Jeff Green has heard the new uniforms will be Oklahoma Sooners crimson. Or maybe orange, in honor of Oklahoma State. Or perhaps some combination of both. As for the team’s nickname, he has heard rumors of forces of nature, Great Plains fauna, feudal vassals and officers of the law.
“I like the Marshalls,” Green said, eschewing Barons, Bison, Thunder, Energy and Wind - the five other potential nicknames for the franchise formerly known as the Seattle SuperSonics. “It’s pretty cool. The whole cop thing, being in charge. It’s interesting. But I really don’t care which one it is.”
Three hours after the Boston Celtics selected Green with the fifth pick in the 2007 draft, they traded him to Seattle - a team with a first-year general manager and new coaching staff - for seven-time All-Star Ray Allen. Green bid goodbye to the familiarity of the East Coast for the land of grunge rock, Starbucks and gray skies.
He adjusted to coach P.J. Carlesimo’s fire-and-brimstone style after playing for the laid-back John Thompson III at Georgetown for three seasons, then switched positions - Green played small forward in college - to better flow with fellow first-round draft pick Kevin Durant. Just as Green and his teammates began to mesh, Seattle general manager Sam Presti dealt Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West to Cleveland and added aging veterans Donyell Marshall, Adrian Griffin and Ira Newble in late February. Through it all, there was the ongoing speculation about the franchise’s impending move.
Only after team owner Clay Bennett agreed to pay a $45 million settlement to bring the franchise to Oklahoma City did Green find clarity.
“[It was good] just to finally know the future of our team and where I would be staying,” Green said. “It’s kind of mixed emotions, not wanting to leave Seattle. I loved Seattle. Good weather, good people.”
While he admits at certain times - the hours he spent playing video games alone in his downtown Seattle condo, watching his Hoyas lose to Pittsburgh in the Big East tournament title from the Denver Nuggets’ training room - when he wished he could be back with former classmates Roy Hibbert, Jon Wallace, Tyler Crawford and Patrick Ewing Jr., Green “doesn’t have any regrets” about forgoing his final year, and, Seattle’s 62 losses aside, he “had a lot of fun.”
“I think he’s unusually mature for a guy his age,” Carlesimo said. “Kevin and Jeff saw a lot more challenging way than normal rookies do, but he handled all the rookie transition stuff really well.”
With so many fond memories to choose from, it’s tough for Green to single out his favorite moment from his first season.
There was his first NBA basket, a two-handed fast-break slam against Sacramento on Nov. 6 and the trip to All-Star Weekend for the rookie-sophomore game. There was the 35-point outburst against Denver in April and his selection to the All-Rookie first team after averaging 10.5 points and 4.7 rebounds.
He does remember, however, his welcome-to-the-NBA epiphany. It came during overtime of Seattle’s 123-121 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 14.
“I was checking Kobe [Bryant] the whole game,” Green recalls. “It was like 15 seconds to go, and I could feel everybody like stand up - I think the game might have been sold out - and it was just one-on-one, me and him. I look up and see the clock winding down, and I look down, and he’s just toying with the ball. He made the shot - it was a tough shot, but that’s when I realized where I was at. I mean, he was somebody I patterned my game after when I was growing up.
“The man can’t be stopped. All you can do is try to contain him - I tried.”
Green has followed his topsy-turvy rookie year with a whirlwind offseason.
He headed home in late May to see his friends graduate at Georgetown, then trekked to Seattle for an NBA Draft watch promotion with SuperSonics fans. He flew to Orlando to participate in the NBA Summer League, then jetted to upstate New York to volunteer at a summer camp for cancer survivors. The next stop was Las Vegas, where Green contributed to a 10-man team selected to help the U.S. team tune up for the Olympics. In the span of one late-July week, Green flew to Oklahoma City to search for a new house, back to the District, then up to the Pacific Northwest to move out of his condo.
“I have been all over the place,” Green says. “My flight miles have been piling up.”
It was his first visit to Oklahoma City, and while he said he “never really cared too much to learn anything about it” before, he has done some sleuthing. He consulted New Orleans Hornets center Tyson Chandler, who learned about the city during the Hornets’ one-year refuge in Oklahoma City following Hurricane Katrina.
“He just said there’s not a lot to do there, but the fans greet you with open arms, the arena will be sold out every night, and whether you win or lose they will be behind you,” Green said. “I have been doing my research, but it takes time, you know. It’s a new place.”
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