Green Rejoins an Old Friend
Friday, June 29, 2007
NEW YORK, June 28 -- Jeff Green and Kevin Durant are friends, having grown up as basketball players together in Prince George's County. Now, the two All-Mets will be teammates with the Seattle SuperSonics.
Seattle, as expected, selected Durant -- from Suitland, Montrose Christian and the University of Texas -- with the second overall pick of the NBA draft on Thursday night. Minutes later, Green -- of Hyattsville, Northwestern and Georgetown -- was selected by the Boston Celtics with the fifth pick, but was then sent west.
The Celtics traded Green, Delonte West (another All-Met from Prince George's County) and Wally Szczerbiak to the Sonics in exchange for Ray Allen. Boston also received Seattle's 35th overall pick, which was LSU forward Glen Davis.
"I've seen [Durant] play, but I've never really had the chance to play with him," Green said. "Now I do, and it's under the NBA microscope. It's going to be fun -- he's a great talent."
It was not a surprise that Boston traded away the fifth pick -- that had been rumored for days -- but the Sonics' end of the deal was a bit of a surprise. Seattle was not one of the six teams that conducted a private workout for Green, while the Celtics saw Green at least twice. Georgetown Coach John Thompson III first heard about the possibility of Green going to Seattle around 6 p.m. on Thursday, as he was on his way to Madison Square Garden.
"Our staff felt like Jeff would be a tremendous complement to Kevin," Sonics General Manager Sam Presti said on the team's Web site. "He's a player that doesn't need the ball to be effective. He's a tremendous facilitator and passer. He's got a great acumen for the game and playing in the system that he has, I think, has probably contained him a little bit."
The Sonics now have a trio of players who can play both small and power forward: Green, Durant and potential free agent Rashard Lewis. Green, the Big East player of the year, is an unselfish player who can also score; he averaged 14.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists and led the Hoyas to the Final Four.
Seattle is "going to be tough to guard, with three 6-9 guys who can do everything: shoot, pass, defend," Green said. "It's going to make things easier for each other so I'm really looking forward to it."
Green was sharply dressed in a black suit, and his family -- mother Felicia Akingube, father Jeff Green Sr. and older sister Mia Young -- sat at a table in the middle of the greenroom along with Thompson and agent David Falk.
When his name was announced, he hugged and kissed his mother and embraced his father, who put on a Celtics cap. Akingube wept openly, and later said that it was the most exciting thing she had ever been through -- strong words, considering that she watched her son hit three game-winning shots, earn most outstanding player honors at both the Big East tournament and NCAA East regional, and play in the Final Four this year.
"Of course I cried. I think that's three years of emotional stress," Akingube said. "It all came out when he got up and hugged me and I knew right then and there that my baby was going to the N-B-A!"
Green is the 10th Hoya to be selected in the first round of the draft, and the first since Mike Sweetney (Oxon Hill) was taken ninth overall by the New York Knicks in 2003.
"As a coach, when you look at someone that's put in the work, that has believed in what we're doing and how we're doing it. . . . Forget John Thompson, forget Georgetown -- I'm excited for Jeff and his family," Thompson said.
Green will clearly be missed by Georgetown fans, and not just for what he did on the court. His mother -- decked out in her son's No. 32 jersey -- was an enthusiastic and popular presence at all of his games, home and away, and she vowed to continue to support the Hoyas in person. But she'll have to buy a new jersey and travel a little farther to cheer for her son.
"Where there's a will, there's a way," she said. "As long as Jeff's happy, I'm happy. That's all that matters."
Green didn't have to wait as long as Maryland guard D.J. Strawberry to hear his name called; Strawberry was the penultimate pick (59th), going to the Phoenix Suns around midnight.
But more than three hours passed between the time when Green shook Commissioner David Stern's hand as the fifth pick and when the trade was officially announced and Green entered the interview room. In the interim, he sat in a room and greeted the other draft picks.
"It's very emotional," Green said. "It's something I've been wanting to happen since I was young, and finally for it to be here is a blessing. I'm very excited and ready to get it started."