NEWARK, N.J. — Gerald Green saunters into the New Jersey Nets locker room, squeezing his svelte, muscular frame in between teammates Shelden Williams and Jordan Williams.
The image is a fitting one for Green, who has indeed carved out a spot for himself inside a Nets locker room that's likely to look radically different a year from now.
To see him in any NBA locker room, regardless of how good or bad they are, is a major step forward for a ridiculously gifted athletic wing man who has been out of the NBA for three years.
Unless you were around him when he arrived like a bolt of lightning straight out of high school, you can't possibly understand or appreciate how far he has come.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers can.
"I am so proud of him; about as proud of him as I am of any guy," Rivers said. "He just needed time to grow up; not just as a player. I thought he was a pretty good player when he walked into the league. He had a lot to work on basketball-wise, but he just had to figure out things in life."
Part of figuring out life is to make mistakes, but gain enough wisdom not to repeat them.
Green admits when he came into the NBA, he was hard-headed and didn't latch on to the lessons that Rivers wanted to teach him.
So the C's cut him loose, a similar fate that would follow him with short-lived stints in Dallas, Minnesota and Houston.
When the Celtics played the Nets earlier this year in Boston, Rivers had a chance to sit down and talk with Green.
"The first thing he told me is, 'if I would have listened to all the things you and your staff was telling me and put it into play, I would probably still be here,'" Rivers recalled.
Rivers, always one with a quick-witted response, told him, "'no, we would have traded you. We needed to get Kevin and those guys.' Having said that, he'd probably be an all-star already and I hope someday he is."
If it were to happen, Green would love for it to be as a New Jersey Net.
He certainly delivered a solid performance in Boston's 94-82 win over New Jersey, as he led the Nets with 15 points off the bench.
"The Nets gave me the opportunity of a lifetime," Green said. "I really can't thank the Nets enough for how much they've done for me, as far as giving me an opportunity and signing me for the rest of the year; giving me my first shot in three years that I've been dying to have. If it wasn't for this organization, I probably wouldn't be here here doing this interview with you."
And this summer, Green's play has catapulted into the being one of the more sought-after free agents.
He wouldn't rule out a return to Boston, but it's clear that his preference - for now at least - is returning to New Jersey.