Not long ago, Jeff Green expected to be an integral part in the growth of Oklahoma City. He was a new-age four man who could step out and handle himself 23 feet from the rim, and had the necessary attitude to both fit in, and shine, next to a star like Kevin Durant. However, eventually, the Thunder dealt him for Kendrick Perkins, with OKC going for a more conventional approach and Boston looking to get more athletic. Perkins hasn’t exactly panned out with the Thunder. But he’s been better than Green has with the Celtics.
How much of that is the former Hoya’s fault? He missed all of last season because of heart surgery that fixed a faulty aortic valve. But even before that, he lost his confidence in Boston. In 35 games with the Celtics, his scoring average dipped into single digits (9.8 a night), and then in the 2011 Playoffs, his numbers dropped all the way to 7.3 points a night in a forgettable 19 minutes a contest.
Taken at face value, most would say Green isn’t worth the four-year, $36.2 million deal Boston gave him this offseason. But he’s still a recently-turned 26-year-old with big talent and big potential.
The Celtics are aiming for another NBA Championship this season. How important is Green in that equation? We argue. You decide.
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It’s understandable for some to doubt Jeff Green’s expected contributions in Boston this season. Ever since his arrival in Boston via the infamous Perkins trade, his impact has been minimal. Let’s cut the guy some slack. The trade was as much of a shock to him as it was to everyone involved, and being thrown into a situation where you feel like you may not be wanted (fans voiced their disapproval, players described it as losing a family member) is anything but settling. Take that and a season-ending, life-changing aortic aneurism, and we have Jeff Green’s last two years in a nutshell.
Given everything he went through in the past two years, he somehow managed to stay close to the game of basketball, and perhaps even more importantly, to the Boston Celtics organization.
So how important is he to the Celtics? Outside of Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce, he’s in the running for the fourth-most important guy on a championship contender. Green sometimes receives criticism for not having a natural position; is he a power three or a quick four? Like it’s not possible to be both. That’s just his game. And rather than this being an issue for the Celtics, it’s a blessing. His versatility is something that the team will lean on during the long and exhausting 82-game season.
The Celtics won’t be relying on him for massive amounts of production, although he’ll end up averaging somewhere around 14/7/3 if he plays 30-plus minutes. It’s not about the numbers in the Celtics system, though. Instead, what they will be expecting most out of him is relief for their mainstay, Paul Pierce. When Pierce is aggressive and shooting the ball well (a.k.a. when he’s healthy), the Celtics have a different identity on offense. That identity is something they lacked for the majority of the regular season and the entirety of the playoffs, yet they still managed to take Miami to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Think about who they had eating up Pierce’s minutes while he was on the bench last season: Mickael Pietrus, Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic. No disrespect, but they aren’t exactly a group of reliable guys in the playoffs. And yet the excitement and expectations of Green in Boston are blown out of proportion? I may be wrong, but I doubt it.
It’s no secret this guy has talent. Kevin Garnett once said, “You see the skill level and you see that confidence coming and it’s a process. But, you’re kind of marveled at how good he is. So, I don’t think we’ve tapped into that resource yet.” KG doesn’t spew out praise like that every day, either. With the relationship the Celtics built with Green over the past two seasons, a new comfort level emerges through all the adversity. Feeling this level of comfort is something that was absent for the majority of the 26-year-old’s career. Even though he put up strong numbers in OKC, the pressure of playing with emerging superstars (Durant and Russell Westbrook) was rather overwhelming, and he could hear the shotblocking sensation Serge Ibaka knocking on his door to take his starting gig away from him.
Now entering his fifth season with a freshly-signed four-year, $36 million deal, Green can play distraction free, and prove his worth to anyone who doubts it.
From the moment doctors informed Green he’d have to sit out an entire season to where he is now has given him a new outlook on his career. An already level-headed young man went through an experience that allowed him to view not only his basketball career, but his life as a whole, in a new light. Green will value every minute he gets this season, and you can guarantee he’ll be playing with a chip on his shoulder.