville, the young forward led the Wildcats to victory in the state finals. Seven years later, the loss still stings over at Roosevelt.
"Northwestern beat Roosevelt in the regional final," recalls Brendan O'Connell, the boys' coach at Roosevelt. "They went on to win the state championship, but if they hadn't beaten us, then we probably would have won it. We had beaten them twice in the regular season. But Jeff pretty much took over in the regional final game.
"He was an inside-out, explosive player in that game. He had probably the two most impressive dunks I've ever seen in high school. With a couple of minutes left in that game, he got a steal and a dunk, and it seemed like he took off from the free-throw line. That put his team ahead, and I don't think we ever got back after that."
West remembers Green, too. The two never officially played together in high school — Green wasn't into organized basketball until his sophomore year at NHS. He was more interested in football, he says, until he hit a growth spurt at age 15 and his dad foisted a basketball into his hands. By the time Green suited up for the Wildcats in the fall of '02, West was already gone, reaching the next level at St. Joseph's.
But West recalls playing a little hoops with Green on the side, before the teenage Green began to really take the game seriously.
"I played with Jeff in a few rec leagues before the NBA, over at Georgetown," West said. "I played with him in Seattle, too. So I know what he can do. I know what he's capable of. When I heard that we were getting Jeff Green, I was automatically ecstatic. I've been in the gym with him before — in D.C., in Seattle. The guy can play."
It's not unusual to see kids in the D.C. metro area grow accustomed to each other's games at a young age. The hoops infrastructure in that area is strong, and kids bond with other kids on basketball courts all over town.
"We're about 10 miles outside of Washington, D.C.," O'Connell said. "And around here, all the kids on our team know all the players on the other teams. They all play together — in rec leagues, on AAU teams, in the regular season. They all know each other. It really is a basketball community."
"Growing up, you keep up with the guys that are doing something in the area," he said. "In the summertime, everybody sees everybody one way or another. So I'm very familiar with Jeff's game. I've played with him in the pros, and I've watched him play in Oklahoma. So I know what he can do out there."
West remains an active figure in the local hoops community — after he moved on from Roosevelt in 2001, he kept coming back, giving a little back to the program that helped raise him.
"He makes a trip to come and see our basketball team about once a year," O'Connell said. "When he was at St. Joe's, he would come back and lift weights and work out a lot.
"Even now, he always just seems to drop by. It's unannounced," O'Connell added. "I think the last two years, he's dropped by on the night before NBA training camp — last year, Cleveland's training camp, and then this year Boston's training camp. I don't know — on the way out of town, he just swings by Roosevelt at 9 o'clock at night in October, and we happen to be there working out, and he talks to the guys for about an hour."
Both guys have had rich careers in basketball since leaving D.C. West was a standout for three years at St. Joe's — in his junior season, he took the Hawks on a deep run in the tourney. He was the 24th selection of the 2004 draft by the Celtics, and he's since found success in the NBA in Boston, Seattle, Cleveland and now Boston again. Green spent three years at Georgetown before heading to OKC via Boston with the No. 5 pick in 2007.
They've both been through a lot in recent years, but they both remember their roots. The two go way back.
"I remember a lot," Green said of West. "He was a good player. We're from the same area, and he went to my rival school, so he had to be good. He's been playing well ever since the first day I met him. Hopefully that continues."
"Of course, he's maturing a little bit," West said of Green. "He's a few years in now, and he's only getting better. I see him shooting that 3-ball real comfortably now. I already knew he could run the floor, but now I see how easy he can get points for us. That's important."
Whether it's in the nation's capital, the Pacific Northwest, or the Hub, Green and West have found a way to work together. They've come a long way, and now together in Boston, they'll look to work together toward an NBA championship. Seems like just yesterday they were both trying to win states.
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