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Gerald Green admits it's 'weird' to be Celtics veteran

UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Gerald Green still isn't used to the notion that he's the grizzled veteran in the Boston Celtics' baby-faced locker room.

"It’s weird, I’m going to be honest with you," Green said. "I was the youngest when I first came here; now I’m the oldest. It’s like I don’t know what to do. I still act like I’m the youngest."

Green was 19 when he was drafted by the Celtics out of Gulf Shores Academy in Houston with the 18th pick in the 2005 draft. He entered a locker room where he was more than a full year younger than Al Jefferson, another prep-to-pro guy. Green, a slam dunk championship on his résumé, was barely the legal drinking age when he was shipped to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of the package that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston in 2007.

On Saturday, 3,462 days since he last wore a Celtics uniform, Green made his preseason debut during Boston's 104-86 triumph over the Charlotte Hornets at Mohegan Sun Arena. Green is now just a few months shy of his 31st birthday and is the elder statesman on Boston's roster, a comfortable four months older than fellow offseason addition Al Horford.

The contracts that Horford and Green signed this summer differ by roughly $112 million, but Green is delighted to simply be back with the team with which he started his pro career.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," Green said. "Almost like deja vu again, almost in a way. I’m just so happy to be able to wear Celtics green again."

Green, sidelined early in training camp with a hip flexor injury that he playfully admits is the sign of an aging body, shook some initial rust to put up 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting over 20 minutes, 28 seconds of floor time during Saturday's win.

A little and-one layup, the result of a play that started with some hustle after he tracked down a loose ball near half court, gave Green a spark as part of a nine-point, third-quarter burst. A short time after, he took a feed racing off a high screen and knocked down a 19-foot straightaway jumper. The next time he caught the ball off a screen, he curled right through three defenders and finished a tough shot on the opposite side of the rim. That's exactly the "spurtability" that Celtics coach Brad Stevens gushed about while admitting he used to fear playing against Green in the past.

"I thought that Gerald looked like he got his rhythm in the third stint. ... I thought overall he did a good job," said Stevens, about the only other 30-something on Boston's bench. "He’s behind a little, but he’ll catch up. He’s an older player who’s been around. He knows. The experience helps so much in regaining your footing."

Since his last appearance in a Celtics uniform, Green has played for seven different NBA teams (Wolves, Rockets, Mavericks, Nets, Pacers, Suns and Heat). He spent two seasons in Russia after the Rockets released him midway through the 2008 season -- the same year that Garnett led Boston to its 17th NBA title.

Green draws laughter each time he's asked about the trade and quips, "I would have traded myself for Kevin Garnett, too."

Since clawing his way back into the NBA in 2012, Green has been a journeyman. But it might have been the brief period he crossed paths with Isaiah Thomas in Phoenix in 2014 that ultimately brought Green home.

Thomas, who teamed with Green as a reserve in Phoenix's overstocked backcourt, was a chief supporter of adding Green to a Boston bench that needed a scoring boost following the departure of swingman Evan Turner.

"We needed someone like him. A guy that can shoot the ball, a guy that can space the floor, and he’s just an instant scorer -- whether he starts, whether he comes off the bench, that’s what he’s going to do," Thomas said. "And he’s explosive. We needed somebody like him and, when we played in Phoenix, it was like we played together for years because we clicked so easy. I know where he likes the ball, I know where his hot spots are. He’s just somebody that’s very excited and something we need."

Thomas joked he knew something was up when Green called him this summer because, "Gerald doesn’t call anybody." Green's best NBA season came during the 2013-14 season in Phoenix, when he averaged 15.8 points per game while shooting 40 percent beyond the 3-point arc.

Though his scoring dipped the past two seasons, Green remained an impactful player, and was a late-season contributor with Miami last season. Green signed a one-year, minimum-salary contract that will cost the Celtics less than $1 million because the NBA pays a chunk of such deals.

Green's roster spot with Boston is no slam dunk. The Celtics have 17 players with at least partial guarantees, including 16 fully guaranteed contracts. Rosters must be trimmed to 15 players before opening night, but the initial glimpse Saturday suggests that Green is likely more secure in his position than the younger players jockeying for a spot.

After all, the Celtics need his veteran voice in the locker room.

"Of course [he gives veteran advice now]. Because I got that same advice," Green said. "I try to tell young guys -- like, if I see a young guy pressing, I try to tell him to relax and play your game. If I see somebody that’s doing something good, I tell him, ‘Hey, man, keep doing those things. Those things can make you be a great pro.’ I just try to give guys encouragement, since I am the old vet now on the team."