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LOS ANGELES -- It had been a while since Jeff Green had these sort of butterflies. Maybe as far back as when he first slid on a Celtics cap on draft night in 2007. But, in a career that's detoured through Seattle and Oklahoma City over the past four years, Green came home Saturday night, slipping on the Boston jersey he never got to wear that first time around.
Green, dealt to the Sonics in a draft-night trade that brought Ray Allen to Boston and laid the foundation for both the assembly of the Big Three and the Celtics' 17th world title, got shipped back to Boston at Thursday's trade deadline in a shocker that the Celtics are adamant was aimed at securing Banner 18.
|Jeff Green shook off some early nerves to chip in seven points off the bench.|
Green overcame some early-contest jitters in his first game in green, chipping in seven points, a rebound and a block over 17:50 as the Celtics rallied past the Los Angeles Clippers 99-92 on Saturday night at the Staples Center.
"Very anxious," Green said of his emotions at the start of Saturday's tilt. Indeed, he looked like a rookie again at times, leaning on old friend Delonte West to explain sets and plays to him on the bench before he first checked in.
When Green finally got on the floor with little more than two minutes to play in the first quarter, he botched a screen trying to spring Allen, got dunked on by Randy Foye trying to defend a fast-break situation and clanged the front end of a pair of free throws before making the back end for his first point in a Boston uniform.
Then he exhaled.
"I said, 'I had to get the first one out,' but, after the first one I kind of relaxed," Green said. "I got my rhythm and things started to go well for me."
Green showed glimpses of why the Celtics sent starting center Kendrick Perkins and backup guard Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for him, Nenad Krstic and a future first-round pick in that deadline jaw-dropper on Thursday.
After a sluggish first half in which he missed both shots he took and turned the ball over twice, Green made two buckets late in the third quarter and looked much more comfortable at both ends of the floor over the final two quarters.
"I'm going to have to figure out how to use Jeff," admitted Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "I have no idea yet and that's going to take some time ... but we'll get it."
Rivers has gushed about Green and his potential since Thursday's swap, with Boston adamant that it got the single most talented player in the deal. The Celtics utilized Green at both the small forward and power forward positions Saturday, his versatility allowing them to experiment with various looks that simply weren't possible before.
That included inserting Green with the four familiar starters in a lineup Boston utilized for the final two minutes of the first half (one which reminds Rivers of a 2008 lineup featuring James Posey that Boston had so much success with). The combination generated six quick points and is one Rivers will likely lean on at the end of halves.
For now, the focus is just on getting Green up to speed on the playbook and starting the process of forging chemistry with those new teammates. Everything was a blur Saturday night, but he savored a first-game victory.
"Man, it felt good," Green said. "I just came out there, new team, different look. It felt good to get the first win under my belt. Hopefully there's many more to come."
After joining the team on Friday, Green and Krstic participated in their first team activity during Saturday morning's shootaround on the campus of UCLA. The pair spent time after the session going over basic formations with the assistant coaches, but expressed great excitement in joining a team with title-or-bust aspirations.
Green, who watched the Celtics raise Banner 17 after dealing him away during that 2007 draft, harbored little ill will. He said at Saturday's shootaround that he was honored to be traded for a player the caliber of Allen, the league's all-time leader in 3-point field goals.
And Green kept an eye on Boston, especially as a young Oklahoma City team developed into a playoff contender.
"That's the team that drafted me, but, at the time in Oklahoma, [the Celtics] were my enemy," Green said. "This was a team that we looked up to, where we wanted to be as far as a championship level. Some of the things they do, as far as defense, and how they defended, and offensively as well, sharing the ball. That was some of the things that, in Oklahoma, we tried to imitate. Now to be part of it, it should be fun."
West, who spent the start of the 2007-08 season with Green in Seattle, is more than happy to show him the ropes. The two -- along with Glen Davis -- will comprise the core of Boston's bench moving forward and West, for one, likes what he sees so far.
"Well since he's been in the league, his composure, [he's grown up]," West said. "He has a definite high talent level. He's another utility guy. For a team like this, for a guy we're expecting to come off the bench, he's able to run the floor. I was just telling him while I was on the bench that he's going to enjoy playing with [Rajon] Rondo when he can get out on the floor [together].
"He gets on that wing, he runs the floor, he can finish, shoot the ball, spread the floor, play the three or four, defend smaller guards. ... It's a pleasure having him on the team."
Despite the early anxiety, Green is happy to be here. The first game is out of the way and he's ready to show why the Celtics were willing to make such a bold move to bring him back to Boston.
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.