Quite a contrasting couple they made — the physical spectacle that is James, and Green, the Celtics’ No. 1 pick in 2007 who required open-heart surgery in 2012 to repair an aortic root aneurysm at — irony alert! — the Cleveland Clinic.
Ainge actually introduced himself as Trader Dan when he drafted Green out of Georgetown in June 2007 with the fifth overall pick and promptly moved him to Seattle in a package for Ray Allen and Glen Davis. That trade was essential to the Celtics’ 17th N.B.A. championship the following season, their first in 22 years. Ainge reacquired Green in 2011 in the dying stage of the Big Three era, beginning for Green a decampment in Boston for more than four years that included a full-season’s convalescence.
“The guy had open-heart surgery a few years ago, and the game was almost taken from him,” James said at his post-midnight news conference. His shake of the head in admiration was convincing for anyone who had overheard him speaking into a smartphone that he held in front of his face an hour earlier at his dressing stall, feet soaking in ice.
“Did you see my man Jeff Green?” James said. “Oh, man, did we need that.”
Green is 6-foot-9, offensively skilled and so effortlessly smooth that he has, perhaps unfairly, been labeled across the years as soft. He has career averages of 13.6 points and 4.6 rebounds, and is especially shifty at filling or manufacturing a lane to the rim in transition.
In other words, he is the stylistic opposite of the steamrollering James, whose return to pro basketball’s grand stage over the next two weeks will run concurrent to another itinerant late-spring force of swashbuckling royalty, Rafael Nadal, the King of Clay, gunning for an 11th French Open title.
Say what you will about the quality of Eastern Conference competition during James’s domination. Remaining haters can soothe themselves with the probability that the Cavaliers will fall short for the third time in four years, and James’s finals ledger will soon read 3 rings in 9 tries, as opposed to Michael Jordan’s perfect 6-0.
Nonsense, all of it, as much so as the ill-conceived corporate marketing campaign from a couple of decades ago declaring that Olympians don’t win silver, they lose gold.