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Chris Wilcox has reason to smile as he prepares to return to the court this season.WALTHAM, Mass. -- When Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox were both sidelined by heart ailments last season, their futures in basketball were unclear, let alone their futures as Boston Celtics.
But both had already made their marks prior to their respective procedures -- Green as part of the trade package for Kendrick Perkins, and Wilcox as an emerging energy player off the bench -- and the Celtics, confident they could return to and even exceed the levels of play they were exhibiting before their operations, chose to bring both of them back.
Though their ailments were not identical -- Green suffered an aortic aneurysm while Wilcox battled an enlarged aorta -- they were similar enough to create a larger-than-basketball bond neither player ever could have anticipated.
"That's my scar buddy," Jeff Green said Friday at the team's media day on Friday. "We trade stories every time we see each other."
Added Wilcox: "Definitely feel the bond with Jeff Green for the rest of my life. He's been like my mentor going through this thing. I've been looking up to him, saying, 'What's next?' you know what I mean? 'What's going on here?' He's been great, with just letting me know what to expect and different things like that. It's just great to be back."
The support extends both ways. Even though Green had his procedure several months ahead of Wilcox, he still benefits from having someone around who understands his own experience. Green and Wilcox aren't the only players in recent NBA history to endure heart ailments, but to have that kind of support to that degree in the same locker room is immeasurable.
"It's great, because he understands everything that I've been through," Green said. "He understands everything that we need to do to get back to the form we were at before the surgery. I mean, to be able to talk to somebody and for them to understand it -- because I could sit here and talk to [the media] about everything I've been through, but you all won't fully understand. But for me to be able to go to Chris and be like, 'Hey, when you were at this stage, and your breathing, how was that for you?' It helps a lot."
Their personal relationship dates back as far as five years ago, when Green was a rookie for the Seattle Supersonics (having been traded there by the Celtics) and Wilcox was a veteran of seven NBA seasons. Wilcox referred to Green as his "rook," and while he might have had Green's back when Green first entered the league, neither could have predicted they'd be offering each other equal support of this magnitude.
"We definitely help each other out because sometimes I might be playing and working out and I'll be like, 'Jeff, have you ever felt this before?' And he'll be like, 'Yeah.' It's all the time, you know what I mean?" said Wilcox. "But, if I have any problems with anything containing the surgery, he's the guy that I go to, because he's been through it already. He's two months ahead of me, so I'm like, 'What's next?' He's been good with it and he's been with me through it all, and like I said, it's just been a blessing that somebody on this team has been going through the same thing I have, so now it's like, whatever he's been through, I know what to expect."