MINNEAPOLIS — Jeff Green had open-heart surgery nearly two years ago and has fully recovered.
And before Saturday’s 106-88 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Green met a 15-year-old boy who had a heart transplant just months ago, who idolizes Green and who hopes to recover like Green did.
Green gave the boy, Malik, who had his operation at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital, a signed jersey and signed game-worn sneakers while also spending about 15 minutes with him before the game.
“I think it meant more to me than it meant to him,” Green said.
“To overcome something such as a heart transplant and just to see a smile on his face, see him upbeat and alive, just happy, brings a smile to my face. I’m 27 now.
“When I had my surgery, I was 25. He’s 15. Just to see how he is and how upbeat he is, it just makes me feel happy inside that I could help him. One of his wishes [was] to meet me because we’ve been through similar things. It was a wonderful thing.”
Malik, who didn’t want his last name used, is from the area and had a history of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. He spent more than 100 days in the hospital until he was released last week.
Malik’s favorite NBA player is Green, and he hopes to recover like Green and one day play college basketball.
Green had an aortic root aneurysm and missed the 2011-12 season while recovering from surgery, but he returned in the 2012-13 season and averaged 12.8 points per game.
Green acknowledged that having open-heart surgery and having a heart transplant are two different things.
“You can say it, but you won’t grasp it, you can’t get the feeling of what he’s been through the last couple weeks, recovering from that,” Green said.
“Just to see him with a smile on his face, about to enjoy his first NBA game, which he’s about to enjoy. It’s big.”
Green had a tough night, going 0 for 6 and finishing with 2 points.
Margin of error
There are obvious differences between a team’s wins and losses, such as fewer turnovers or more made shots.
Celtics rookie coach Brad Stevens said he has noticed a few other things that stood out between the team’s four-game losing streak to start the season and the four-game winning streak that followed it.
“I thought during the four-game [winning streak], we were probably moving it quicker than we were the last couple of days,” he said.
“What I think sometimes happens is, you get it going well and then you’re so desperate to keep it going well that you try to hit home runs way too early.
“And we’ve tried to hit home runs way too early instead of just playing possession to possession, hitting singles, moving the ball and recognizing that simply doing your job on a given possession helps us win.”
When Stevens was coaching at Butler, he routinely watched numerous NBA games. But he said there’s a vast difference between watching casually and now scouting those teams.
“You get a greater appreciation for just how many good teams there are,” he said. “It’s funny. In college, you’re always on edge about the next game, but certainly there are games that are more winnable than others. And in this, if you don’t play well, you are going to get beat. That’s just the way it goes.
“But I think at the end of the day, no matter what you’re doing, no matter who you’re playing, you’re always striving to play your very best. That’s where we’ve got to get to from a consistency standpoint.”
Stevens decided to start rookie center Vitor Faverani (9 points, 14 rebounds, 27 minutes) over rookie forward Kelly Olynyk (6 points, 2 rebounds, 14 minutes) because he believed that Faverani would be better suited to match up against brutish Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic, as imposing a big man as there is in the NBA at 6 feet 11 inches, 285 pounds. Pekovic had 20 points and 12 rebounds in the win.
Down and out
Reserve guards Courtney Lee (sore right wrist) and Keith Bogans (illness) both missed the game. Lee sustained the wrist injury in the Celtics’ 109-96 loss to Portland Trail Blazers on Friday at TD Garden. Lee has been a spark off the bench , averaging 10 points per game in their last five games. Lee’s status for the Celtics’ game Tuesday in Houston is unclear, but it’s expected that he should play . . . Stevens became the second NBA coach to lose his first four (or more) games and follow that up with a winning streak to bring his record to .500. The other coach was Minnesota’s Rick Adelman when he took over at Portland in Feb. 1989, losing his first four then winning his next four.Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.