It's been more than two years since the trade that sent Jeff Green to Boston in exchange for Kendrick Perkins.
But Sunday's game against the Celtics will be Green's first inside Chesapeake Energy Arena as a visitor.
Green, who once was considered an integral piece to the Thunder's future and a fan favorite, missed all of last season after undergoing heart surgery.
“Everybody's going to make a big deal about it, but it's just another game we have to win,” Green told Boston reporters before departing for Oklahoma City.
Green is averaging 11.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists while playing 25.7 minutes in a reserve role for the Celtics. He was traded on Feb. 24, 2011, for financial reasons. Green ultimately signed a four-year, $36 million extension with Boston.
After being drafted fifth overall in 2007, Green spent 31/2 seasons with the Thunder franchise. He said his return will bring back memories but plans on treating it like any other business trip.
“It's a special place,” Green said of Oklahoma City. “It's where I started my career. But then again, I'm a guy who moves on. (Boston) is my city now. This is where I play. This is where I live. Thoughts and flashbacks will come back, but when it's all said and done, I'm there to play basketball.”
Boston has been without All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo since he tore his ACL on Jan. 25, requiring both surgery and Rondo to miss the remainder of the season.
Rondo scored six points with 16 assists and eight rebounds in Boston's 108-100 win over the Thunder in the first meeting between the two teams. He was averaging a career-high 13.7 points and an NBA-best 11.1 assists.
The Celtics, to the surprise of many, have gone 14-4 since losing Rondo. They won seven straight games immediately after Rondo's injury and now come to Oklahoma City on a five-game winning streak.
Avery Bradley, who was starting alongside Rondo, has taken over as the team's point guard duties. Shooting guard Courtney Lee has replaced Rondo in the starting lineup.
KEYS VERSUS BOSTON
Celtics guard Paul Pierce scored 22 of his 27 points in the second half to lead Boston to its win over the Thunder in the last meeting. His sudden explosion characterized how the Celtics are capable of applying non-stop pressure while doing it with tremendous precision.
Those are two things the Thunder knows it must be prepared to handle.
“They test your defensive principles because they execute really well and they screen really well,” said Nick Collison. “You have to be able to do (be sharp) the whole game … because they're going to execute the whole game. They're going to screen every time and they're going to move the ball every time. So they'll make you pay for mistakes and lapses in focus.”
Boston signed former Thunder forward D.J. White to a 10-day contract on Feb. 28. The contract expired Saturday, but White traveled with the team to Oklahoma City, a sign that he's would sign either a second 10-day contract or agree to a deal for the rest of the season. White has appeared in one game for the Celtics, grabbing two rebounds and blocking two shots. … As a guest of Thunder general manager Sam Presti, Hugo High School junior Trey Johnson is scheduled for a meet and greet with Russell Westbrook and possibly other Thunder players before the Boston game. … Oklahoma City is 8-3 on Sundays. … The Thunder is 8-2 in the first game of back-to-backs. … The Thunder is 20-2 when at least five players score 10 points or more. … Boston has four players that once played in Oklahoma City with Green, White and Chris Wilcox as former members of the Thunder and Brandon Bass as part of the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.
BY DARNELL MAYBERRY