Boston Celtics: Jeff Green
With Boston clinging to a three-point lead with little more than a minute to play, Jared Sullinger misfired on a 3-pointer that could have iced the game. Instead, the ball popped up off the rim for what should have been an easy rebound for Atlanta's Paul Millsap (who had position on Brandon Bass).
But Millsap's teammate DeMarre Carroll failed to put a body on Jeff Green and Boston's swingman swooped in from the 3-point line to contest the rebound. Green knocked the ball out of Millsap's hand and towards the Atlanta bench, leaving the two stumbling and bumping into each other on the baseline while trying to corral the loose ball. Both Millsap and Green went to the floor, crashing hard to the ground as the ball ticked off Millsap and -- confirmed by the referees' video review -- remained Boston's ball.
That sequence defined the fourth quarter, one in which the Celtics rallied from a 12-point deficit to post a 94-87 triumph and snap a six-game losing streak.
Green gets a lot of grief for being passive and often looking like he's waiting for the game to come to him. On Saturday night, he made something happen with a little bit of hustle. If Millsap gets the rebound cleanly, the Hawks have a chance to tie the game. Instead, Jordan Crawford made a runner to put Boston up five with 58 seconds to go.
Green had another quiet fourth quarter against the Hawks, going scoreless over 7:33 (missing two shots and committing a turnover). But Green was plus-13 in plus/minus for the frame and aided the rally effort, particularly on the defensive end where the Hawks missed 10 consecutive shots as part of a five-minute scoring drought.
It's the little things that decide these types of games and Green's effort on that team rebound deserves more recognition than the box score provides.
Lee proudly stroked at his chin while noting that this is the thickest his beard has ever been. It's safe to say both players are in the infant stages of their beard growth. And Lee isn't sure he'll get anything close to what the Red Sox players grew during their World Series run.
As for Green, he noted: "I’m more in the Big Papi stages right now. It’s coming along."
Lee said he's trying to recruit others on the team to join the no-shave club -- which would further help raise awareness for cancer and maybe even facilitate some team bonding -- but others have been resistant thus far.
"I’m trying to get some of the other dudes to do it, but they think they’re too cute around here to do it," joked Lee while screaming in the direction of a couple nearby teammates. "But they’re really not. Quote me."
The Celtics went to Miami and upset the Heat on a Jeff Green buzzer-beater.
That’s not normal -– at least with LeBron James in the lineup.
The Heat had won 24 consecutive regular-season home games with James in the lineup entering Saturday. They hadn’t lost a home game with him since Jan. 4.
The Celtics somehow overcame 58 percent shooting by the Heat, making 10 3-pointers to notch their third straight win after starting 0-4. Perhaps first-year head coach Brad Stevens is already figuring this NBA thing out.
Green’s game-winner was his seventh career game-tying or go-ahead field goal in the final 5 seconds of a game. His 64 percent shooting on those shots (7-for-11) is the highest percentage for any player with at least 10 attempts since he entered the league in 2007-08.
Green now has three memorable game-winners over top competition over the last few months of regular-season play (dating back to the 2012-13 campaign). Green hit winners in Indiana and Cleveland (in front of his heart surgeon, no less) in March of last season, and picked up where he left off this year in Miami.
The idea of Green being the most clutch player in the league in recent seasons is kinda staggering, especially to Celtics fans. This is a player that went nearly five games without a fourth-quarter bucket this season (a stretch of 35 minutes of game play, and all of those games were close).
But Green clearly has an ability to step up in big moments. The key for coach Brad Stevens is getting him to be assertive enough to seek out those opportunities even when it's not a final shot. Celtics observers are tough on Green because he has all the tools -- including the intangibles -- to be a dominant player. The late-game stats confirm it.
It was a monster game against Miami last March that sort of lit the fuse on Green's end-of-the-season emergence. You can't help but wonder if this will have the same sort of impact as Green seeks to be the focal point of a young Boston offense while Rajon Rondo is rehabbing.
"When you start playing basketball, that's what you want," said Green. "That's what you work hard for: to be called one of the go-to guys. This is what I've dreamed about, this is what I've worked hard for. It's all coming to fruition right now."
A day before the start of the season, coming off an underwhelming preseason, Green calmly acknowledged that he would be under the microscope this season, but he still didn't run from it.
"I have to take on the challenge of being that guy," said Green. "Of course I’ll have my ups and downs, but I’ll have more ups than downs. I can guarantee you that."
With that in mind, we're tracking Green this season to see if he can live up to his word. We'll take a weekly glance at his performance, trying to assign a simple "up" or "down" grade for his efforts (and feel to argue one way or the other). Advanced stats (points per possessions) courtesy of Synergy Sports data.
THE GREEN GAUGE: 2 UP, 2 DOWN (through 4 games)
Game 1 at Toronto
The box score: 25 PTS, 5 REB, 2 AST, 37 MIN, 8-16 FG, 2-3 3PT, 7-9 FT
Advanced stats: Offensive: 1.19 PPP (25 points, 21 possessions) Defensive: 0.917 (11,12)
The vote: UP. Green had a phenomenal start to the new season, displaying the exact aggressiveness towards the basket that was missing for much of the preseason. He didn't have a great defensive game, but took on the challenge of guarding some of Toronto's top scorers (DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay).
Game 2 vs. Milwaukee
The box score: 13 PTS, 9 REB, 1 AST, 38 MIN, 4-13 FG, 1-3 3PT, 4-7 FT
Advanced stats: Offensive: 0.650 PPP (13 points, 20 possessions) Defensive: 0.667 (4,6)
The vote: DOWN. Despite an excellent rebounding game, Green lost his aggressiveness on offense. In the second half as Boston kicked away a 22-point lead, Green was 0-for-7 shooting with 2 points and was a minus-20 in plus/minus overall.
Game 3 vs. Detroit
The box score: 7 PTS, 2 REB, 2 AST, 20 MIN, 3-5 FG, 1-3 3PT, 1-1 FT
Advanced stats: Offensive: 1 PPP (7 points, 7 possessions) Defensive: 1 (5,5)
The vote: DOWN. Green got glued to the pine over the final 14:21 as coach Brad Stevens watched a mix-and-match lineup twice rally from double-digit deficits to make things interesting.
Game 4 vs. Memphis
The box score: 22 PTS, 5 REB, 1 AST, 40 MIN, 6-12 FG, 1-4 3PT, 9-12 FT
Advanced stats: Offensive: 1.16 PPP (22 points, 19 possessions) Defensive: 0.625 (5,8)
The vote: UP. For three quarters, Green was back in attack mode, going right at the hoop in transition and taking advantage of his athleticism. He nearly spoiled it in the fourth quarter, however. He missed the only three shots he took in the frame, all from beyond the arc and two of which came in the final minute.
WEEK 1 PROGRESS REPORT: The roller coaster has begun and we've already seen the highs and lows of Green. In Game 1, he was phenomenal and Stevens need to figure out how to bottle that. Two games later, Stevens stuck him on the bench in crunch time. Teams are clearly going to focus on Green as Rondo rehabs, but he can't be content to drift around the perimeter.
Green didn't just finish 8-of-16 shooting from the floor, he got the foul line for nine attempts (making seven) and rarely got caught waiting for the game to come to him. Thrust into the role of shooting guard in Boston's big lineup -- which often left him covering Toronto's talented tandem of Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan -- Green still found the energy to attack offensively, giving Boston much-needed scoring jolts.
The advanced stats are more encouraging than the standard line. Green accounted for a team-high 21 plays finished, generating 1.19 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports data. He generated points off 57.1 percent of his finished possessions, drew shooting fouls on 23.8 percent of his touches, and limited his turnovers (1) on a night the Celtics as a whole were sloppy with the ball. Green was plus-8 overall in plus/minus.
"I was kind of zoned out," said Green. "Going into the game, I just told myself, put your head down and drive. Be aggressive. And, if I play hard, the offense will come, but I wanted to focus on defense. I was guarding DeMar, he’s a great player. I just wanted to try to be aggressive and put them on their heels."
The NBA doesn't track preseason lineup data in its available stats package, but by our very unscientific count, Green and Wallace shared the floor for a total of 14 minutes, 35 seconds on Sunday, including an 8 ½-minute glimpse to start the second half. The results?
Boston was plus-5 with the Green/Wallace combo on the floor, outscoring the Timberwolves 35-30. The Celtics shot 50 percent (13 of 26 overall) from the floor with 14 rebounds, five assists, three steals, a block and two turnovers (not bad when you consider that means Boston shot 33.3 percent when the duo was not on the floor together). Minnesota shot 42.9 percent (9 of 21 overall) with 11 rebounds, seven assists, one steal, four blocks, and five turnovers.
The Celtics mixed the personnel around the duo, pairing them with Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass, and Jared Sullinger to start the second half. That left Green often attempting to defend smaller guards and Boston was just plus-1 over the first 8:21 of the second half.
Where Boston enjoyed its most success with the combo was as a sub lineup in the first quarter. Green subbed for Bass with 6:21 to play in the frame (while rookie Kelly Olynyk replaced Courtney Lee) leaving the group on the floor with Bradley and Sullinger. The Celtics were down 18-7 at the initial substitution, but went on an 11-2 burst over the first two minutes to briefly make it a one-possession game.
Is the Green/Wallace lineup sustainable? Given that Green is supposed to be Boston's go-to guy and Wallace has been among the league leaders in minutes during his career, the two should naturally overlap on the floor despite playing the same position. We need to see more of the pair together, and with different players around them, to know if and how it can truly thrive.
But it sounds like we'll most definitely see more of the combo.
“I’d have to look at the overall numbers on it, but I thought we were pretty good in that stretch -- both in the first half and [to open] the second half," Stevens told reporters in Montreal. “We played them together some in the first half where we played big on the wings, and we played them some together at the start of the second half. It’s probably a 10- or 12-minute clip of that. And, based on how it went tonight, I would say that you’ll probably see that again."
For a Celtics team with an non-ideal mix of players -- including logjams at the shooting guard and power forward spots -- being creative with their most talented players will be key to being competitive. While Green has slumped for much of the preseason, he's shown more aggression lately and has said in the past that playing with Wallace intrigues him. Wallace, who took the second night of a pair of preseason back-to-backs off, has been one of Boston's most consistent performers when he's on the floor, especially in terms of bringing energy and effort.
For one game at least, it was an encouraging takeaway from an effort thin on positives.
Maybe it's a shooting slump or perhaps he's still getting comfortable with a new-look roster, a first-year coach and new schemes on both ends of the floor. Coach Brad Stevens loaded up Green's plate like he was on a trip to Old Country Buffet, but has since said he might have to scrape off some of that food as Green attempts to learn three positions. Regardless of the reason, the production just isn't there and the spotlight and scrutiny is now blazing on King Green.
The basic metrics are meager enough as Green is averaging 7.8 points, 1.8 assists, 1.5 rebounds and 1 block over 23.3 minutes per game. Dive into the advanced stats and it gets worse as Green is averaging a dismal 0.633 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports data. That ranks him in the 20th percentile among all NBA players this preseason (and worst among the Celtics' regulars). What's more, of players with at least 40 possessions in the exhibition season, Green ranks 36th out of 38 qualifiers (ahead of only Ricky Rubio and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope entering Sunday's action).
The trouble won't surprise you. Green has lacked the aggressiveness that fueled his second-half breakout last season. While he says he still hears Garnett imploring him to be the expletive version of a derrière, Green often has played like someone who prefers to shuffle around the perimeter and take easy jumpers.
Despite Green's lack of production, Stevens has offered steady support and suggested it's too early to read too much into his struggles. Before Saturday's win over the well-rested Knicks, Stevens said of Green, "I think one of the things that, any time you’ve got a guy that is struggling at all, it’s easy to say that there’s an individual and just changing the individual is going to make a difference. I don’t think that’s the case. It’s too early a sample size to figure out if that’s legitimate."
But Stevens did admit that he'd like to see Green be a bit more aggressive, adding, "At the same time, I think [Green] would be the first to tell you that making more shots is helpful. And I think that will start with a couple of paint makes -- getting into the paint, posting up, getting in transition, getting an and-1, getting an offensive rebound -- doing something that is a difficult thing to do but is an easier finish. That usually opens the floodgates for making jump shots."
Green missed nine of the 12 shots he put up on Saturday night, logging 11 points, 3 assists and 1 rebound over 29:20. He finished a team-best plus-24 in plus/minus, easing some of the sting of another poor offensive performance, and Stevens reasoned that he missed better shots than in recent outings. That's somewhat true, but half of Green's attempts still came beyond the 3-point arc and he had only one shot near the rim (which he missed).
Let's take a moment to emphasize just how Green has performed at each of those "difficult" tasks that Stevens mentioned could get him going (with help from Synergy data):
Which is why eyebrows shot skyward a bit when Stevens was asked Thursday to critique what he's seen from Jeff Green.
"Jeff has had his ups and downs," started Stevens.
Ups and downs?! That's about as scathing as it gets this time of year. When reporters relayed this bit of info to Green, even he feigned a bit of shock.
"Me!? Ah, dammit," he playfully sighed.
This is simply your classic case of heightened expectations. Last week we told you about how Green has a gigantic target on his back this season and, especially early in the season while Rajon Rondo is finishing his rehab, Green is supremely important to Boston's ability to keep its head above water.
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And, unlike last season, there's no Garnett or Pierce -- both off to Brooklyn as part of Boston's roster overhaul this summer. At the start of the season, there's unlikely to be any Rondo, either, as he completes his rehab from ACL surgery in February.
No, it's just the much-scrutinized Green leading a young Celtics team and trying to prove that his late-season emergence last season wasn't an aberration.
"Talking with him, I think he's up for that challenge," said Lee.
By now you know the story with Green: For his first 5½ seasons in the league, his per-36 numbers were staggeringly static, to the point where his very vocal pundits wondered if there was another level to his game. His critics dubbed him a complementary player, the sort who excelled only when he had the likes of Kevin Durant or Pierce ahead of him on the depth chart.
After being somewhat unremarkable for the first half of his first season back from heart surgery, Green found another gear and finished the 2012-13 season with a flourish.
There was a March outburst highlighted by a big effort against the Heat; a couple of game winners in Indy and Cleveland (the latter in front of his heart surgeon, no less); and then an excellent playoff showing against the Knicks in which he shouldered much of Boston's offensive load (leading the team at 20.3 points per game).
The debate this summer has hinged on whether Green is capable now of stepping into a starring role for new-look Boston, or if that late-season glimpse was simply a career outlier.
(Read full post)
Last July 1, Doc Rivers made Jason Terry his first phone call, trying to recruit the veteran sixth man who the team thought would certainly cure its longstanding bench anemia. The Celtics loaded up knowing full well that the 2012-13 campaign might be the last run for a veteran core led by Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, throwing three years and $15.7 million at the now 35-year-old guard. Terry tattooed a Celtics leprechaun spinning the Larry O'Brien trophy on his arm and immediately endeared himself to the region; maybe he can use some of the 7.5 percent trade kicker that Boston will soon pay him to aid the removal.
This year? The Celtics don't even have a coach to make recruiting pitches. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is more likely to call a rival general manager about a deal than try to sweet-talk a big-name free agent.
Terry is just the latest of Boston's mid-level misfires (Jermaine O'Neal, Rasheed Wallace and Chris Wilcox before him). Alas, as an over-the-cap team, the Celtics have often been at the mercy of their few exceptions in hopes of giving their veteran core a boost.
Now, as the Celtics simply count the days before a blockbuster swap that will send Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Terry to Brooklyn can be officially completed, the team is more likely to examine the trade market while trying to unclog cap constraints with the goal of overhauling its roster as quickly as possible.
Green said Monday that he has “absolutely no animosity” toward Rivers for wriggling out of his contract and signing an identical deal with the Clippers.
"I can’t speak for the other guys," said Green, “but I’m not angry at all. I’m happy for him. I’ve known him since I’ve been in college. I played with his son (Jeremiah).
“I appreciate the opportunity he gave me to come back to Boston after my (heart) surgery. I appreciate him putting the ball in my hands this season."
When Green signed a 4-year, $36 million contract last August, he expected Rivers to be his coach for most, if not all, of that deal.
“The main reason I came back to Boston was because of Doc," Green admitted, “but I understand things change. Not everything goes as planned. We had injuries, and some other things, that altered our team.
“You can’t predict the future. I really enjoyed playing for Doc. We have a great relationship.
“I’m sure some people will feel betrayed, but we all have to do what is best for us, and our families.
“Whenever there’s a trade, or a coach leaves, there’s always emotion.
“But then, after a while, we all move on and say, ‘What’s next?' "
Green reported he’s been diligently following his offseason workout program and is beginning to feel like his “old self.” Green underwent life-threatening heart surgery for an aortic aneurysm that left him sidelined for all of 2011-12. He played in 81 games this past season and averaged 27.8 minutes a game, but battled overwhelming fatigue and chest tightness that were byproducts of a surgery that a ctually required stopping his heart for an hour-and-a-half.
The fatigue is something that may not ever completely dissipate, Green conceded, “but I’m learning how to deal with it,’’ he said. “I’ve got a much better idea of how to handle it now.’’
While there was much more roster uncertainty last summer, at least in terms of the amount of unrestricted free agents, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was adamant that re-signing Kevin Garnett was Plan A, and the team was able to hit the ground running when Garnett inked a three-year extension before the start of free agency.
This year? You can believe Ainge when he says he's not really sure which direction the team is headed. An early playoff exit makes it an extra long crawl to the NBA draft later this month, which serves as the sort of unofficial start of roster construction for the 2013-14 season.
Over the next month, we'll hear an endless amount of speculation about which direction the Celtics might be leaning -- like the out-of-town report this week that suggested the Celtics were ready to buy out Paul Pierce -- but the truth of the matter is that it's a fluid situation, and all Ainge can do at this point is gather information about potential moves and be ready to activate his plan of choice when the moment arrives.
There seems to be four main scenarios in play this offseason:
- Keep the band together: Minimal changes, bank on health
- Goodbye, captain: Roster tweaked with Pierce departure
- Out with the old: Moving on without both KG and Pierce
- Complete teardown: Extreme makeover: Celtics edition
Over the next four days, we'll take a closer look at each possible option, gauge the potential for it to occur, determine some moves that might go along with it, and debate whether it's the best course of attack. First up: We're putting the band back together.
Player: Jeff Green
2012-13 averages: 12.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.6 apg, 27.8 mpg, 46.7 FG%
2012-13 salary: $8.4 million
Season highlight: We had seen flashes and glimpses of Green's potential throughout the season -- maddening because they were not sustained -- but when Green exploded for 43 points on 14-of-21 shooting in a mid-March loss to the rival Heat, something clicked. From then on, it was as if Green understood he was capable of imposing his will on the game. For the remainder of the regular season, Green averaged 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.8 assists over 35.1 minutes per game and maintained that production through the playoffs, all while cementing himself as a starter. An honorable mention: Green's buzzer-beating layup to top host Indiana on March 6 -- capping an incredible fourth-quarter comeback for Boston -- was one of the season highlights for the team, while his winner in Cleveland -- in front of the doctor that performed his heart surgery -- later that month had to rank among Green's top individual moments.
Season lowlight: Green struggled to assert himself over the first three months of the season, his highlight moments relegated mainly to poster dunks. In 15 games in the month of January, Green averaged 9.3 points per contest, failing to reach double figures in scoring in seven games while both his playing time (23.9 minutes per game) and shots (6.9 per game) plummeted. Few could have envisioned the late-season explosion that loomed.
Final grade: B+
Teacher's notes: There was no more encouraging aspect of a Celtics season dotted with injuries and inconsistencies than the play of Green over the final two months. You almost have to split his season in two sections the jump was so pronounced. Taking the campaign as a whole, Green averaged 0.983 points per play, ranking in the 78th percentile among all league players, according to Synergy Sports data (but that number jumped up to 1.04 late in the season). His defensive numbers were solid, too (though they slipped a bit as his offense jumped up and that remains an area to work on) as Green allowed 0.79 points per play overall, ranking in the 82nd percentile. Rivers constantly demanded more from Green at both ends of the floor and he gave more by season's end. The Celtics still need him to be a better rebounder and his turnover percentage spiked a bit with the ball in his hands more often (though his assist rate jumped up as well). Green showed the ability to be a true impact player and, despite the inconsistent start to the season, we'll give him a slight bump up in grade based on his excellent late-season numbers.
What's next?: Is there another level for Green? Can he build off -- and sustain -- what he showed in those final two months? There's an awful lot of optimism about the way he finished off the 2012-13 campaign and you wonder if, moving forward, he can combine with a healthy Rajon Rondo to be the Options 1 and 2 for Boston (which would either ease what the Celtics ask from veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, or allow them to move on if they do not return). Green will earn $9 million next season and -- after all that handwringing last summer -- it would seem an affordable number if he can replicate his late-season production.
Honor roll: Click HERE to read past report cards.
Don't agree with teacher? Just want to sound off on Green's 2012-13 season? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.
Green didn't agree with his coach, though, as he quickly brushed the comments aside and declared the following:
"I've just got to do it," he said. "I've just got to play through the fatigue. I've got to continue to look for mine, basically. There's no excuses now. I want to be out there, I want to compete. I want to play against the best. I want to guard Carmelo, I want to do it all. It's just something I've got to get through."
And that was just the beginning of what has become evident over the course of this series: Jeff Green wants to be the player everyone in Boston is hoping he can be.
Including the playoffs, Boston has played 86 games this season, and Green has appeared in every one of them. It's no small feat for a player who missed all of last season after undergoing career-threatening heart surgery. But his return to the court in the wake of his operation didn't taper the lofty expectations set for him. Green endured a season of criticism -- some constructive, some not -- from virtually every corner: the fans, his head coach, general manager Danny Ainge, even his teammates at times. He was too passive. He didn't show emotion. He didn't attack the basket with regularity. The complaints -- some justified -- kept pouring in.
But midway through the season Green turned something of a figurative corner. He eventually found a home in the starting lineup and became a presence on both ends of the floor. He averaged more than 15 points per game for the final three months of the regular season, posted his finest rebounding numbers of the campaign, shot well from the floor and from 3-point nation, and even chipped in two game-winning shots. Suddenly there was a feeling of optimism enveloping Green.
It's carried into the postseason -- a time when teams lean extra hard on their stars. And that's how the Celtics are regarding Green. Alongside Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, he's one of their stars, and, no matter how this series with the Knicks ends, it'll likely go down as a key stage in Green's development moving forward.
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