When the Boston Celtics wrap up practice, Gerald Green often huddles with Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart for spirited one-on-one work that tends to draw a crowd of curious teammates and assistant coaches. The 30-year-old Green, a veteran of nine teams in 10 NBA seasons, is a full decade older than the rookie Brown but, during these sessions, he's essentially competing against two players ahead of him on Boston's depth chart (three when second-year guard Terry Rozier joins the fun).
Green logged his seventh "DNP-coach's decision" of the season Monday during Boston's 112-104 triumph over the Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena. Green has already matched his DNP total from all of the 2015-16 season with the Heat. Green hasn't played since Nov. 18, when he got his longest stint of the season as the Golden State Warriors raced away from Boston in the second half.
To Green's credit, he has pledged to do whatever Celtics coach Brad Stevens asks of him and said he'll remain patient waiting for his opportunity to contribute on a more consistent basis. Stevens believes that will happen this season.
"The biggest thing is that you can't play everybody. Gerald has been a great pro," Stevens said. "Missing a lot of training camp was a really tough thing because, according to my practice plan [on Saturday], the last time he practiced was the 16th [of November]. It's just hard to practice right now. That's when you build those habits and get a chance to separate yourself from your peers.
"But he'll help us this year. I feel really good about that, and his attitude is really good. I'm glad he's here."
Green, who signed a one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Celtics this summer, missed extended time in the preseason due to a hip flexor suffered in one of Boston's first training camp practices. He has been deep on the depth chart ever since. Some even wondered if he'd survive the team's final trim down but Green showed enough at the end of the exhibition slate to keep around. Boston ultimately waived 2015 first-round pick R.J. Hunter instead.
Even with Boston navigating early-season injuries, Green has played just 109 minutes in 10 appearances. He's averaging 4.1 points on 31.9 percent shooting and hasn't scored more than the nine points he posted in Boston's season-opening win over the Brooklyn Nets.
When reporters surrounded Green at Boston's morning shootaround in Miami on Monday, he maturely noted that the only thing that would make this trip back to Miami sweeter was getting a win. Green has previously noted that he was a typically immature teenager when the Celtics drafted him out of high school in 2005 but has clearly gained perspective during his sprawling basketball journey. Green deserves credit for the way he has embraced a tough situation while waiting for playing time to open.
"I'm not gonna lie, it's tough," Green told reporters in Miami. "But enjoying somebody else's success is a huge part about being a professional."
Green later added that it would be selfish for him to complain about playing time with the way Boston is playing. The Celtics have won seven of their past 10 and, despite a rocky start, sit just one game behind the Toronto Raptors for second place in a crowded Eastern Conference.
Echoing what Stevens said, Green is confident his time will come. If Boston's starters didn't let off the gas in the third quarter on Monday in Miami, Green likely would have received some second-half playing time against his former team.
Instead, Green must remain content with those post-practice one-on-one sessions. The ones during which he'll sometimes use his veteran status to get a call on Brown. The rookie noted, "I call something, I can't get it or nothing like that; when I foul them, all hell breaks loose."
Green seems to take the post-practice work seriously. Not regarded as the best individual defender, he can be seen beating himself up when his younger teammates score on him. But Green is hopeful that the one-on-one work will not only make Boston's younger players better but keep him sharp for when his opportunity arrives.
It's worth noting that Green logged all seven of his DNP's with Miami in the second half of last season. But his minutes spiked late in the season and his efforts helped the Heat finish tied with Boston in the standings. A four-way tie-breaker boosted Miami to the No. 3 seed while Boston fell to No. 5, where the Celtics endured a first-round exit at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks.
Will Green help Boston's playoff push later in the season?
"I’m a competitor and want to play," Green told reporters in Miami. "But my time will come."