Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green will have surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm and will miss the entire season, the team announced on Saturday as it traveled to Toronto for its exhibition opener against the Raptors.
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Green is scheduled for an operation on Monday at the Cleveland Clinic. Doctors have told him the operation ”should completely repair Green’s condition and that he can expect to resume his NBA career next season,” the Celtics said in a news release.
If so, the timing of his training camp physical – and the end of the NBA lockout – may have saved Green’s life and helped the Celtics avert a tragedy like the 1993 death of Reggie Lewis, who dropped dead on a practice court of a heart condition in the prime of his career.
”While we are saddened that Jeff will not be able to play this season, the most important thing is his health,” Celtics president Danny Ainge said in the release. ”We were fortunate to have access to an amazing team of specialists to evaluate Jeff’s case.”
The team said it would have no more comment, at Green’s request. But Green said on Twitter on Saturday afternoon: ”Thank u everyone for ur thoughts and prayers…much appreciated love u all..and I’ll be back soon stronger and better than ever I promise.”
Green, 25, averaged 9.8 points and 3.3 rebounds last season after joining the Celtics in a trade that sent Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
An aortic aneurysm, which is more common in older people, is a ballooning of the wall of the aorta, the major artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. A person may show no symptoms from the aneurysm; but if it ruptures, it is likely to be fatal if not repaired immediately.
The team’s statement said Green’s aneurysm was detected during his physical after he reported for a training camp on Dec. 9. Green received additional testing and consultation by ”leading cardiac specialists,” who recommended surgery.
Green’s college coach at Georgetown, John Thompson III, said after the Hoyas’ 81-55 victory over American on Saturday that they’d spoken before the game.
”He’s, I guess, as upbeat as anyone can be,” Thompson said. ”I don’t want to speak for Jeff, but it’s been a trying week. I’ve seen the progression from terrified to confident, and that comes with education. That comes with truly understanding what he’s going through, and what he has to go through, and the confidence in his support system and the confidence in the doctors that he’s going to be working with. And with each day, that has grown.”
NBA players, including Steve Nash and Baron Davis, sent along their best wishes on Twitter. In Miami, LeBron James seemed taken aback when asked about Green after practice.
”I think it’s unfortunate for the game to be taken away, especially after a summer like this where we already had 2 1-2 months off,” said James, who played in a few charity games with Green over the summer. ”Hopefully he can get back healthy, they can figure out what’s going on and he can get back on the floor.”
James also remembered Jason Collier’s death in 2005, when the center was with the Atlanta Hawks and died suddenly.
”As a professional, you would think every last one of us would be in the top-tier shape and nothing would be wrong with us,” James said. ”That’s why the doctors, they are who they are.”