Fans of the Boston Celtics have been waiting for Jeff Green to get it going. Since coming to Boston, Green has looked out of place, tentative, and really lacking in the fire for which this Celtics team is known. These fans may be waiting in vain but I can understand why they are still waiting. Green has shown flashes of something the Celtics surely need: a combo forward. A guy who can play inside and out. A guy that can spell Paul Pierce on the defensive end.
Oklahoma City considered Green the weak link of their outstanding starters, so they shipped him out for some bulk (it also helped that they had a dynamo in Serge Ibaka waiting in the wings. The Thunder were done waiting for Green’s impressive physical tools to help them. The Celtics have not reached that point yet. In fact, they have no choice but to wait for him. Paul Pierce cannot play all 48 minutes for (at the very least) 12 more games and Green has to give the Celtics more than 6 fouls.
The numbers don’t provide much hope:
Right now, Green is playing slightly worse than he did in 6 playoff games last year. It’s a small sample size for sure, and Green is not being counted on to provide as much offensively or defensively as he was for OKC, but the numbers for any player do not exactly inspire confidence.
Now for some good news. First, take a look at this:
This came early in the fourth quarter of yesterday’s close-out win and is the most aggressive I have seen Green play the entire playoffs. He defends Anthony at the three point line, moves his feet, doesn’t give up on the play, snags the rebound, keeps his elbows high, gives a little “‘scuse me” forearm, and passes well out of the double team. After this play, Green snags a rare offensive rebound and looked far more active on the offensive glass than I have ever seen him.
Will this one play be a turning point? We obviously cannot say for sure. Luckily, Green will have one responsibility next series: guarding explosive wing players (whether that be LeBron James, Andre Iguodala, or Thaddeus Young). These potential matchups for Green are also more favorable than guarding Carmelo Anthony. Instead of encouraging the drive like he had to do with Anthony, Green will encourage the shot and he is much more effective at backing up with space than trying to keep up with quick forwards after chesting up.
Whether or not Green can bottle up this little two minute sequence in the fourth quarter and break it out when necessary remains to be seen (and is, let’s be honest, doubtful) but he’ll have at least a full week to figure it out.