TORONTO - After the stunning news Saturday that forward Jeff Green would miss the season because of an aortic aneurysm, yesterday the reaction of the Celtics was one of relief that the condition was detected, and gratitude that he will be able to continue his career next season.
Players and coaches know how much they will miss Green’s youth, versatility, and talent on the court, but that was secondary. They were far more concerned about the long-term health of the 25-year-old.
“We were hoping we were wrong, obviously,’’ coach Doc Rivers said before the Celtics beat the Raptors, 76-75, in an exhibition game at Air Canada Centre. “It’s a tough one.
“Not more for the team, I think that’s an easy way to look at it. I look at it more in a couple of ways, No. 1 how lucky Jeff is, because the fact that we found it and the fact that he can actually come back and play.
“[Coming back] to me is the minor part. I could care less about that. The fact that he could live and all that is far more important. That’s basically what I conveyed to him: ‘Don’t look at this as a negative. This is an extreme positive. You’re going to be OK, and that’s good.’ ’’
The players also expressed gratitude that Green’s condition was detected during the customary preseason physical. A stress test detected an abnormality, and further examinations revealed the aneurysm, which the team said Green will have surgery on Jan. 9.
“It’s an unfortunate situation but at the same time very fortunate,’’ guard Ray Allen said. “In sports we have seen too many people who have lost their lives due to whether it be the physical missed something or they just overexerted themselves. We’ve had a lot of instances of that in the NBA. We ask a lot of our bodies, so it’s important to put ourselves through the ringer thoroughly when we get tested with our physicals.
“We get hooked up to an EKG, [get] on the treadmill testing your heart, those tests are so important for us,’’ he said. “And I’m glad and I’m sure he’s very glad they were able to find what they found so he can be healthy.’’
Swingman Marquis Daniels has dealt with a serious health issue. Daniels yesterday made his first game appearance since a frightening collision with Orlando’s Gilbert Arenas Feb. 6 that caused temporary paralysis. It was initially thought that Daniels’s career could be over, but he had spinal cord surgery in March.
“We’re a family-oriented team, and it’s a tough time for him, but he’s family and there are going to be some guys to try to keep his spirits up,’’ Daniels said of Green. “I really don’t want to speak too much on [his condition], but it’s trying times.’’
The topic was a sensitive one for Daniels, who had 11 points in 27 minutes yesterday. “I’m not going to talk about nobody not playing again,’’ he said. “Jeff’s a great competitor; he’ll be back.’’
The Celtics will void Green’s contract and retain his rights if he returns next season.
Without Paul Pierce (heel) yesterday, Rivers used Daniels at small forward against the Raptors, and also called on Brandon Bass and rookie JaJuan Johnson. The Celtics are going to have to use several players to make up for Green’s absence.
Rivers said he and the coaching staff spent hours during the summer devising ways to use a smaller lineup led by Green to present matchup problems. At 6 feet 9 inches, Green would have played both forward positions in that setup, and would have used his size to post up, when he wasn’t draining perimeter jumpers.
“Team-wise it’s obviously a blow to us,’’ Rivers said. “It just tells you all those plans in the summer, I could have played four or five more rounds of golf because we put a lot of time into it, we really were going to commit to, at some point in every game, going to a small group to try to [dictate the] pace of the game with Kevin [Garnett] and Jeff. We wanted to be an effective small team. That’s basically going to get tossed.’’
Yet, the real focus was on Green’s well-being.
“It hits a little home because it is your little brother, it is your guy, and I’m just glad it was fortunate to be caught, early,’’ Garnett said. “And he can now go ahead with his life and make some adjustments to that and I just hope everything works out.
“It’s unfortunate when we cross these paths and deal with these life reality problems . . . just happy for him and his family that he was able to catch it. It’s unfortunate.’’