Sometimes there are factors that can affect a player's game in a positive way. One of those factors is a near death experience. There is something about facing your own mortality that forces a person to re-evaluate their life and give them a new lease on life.
In 2000, Paul Pierce was stabbed 11 times outside of a Boston nightclub that left him with multiple stab wounds and fighting for his life. Pierce underwent surgery and was told by his doctor that his life was likely spared by the heavy leather jacket that he wore, which softened the blow of the knife. Against all odds, Pierce was back on the court several weeks later and was the only Celtic to play in all 82 games that season. But, the attack left it's mark on him.
He seemed to be a different player after that night. He was more serious in his work ethic, took more responsibility on the team, and seemed to be more free in his play on the court. He was more determined than ever to be the best player that he could be. He said that not knowing if he would live or die put basketball into perspective and it gave him a freedom he didn't have before. The experience made him look at life, the game and everything in his life with a new perspective. He had a second chance and would use it to the best of his ability.
The Celtics have two players who experienced what could have been life or death heart conditions this past season. I'm sure that the diagnosis hit a bit harder since they were playing on a team that had already lost players due to heart failure in the past. I don't know how they could have helped but think of Pete Maravich or Reggie Lewis and what might have happened if their condition wasn't diagnosed. I have heard both players say that they are using the experience to come back even better and more determined than before. In Jeff Green's case, it could mean a completely different player than we last saw play for the Celtics.
What Green would take out from the injury, according to Falk, is a renewed sense of purpose. David fully expects Green to be more aggressive, more assertive when on the court as it would pretty much be a second chance at basketball.
“But in Jeff’s case, the experience he went through will be a life-changing experience. If I had one criticism of Jeff Green his first four years in the NBA, it’s that he wasn’t assertive enough — that he was too much of a purist, too unselfish. And having something that he loves almost taken away from him, he’s going to come back next year with a sense of urgency that people haven’t seen from him. “
A near death experience will invariably give a person a new lease on life. We saw this happen with Paul Pierce back in 2000 and I expect to see a similar transformation from both Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox this season. I can't help but believe that both players will come back with a renewed enthusiasm for the game of basketball and for life in general. Don't underestimate the influence that these experiences will have on the players and on the team. It could mean the difference between a good season and a championship one.
It should be a powerful motivator. Most professional athletes ride the teenage invulnerability right on into expecting a privileged life. A mortality check makes most people smell the roses and grab for the gusto. Hope it brings a new level in both of them.
It was a motivator for Pierce. He was a different player after that incident. Both Green and Wilcox have said that they have a new view of life and want to make the most of the second chance that they have. I'm expecting both to raise their games to a new level.