ORLANDO — Jeff Green believes he is ready for what’s coming, prepared under the tutelage of Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, all of whom are no longer with the Celtics.
“They were big on my process, especially for this moment,” the Celtics forward said at Orlando Summer League Tuesday.
With Garnett and Pierce departed via a blockbuster trade to Brooklyn, Green, who called the Nets a “lucky team,” can no longer defer to veteran stars.
With Rivers off to the Los Angeles Clippers and first-year NBA coach Brad Stevens in his place, Green can no longer rely on a long-time sideline leader for advice.
And with the Celtics offense of a season ago all but gutted, Green can no longer disappear in games, unless he wants to all but guarantee a Boston loss.
No, now the 26-year-old is one of the veterans on a team that is young and will certainly be younger in seasons to come. Now, he is one of the Celtics’ leaders.
“I’ve been a leader since my Georgetown days,” he said, “but I’ve had more guidance at the NBA level from some great players, like a KG, like a Paul Pierce. I think I’m ready for the challenge that awaits, and I think I’ll be very prepared.”
Green took strides last season, playing in all 81 regular-season games, averaging 12.8 points, including 16.4 over the final 38. It was his first full season back after missing the one prior as he recovered from open-heart surgery.
The aftereffects of that operation left Green fatigued during stretches last season, and it wasn’t until midseason that he started to, as he said, turn the corner.
But his late-season scoring spurt gave him confidence, and heading into this season, Green said he feels as good as ever.
“Last checkup, everything was good,” he said. “It’s all feeling good. I’m blessed. I’m in a position where I can go out and showcase what I can do now without any setbacks.”
But Green is also excited about what these Celtics can do, even if few others around the league share that sentiment.
“We look at it as a chance where we can prove a lot of guys wrong,” he said. “We’re still a great team.”
And all that talk about tanking and rebuilding, well, he and his teammates take that personally.
“Very personally,” he said. “We might not have the star-power as other teams, but we’re here for a reason. We’re here to play basketball.”
Green added, “It’s only 5 on 5. When you put our five best against any other five best, I feel like we will always have a great chance to win the game.”
One reason Green is excited about 2013-14 is because of Stevens.
“I’ve seen with Butler, how he shocked the world,” said Green, who sat next to Stevens during Tuesday’s game.
“His players, they all played hard for him, they all gave their all for him,” Green said.
Another player Green is excited about is rookie 7-footer Kelly Olynyk, who has been the star of the summer league and scored 21 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, and recorded 4 assists in a 76-74 win over Indiana Tuesday.
“I didn’t get to watch him a lot at Gonzaga, but he has great footwork,” Green said. “I didn’t know he could shoot the ball like he can. I’m looking forward to playing with him.”
In terms of how he needs to play, Green said he just needs to be as aggressive the way he was toward the end of last season.
“I think [Stevens] is going to showcase what we can do,” he said. “I’ve just got to continue to do what I can do — just be a little more assertive, if that’s possible.”
But it’s not all on Green. “It’s a team effort,” he said. “We have the pieces where we can still be a dominant force in this league if every guy does his part.”
As for the departures, Green said first that he’s happy for Garnett, Pierce, and Rivers.
“I knew the time would come when they would eventually retire or ask to be a part of a team that’s a championship contender,” he said.
“It’s sad to see them go, but I’m happy for them and what they can bring to a team.”
And of Rivers, who left to become the head coach and vice president of basketball operations for the Clippers after nine seasons in Boston, Green said, “That’s his decision.”
“He’s been in this game for so long. Rebuilding, he didn’t want to be a part of that. He’s a grown man. He can do what he wants.”
But Green is very excited about Rivers’s replacement
“I think he’s going to do what he did at Butler, take that ‘rebuilding’ word out,” Green said, “and we’re going to be the Celtics again.”