From Europe to the Celtics: Playing in NBA a 'dream come true' for Javonte Green

From Europe to the Celtics: Playing in NBA a 'dream come true' for Javonte Green

BOSTON — The roar when Javonte Green completed the finger roll left his Boston Celtics teammates momentarily baffled up and down the Eastern seaboard.

Green, Boston’s 26-year-old rookie, drew noticeable cheers inside Washington’s Verizon Center with a first-quarter bucket thanks to the gaggle of college friends that made the long pilgrimage to cheer him on.

"When I got back [to Boston] and I talked to Kemba, he was watching the game on TV, when I scored that layup, he was like, ‘You had the whole city out, right?’” said Green. "I was like, ‘How did you know? You weren’t even there.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I heard it when you scored. It was very loud.’”

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Green’s traveling support system included an entire section of supporters with ties to Radford University, which he attended in neighboring Virginia. But it’s a 250-mile and four-hour-on-a-good-day drive through the Shenandoah Valley. Another batch of family members made the drive up from Green’s native Petersburg, Virginia and rented out two luxury boxes to cheer for him.

“I definitely heard the cheers,” said teammate Marcus Smart. "He deserves it. He’s been working hard and his opportunity is finally here an he’s making the most of it.”

Considering Green spent his first three years of professional ball playing in Spain, Italy, and Germany, his supporters are thrilled that it’s just a car ride to see him now.

Family members rented a 12-passenger van for the more-than-four-hour trek to Philadelphia to watch Boston’s opening night game against the Sixers. And Green was inactive for that game. They’ve made two similar treks to Charlotte to watch him as well.

Green beams with pride detailing what it means for him to play in front of his family again. Part of what pushed him to chase a spot on Boston’s 15-man roster was the opportunity to be closer to young daughters, Khloe, 7, and Kylie, 1.

Some family members made a trip to Germany last year to spend Christmas with Green. But now he can look up at TD Garden and see them carrying around oversized cardboard cutouts of his head as they cheer him on during a random midweek matchup in January.

"Honestly, that was the ultimate goal for me, getting to be closer to my daughters,” said Green.

Last week, the deadline for contracts to become fully guaranteed passed quietly, ensuring Green will collect all of his $898,310 rookie deal. It was never really in doubt given the potential Green has displayed, and yet he admits he was able to exhale a bit.

"Of course you were thinking about it,” said Green. "At the same time, I can’t let that cloud my vision. To get there, and to get past the deadline, it was a relief, even though I wasn’t worried about it as much, but still — you never know with a business.”

Green admits he still has some pinch-me moments in his rookie campaign.

"When I first got the offer from [Danny Ainge], it was a dream come true,” said Green. "I still don’t think it’s really hit me. But every day, a random day, I can just be going to the grocery store, and I’m like, ‘Yo, I'm really in the NBA.’

"But I just can’t look at it that way. It’s a job. And I still got a long way to go.”

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Green is averaging 2.9 points and 1.5 rebounds over 7.8 minutes per game in 30 appearances. While his playing time typically only comes in bite-sized chunks, he’s wowed Celtics fans with his freakish athleticism and has already amassed a mixtape of loud in-game dunks.

It’s enough to make some wonder if he should be in the NBA’s dunk contest. But, truth be told, dunk contests aren’t really his thing.

"I feel like I overthink it,” said Green. “In a game, it’s like instincts. There’s not much to think about.”

While playing in Germany last year, Green got invited to participate in the dunk contest at the league’s All-Star weekend. He misfired repeatedly on a 360 windmill dunk that he typically makes with ease and got booted in the first round of competition.

"I did horrible. I got knocked out first round. I actually came in last place I think,” said Green. "Right now I’m still kinda scarred from it. It wasn’t like a crazy dunk. It was just a dunk that I’ve done like 100 times. I just couldn’t put it down. I don’t know.”

It’s one thing to just explode to the basket in a game; it’s another to have everyone’s eyes on you waiting for a 'Wow' moment.

“It’s a lot of pressure but, at the same time, I could have easily won it. Then I went between the legs and, how they did it over there, it’s like, you dunk then your opponent dunks, then they vote who they want. I went between the legs and nobody voted for me so I was like, ‘Wow, I thought that was pretty sweet.’"

If the NBA did invite him, Green admits he’d have to give it a lot of thought.

For now, he’s just focused on getting better and helping his teammates. He’s marveled at how down to Earth everyone in the Celtics organization is and he’s made himself at home. Like dumping water over Jayson Tatum’s head during his postgame interview following Tatum’s 41-point night last week.

And the veterans are looking out for him as well.

“A lot of the stuff we do, traveling and things like that, it’s his first time doing it,” said Smart. "He says it all the time, how blessed he is and how thankful he is to have the opportunity to be with us and be part of the crew. The dude is unbelievable. He’s a freak of nature, athletically-wise. We've seen it. Good guy to be around, good teammate, just his all-around energy — it’s contagious and rubs off on us in a good way.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Pistons-Celtics, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike and Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics injuries: Kemba Walker (knee) out Sunday vs. Lakers

Celtics injuries: Kemba Walker (knee) out Sunday vs. Lakers

The Boston Celtics will have to take on the Los Angeles Lakers without Kemba Walker on Sunday afternoon.

The C's guard will miss his second straight game due to a sore left knee, the team announced Saturday. Head coach Brad Stevens revealed earlier this week Walker's knee swelled up and had to be drained. Walker also had his knee injected with Synvisc, a pain relief treatment used for knee soreness.

Robert Williams remains ruled out with a left hip bone edema, though there is hope the big man will return to the court after the Celtics wrap up their road trip.

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Celtics-Lakers tips off Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET. When these two teams last faced off on January 20, the C's cruised to a 139-107 victory.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Lakers, which begins Sunday at 2:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 3:30 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

Celtics' Brad Stevens the rare college-to-the-pros coaching success story

Celtics' Brad Stevens the rare college-to-the-pros coaching success story

LOS ANGELES — No matter what Brad Stevens does from here on out, he'll be remembered as one of the winningest coaches in Boston Celtics history. 

At 309 victories (and counting) after Friday’s 127-117 win over Minnesota, only three men — Red Auerbach (795), Tommy Heinsohn (427) and Doc Rivers (416) — have won more games pacing the Celtics sideline than Stevens. 

Making the milestone even more impressive is that Stevens came directly from the college ranks, where success has been a rarity. 

The most recent college-to-the-pros coach to struggle with the adjustment is Cleveland’s John Beilein. The former Michigan coach stepped down as the Cavs' head coach to assume a yet-to-be-determined job within the franchise. 

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Figuring out the secret sauce to Stevens’ success isn't easy.

He’ll be the first to tell you that a number of factors have come into play that allowed him to find success where so many of his college-to-the-pros brethren struggled. 

One of the reasons college coaches get opportunities to lead NBA teams is because of the track record of success they build up at the college level. Stevens led the Butler Bulldogs to a national runner-up finish in back-to-back seasons (2010 and 2011), a remarkable accomplishment for a mid-major program. 

For Stevens, preparing for the worst when it comes to wins and losses, was challenging at first. The lack of success Cleveland (15-40) has experienced this season was a major factor in Beilein’s decision to no longer coach the Cavs. 

“I find losing very challenging and this year has taken a much bigger toll on me than I expected,” Beilein said in a statement. “I grew concerned for the consequences this toll could potentially take on my own health and my family's well-being down the road. I was not certain I could be at my best for the remainder of the season and in the future. That would not be fair to the players, coaches and support staff."

Indeed, Stevens recalls how difficult dealing with all the losing in that first year was for him. 

As a rookie head coach with the Celtics, Stevens’ squad finished 25-57. To put that in perspective, Stevens won more games at Butler in five of his six seasons than he did in Boston as a rookie, and did so in less than half of an 82-game NBA season. 

“That first year was hard,” Stevens told NBC Sports Boston. “I remember being miserable because I never lost like that. But that’s part of it. You learn a lot about yourself, so when you get to that second year you feel a lot different.”

Those early struggles did not catch Stevens off-guard.

“Our first year was expected to be really hard,” Stevens said. “It was expected to be hard for a couple years.”

But a series of trades during the 2014-2015 season gave Boston just the jolt of confidence and talent needed to make a late-season charge. That ended with them getting the eighth and final playoff seed, where they swept in the first round by the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Sure, getting swept was disappointing. But that balanced out with the fact that Boston had found a brand of basketball that would serve as the foundation for the team’s future success. 

“We found a team that competed well together,” Stevens said. “We were able in year two to find our way, at least establishing a little bit with that group, how we wanted to play.”

Stevens is quick to credit the Celtics’ front office, ownership and his assistant coaches for providing the kind of support on and off the court, that a college coach making a jump of this magnitude, absolutely has to have. But maybe more than anything, a college coach making the jump to the NBA has to trust that the process of establishing a comfort level and a culture takes more than just one season. 

For Stevens, that’s the great disappointment in how things have played out with Beilein. While there’s a certain element of uncertainty that comes with making the jump to the pros, Beilein did his research in advance. Stevens was among the coaches he spoke with prior to taking the Cavs job. 

Beilein also spoke with Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan, who also made the jump from a successful career in college to the NBA. 

"I talked to Billy the year before at length," Beilein told reporters earlier this season. "For like an hour on the phone. He encouraged me that he really liked (the NBA). He liked the pace of it. He really liked the coaching. He also said, ‘It’s a long season. You gotta be able to stay in there and hang through the tough times and just keep coaching.’ He encouraged me to do it." 

So did Stevens, who felt Beilein’s strength in working with young players, coupled with his innovative style of play, would make him an ideal head coach for a young Cavaliers squad. 

There’s a fairly high amount of trial and error that first year as well. 

“When I first got the job, I’m watching film of the Celtics from the year before and nobody is going to be back. This doesn’t make sense,,”Stevens recalled. 

Shortly before Stevens accepted the job, the Celtics traded away cornerstone players Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, leaving Rajon Rondo as the only starter with the team at that time, from the 2008 NBA title squad. 

But with each passing season, Stevens became more comfortable with the NBA. 

“You are in front of the media, in front of the cameras and you have to answer and do that every single day while preparing your team to play their best,” Stevens said. “It’s just a really challenging gig.”

And now in his seventh season, there’s little doubt that Stevens is comfortable with the league, its players and his role in moving Boston closer towards Banner 18.

I asked Stevens if there were one or two tips he had for a college coach who was contemplating a move to the NBA as a head coach. 

“What I always tell the college guys that are interested is, the summers are great,” Stevens said. “The middle of the season is going to throw a bunch of storms at you. That’s part of it. But that’s ... it’s a lot of fun if you keep the right perspective.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Lakers, which begins Sunday at 2:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 3:30 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App