MIAMI -- Speaking to reporters for the first time since the heart ailment that will sideline him for the 2011-12 season was disclosed, Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green called the discovery a "blessing" and said he is "relieved" because he expects to resume his basketball career next season.
"I'm very relieved," Green said, "because I can play basketball again. It's a blessing it was found because you never know what could have happened."
After Green agreed to a one-year, $9 million contract with the Celtics at the start of the offseason, a routine physical discovered an aortic aneurysm that Green will have surgically repaired next month at the Cleveland Clinic.
The condition ended his season and voided his contract, but Green has remained with the team, attending practices last week and traveling to New York and Miami as part of the season-opening road trip.
"It's like therapy, man -- being around the team. It really helps me relax and takes my mind off it because I don't want to be sitting around the house thinking about the whole thing," he said. "You can go crazy doing that. Just being around the team, it really helps."
Green said he has already reached out to Etan Thomas, who underwent open-heart surgery in October 2007 to repair a leaking aortic valve and returned to the court a little more than a year later. Green said he also plans to get in contact with Ronny Turiaf, who underwent surgery in July 2005 for an enlarged aortic root and debuted on an NBA court in February 2006, little more than six months later. Green said their input will aid him in knowing what lies ahead as he preps for surgery and rehab.
The team stressed to him to take care of his health.
"Take your time, as far as recuperating and at the hospital," Green said of the team's message. "And then come back to Boston and start getting back to playing the game."
The Celtics are expected to retain their rights to Green whenever he's able to resume playing and coach Doc Rivers stressed earlier this week that Green remains part of the Celtics' family.
"He's part of the team," said Rivers. "Jeff's hopefully going to get a (championship) ring. He'll be there just like everybody else.
"Jeff doesn't have to be here, but he wants to be here and we want him here. He's part of our culture, he's part of our family. We want to keep him in our family."
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.