Commentary

Wilcox eager to make up for lost time

With new appreciation for C's after heart surgery, he can't wait to help the team win

Updated: July 16, 2012, 9:02 AM ET
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com

WALTHAM, Mass. -- No one is happier about Chris Wilcox going back to work than his wife, Tiffany.

His 2011-12 season cut short after an enlarged aorta was detected, Wilcox spent much of Boston's cliffhanger postseason run agonizing over every missed shot (or missed call) from his living room as he recuperated from surgery.

"My wife kept telling me, 'You need to calm down, you need to calm down.' Because I'm in front of the TV every night watching the game, you know?" explained Wilcox with a smile, knowing he undoubtedly tested the limits of his repaired heart.

"It was a great recovery for me because I got to see my team doing good while I wasn't around. But you get those games where you're like, 'Man, I could have helped. I could have did this, I could have did that.' But at the end of the day, it's all a blessing that I'm here in this situation that I am now. Hopefully I can pick up where I left off and kind of clean up some of the things that I didn't do last season."

[+] EnlargePaul Pierce and Chris Wilcox
Elsa/Getty ImagesChris Wilcox found it difficult watching Paul Pierce and his teammates battle in the postseason. "You get those games where you're like, 'Man, I could have helped. I could have did this, I could have did that,' " he said.

Four months after that heart ailment ended his season, Wilcox re-signed with the Celtics on Saturday and said he expects to operate without restrictions when training camp opens in late September.

After undergoing surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in late March, Wilcox last week resumed basketball activities. He's able to engage in full-contact work again and is slowly ramping up his weight training.

"I'm back and I'm ready," he said. But he's also decidedly more appreciative of his situation.

"This is a blessing. This is a blessing for me to even be here right now," Wilcox said Saturday while standing on the Celtics' practice floor. "I'm just going to take full advantage of all my situations and all the opportunities that have been coming my way, and, like I said, it's a blessing that I'm able to come back to a team to kind of pick up where I left off."

An NCAA champion in two seasons at Maryland, Wilcox has never tasted the NBA playoffs in 10 seasons with five teams. He signed with Boston last year in part for the chance to be part of a title contender, then had to settle for watching the postseason from afar.

All of which only motivated him to work harder. He'll rejoin the team on a one-year deal that's believed to be for the veteran minimum ($1.35 million), but he's excited about the opportunity for much of the same core from last season to attempt another run.

Wilcox averaged 5.4 points and 4.4 rebounds over 17.2 minutes per game in 28 appearances last season. Slowed out of the gates by minor injuries, Wilcox just seemed to be settling into his role -- primarily, cleaning up the glass and running in transition with Rajon Rondo -- when he was diagnosed with the heart ailment.

"I think it just happened at a terrible time, when my game was starting to come back around," said Wilcox. "I was starting to play well. And then this hit, and it's like, 'You've got to have surgery.' Your mind starts wandering and you just start thinking about a lot of things, but the major thing was my health.

"I wanted to play. I was asking the doctor, like, 'Can we just wait until the season's over with and then have surgery?' But they wouldn't let me play. It's just been a blessing. It's been a long journey and I just can't wait to play."

For Wilcox, there's a greater satisfaction in that it won't be just him returning from a heart ailment next season. The Celtics are also bringing back Jeff Green, who missed the entire 2011-12 campaign due to an aortic aneurysm detected before the start of the season.

The two kept in contact throughout Wilcox's diagnosis, repair, and rehab. On Saturday, they sat bookending a group of four Celtics signings (Jason Terry and Brandon Bass in between) and neither could stop smiling.

Celtics owner Steve Pagliuca said the duo served as an inspiration, particularly when they returned to Boston late in the season to visit the locker room and cheer on their teammates from the sidelines.

"To come back and support the team, be in front of the television, be with the guys, that helps everybody. It lifts everybody's spirit, so we were playing for them as well as ourselves," said Pagliuca.

"I think it was a heartening thing," he added.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who had his own heart scare in 2009, echoed: "A lot of it is the Celtics' tradition and the family atmosphere that (coach) Doc (Rivers) and the players have created. But a lot of it is their own character, and that's why (Wilcox and Green are) here today, because they're two guys with great character. We believe in their character and we believe that they'll recover, that they'll put time into it, and that they'll return to be the same players that they've been before, and even better, through the experience that they've gone through."

The Celtics think the return of guys like Wilcox and Green will be enough to push them over the hump after coming up eight minutes short of making the NBA Finals, while succumbing to the eventual champion Miami Heat in seven games.

Wilcox is certain he can help that cause.

"Sometimes when I was home, I was just looking at the game and you just see so many places where you can help the team, and it's just frustrating that you can't get out there," said Wilcox.

So frustrating that he would bark at the television set in frustration. It's back to work for him in September. Finally, everyone else in the Wilcox household can watch the TV in peace.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

MORE BOSTON HEADLINES