Celtics: Jeff Green
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.
The nitty gritty: Jeff Green scored a team-high 18 points to pace five Celtics players in double figures, including Jason Terry with 17 points (five 3-pointers) off the bench and Paul Pierce with 16 points after overcoming early struggles. Kevin Garnett finished with 16 points and a team-high 18 rebounds. Carmelo Anthony scored a game-high 22 points on 8-of-24 shooting, while Raymond Felton added 21 points, six rebounds and four assists. J.R. Smith, back after a one-game suspension for elbowing Terry in Game 3, was a nonfactor for much of the night (and maybe even a liability) as he missed his first 10 shots. Smith finished with 14 points on 3-of-14 shooting after hitting a trio of late-game triples.
Turning point: In a one-possession game midway through the third quarter, the Celtics embarked on a 16-4 run spanning into the fourth frame. Pierce and Terry hit 3-pointers late in the third as Boston stretched its lead to nine, but the Celtics opened the fourth on a 6-0 burst that culminated with a vicious one-handed flush by Green that pushed the Celtics out front 75-60 with 9:05 to go. A feverish late-game rally saw the Knicks pull within five (88-83) with 65 seconds to play, but Garnett hit a tough jumper to help fend them off.
I'm still standing: The Celtics reserves typically stand until Boston's first made basket of the game. Still standing four-plus minutes in as the Knicks built an 11-0 run, the backups settled for when Brandon Bass -- the early hero of the game for Boston -- made a free throw to break up the shutout with 7:32 to play in the first quarter. The Celtics managed to trim their deficit to two at the end of the frame, and a more inspired second quarter had them up six at halftime as the momentum swung in their favor.
Technical difficulties: Smith and Terry -- involved in the Game 3 dust-up that got Smith ejected and later suspended for Game 4 for a flagrant foul 2 elbow -- renewed pleasantries and were assessed double technicals with 6:45 to play in the game. Earlier in the game, referees initially assessed Kenyon Martin with a flagrant foul for hammering Garnett. Upon video review, it was downgraded to a personal foul.
What it means:
Well, we appear to have a series again. With their backs to the wall after losing the first three games, the Celtics responded with back-to-back wins. As Doc Rivers will certainly point out now, this is as close as a series can be after five games. Boston has to like its chances of evening things up when the series returns to Boston for Game 6 on Friday night at TD Garden. But it's still an uphill climb for the Celtics and one that will require winning in New York again on Sunday if they can force a Game 7. But Boston is playing with renewed confidence after these two wins and has put New York on its heels.
But Green failed to find the same rhythm offensively in Game 2, and foul trouble contributed to an 0-for-6 shooting effort in the second half, as Boston mustered a mere 23 points as a team over the same stretch.
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said he wasn't happy with the shots Green was getting in the second half of Game 2, as Boston's sluggish offense left him in too many isolation situations, sometimes late in the shot clock.
"Not the same shots (in the second half of Game 2). Not even close," Rivers said of needing to get Green better shots. "It’s (isolations), it’s clog, it’s standing around. His second half shots -- and it’s not because of him -- have been pretty much awful for him and it’s because of the way we play. We have to create space for Jeff Green. If you going to have a Westbrook or Jeff playing, you want to create space for them to be athletic and we’re not doing a very good job of that."
Green didn't want to make excuses for his poor shooting performance in Game 2, saying he needs to remain aggressive, regardless of what the shot clock looks like when he gets the ball.
"It’s just how we run our offense," Green acknowledged. "I’ve just got to try to make a play. I can’t take it as getting the ball too late, it’s hard to make a play. I’ve just got to be aggressive and find a way. I can’t rely on every time down the floor to try and get the ball early. Whenever the ball comes to me, I have to be aggressive."
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Jeff Green received text message after text message on his way home from practice Monday afternoon, as friends, family, and teammates checked in on his safety. It wasn't until Green arrived home a few minutes later and turned on the news and took in the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon that he understood why.
"I was on the way home. I got like 10 texts in a row and then when I got home I saw it on the news," Green said before Tuesday's practice. "That's when it really hit home."
Confusion over the initial barrage of texts quickly turned to sadness for Green, when he began to soak in what had happened at the marathon.
"I mean, it was sad to hear about what happened (Monday)," Green said. "I mean, you never think anything like that can happen. For something to happen here, right where I live, right down the street from where I live, and close to home, I mean, it's sad."
Green said it was "absolutely" the right decision for the NBA and the Celtics to cancel Tuesday's game against the Indiana Pacers, stressing the importance of safety in the aftermath of Monday's events.
"Absolutely. I mean, we've got a game (Wednesday)," Green said. "(Tuesday's) game -- everybody's got to be safe. You never know what can happen, so it was only right to do that.
"You never know what can happen. When stuff like that happens, you always think the worst, and I just want to be safe. I want everybody in the city to be safe, and I think that was the right call to cancel the game and we've just got to pray for all of the families that were involved in it and try to do the best we can to help them out."
Green landed hard on his left arm after a powerful dunk early in the quarter and was in apparent pain. After checking out of the game, he tried to put a sleeve over the elbow, but soon retreated to the locker room with trainer Ed Lacerte for further examination.
Green scored 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting (five of those misses were beyond the 3-point arc) to go along with eight rebounds and two assists over 36:25.
The Celtics were playing without veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, who sat out due to sore ankles.
"He said that? Wow," said Green. "Michael Jordan who? I can be up there with him? Wow. I mean, coming from KG, a lot of respect, somebody who I look up to, somebody who I try to follow his footsteps. I've watched him since day one, since I've been here -- his mentality in practice, coming into games, during games, and I'm trying to take that on and put that in my game. If he said something like that, wow. I didn't know he said that. That's pretty big.
"I've got to continue to work. I learn from him. I learn everything from him, I ask him questions, I pick his brain. He's been in the league for a while, so he's been through it all. He's one of my role models, someone I look up to. And, if he said something like that, and I continue to work, it could come true."
Green averaged 17.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.2 blocks over 33.8 minutes per game in 16 appearances. Green spent half the month as a starter due to injuries.
This is Boston's first Player of the Month nomination of the season. Green has also been nominated for two Player of the Week honors (losing once to James in late February and New York's J.R. Smith in the final week of March).
Boston's injury woes this season have essentially forced it to operate without a pure point guard, leaning on shoot-first guards like Bradley to shoulder some of the ball-handling duties. But as the NBA as a whole shifts away from a formulaic starting 5, Rivers seems content to put his five best players on the floor at the start of the game and deal with the shortcomings.
Rivers did note that matchup issues could force the Celtics to shift to a group that would pull another guard -- someone like Courtney Lee -- back onto the first unit. But the Celtics clearly see potential to create their own matchup issues by running a Pierce/Green combo at the swingman spots.
A few thoughts on the potential lineup:
* NEED TO SEE IT: While the Bradley-Pierce-Green-Bass-Garnett combo is insanely intriguing, it would be in Boston's best interest to get an extended late-season glimpse at that unit. That combination has been on the floor for a mere 13 minutes this season. That's an insanely low amount of time for a lineup the team might consider to open the postseason. The unit is minus-6 in that span, but it's hard to draw any firm conclusions based on the tiny sample. Once Pierce and Garnett are healthy, Boston would be well-served to get that group on the floor against different opposing lineups to identify its potential strengths and weaknesses.
* QUICK GUARDS THE CONCERN: The biggest concern about that combination is how a quick, scoring 2-guard could put Boston in a bind. As Rivers has noted, trying to have Pierce or Green defend Dwyane Wade would less than ideal (that said, you could have Bradley guard the 2 and stick Pierce or Green on the 1). On the other hand, Boston believes it can generate mismatches at the other end of the floor as teams will struggle to match Boston's size. As Rivers noted, "It’s a game of chicken."
And, well, there might be some truth to Green's belief. His scoring bursts appear different than those of, say, Paul Pierce. Whereas Pierce might still be more likely to demand the ball and welcome an isolation situation, Green appears more opportunistic in his offensive dominance. His final seven points on Wednesday consisted of a putback dunk, a jumper off an assist from Jason Terry, and a left corner 3-point dagger, courtesy of a driving Pierce.
Rather than demand the ball and allow the shot clock to wind down, or clear out the side for an offensive move of his choice, Green seems more content to let the action develop around him and supply the offense when he finds himself with an opening.
"I don't try to take over games," said Green, who added six rebounds, an assist and four blocks. "That's why we've got [Pierce]. I'm playing off of him. We're looking for each other, we're being aggressive, and if it's in my hands, I'm going to try to make a play. If it's in his hands, he's going to make a play. So, we've just got to play off each other."
For Green, this is his second nomination of the season, tying him for most on the team with Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. Kevin Garnett has also been nominated once, but the Celtics have not had a player win the award this year.
While starting four games last week for injured Garnett, Green averaged 23.5 points on 51.5 percent shooting to go along with 6.3 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.3 steals over 38.3 minutes per game. The Celtics went 2-2 in that span.
Green produced a buzzer-beating winner in Cleveland on Wednesday before leading the team in scoring each of its last two games against the Hawks and Knicks (27 points in both outings).
Smith led the Knicks to a 4-0 week, which included two wins over the Celtics. He scored 32 points in New York's lopsided win at TD Garden on Tuesday.
BOSTON -- Few would have blamed Shavlik Randolph if he was the last one out of the Celtics' locker room on Friday night. After flirting with his first career double-double -- posting nine points and a career-high 13 rebounds over 22 minutes during a 118-107 triumph over the Atlanta Hawks -- Randolph could have basked in the glow of maybe his finest NBA performance with breathless reporters ready to document his high-energy outing.
Instead he was the first one gone.
So what did Friday's performance mean to a player who had been out of NBA employment for three seasons before the Celtics swooped him up from the Chinese Basketball Association?
"It meant one more win for us," said a selfless Randolph. "It wouldn't have meant anything if we had lost. The most important stat for me is not rebounding -- it is, what is my plus-minus? When I go in the game, is our team plus or minus, as far as overall points, and I can care less if I have a rebound, a point. Obviously, those are things I'm going to need to do to add value to the team and help the team do that, but the Celtics brought me here to come in and give their rotation guys some rest and be able to come in and buy minutes. When I'm out there, hopefully the team can still play well and have a big man out there."
For the record, Randolph was plus-12 for the night, second only to Pierce's plus-28. Over the last four games that Kevin Garnett has been sidelined with ankle inflammation, Randolph is plus-19 when he's on the floor (and Boston is minus-26 when he's not). It's safe to say he's accomplishing his primary goal.
Green quickly backtracked to share a moment with Dr. Lars Svensson of the Cleveland Clinic, who just 14 months ago repaired an aortic aneurysm that sacked Green's entire 2011-12 season and left his NBA future uncertain.
How appropriate, then, that as the 26-year-old Green starts to show signs of blossoming to his full potential, he delivered a buzzer-beating layup that helped Boston overcome as much as a 14-point deficit and snap a five-game losing streak, all in front of the man who gave him the chance to resume his basketball career.
"I'm just blessed and thankful, man, to have [Dr. Svensson]," Green told reporters in Cleveland. "Just thankful that he was here to see it."
Later, Green added, "That was for him, that was for Dr. Svensson."
Green said he knew Dr. Svensson was in attendance, just as he had been for Boston's first visit to Cleveland in January. But even Green seemed touched by the moment, producing the winner just four miles from where he underwent a life-altering procedure.
Green scored 21 points on 7-of-18 shooting to go along with 7 rebounds and 5 assists over 41:26. Playing some of his most inspired ball this season in spot starts for Kevin Garnett, Green again came up big with a chance to shine in Cleveland.
Over the past five seasons, only two other players have reached all of these levels in a game: Dwyane Wade (2009 against the Knicks) and LeBron James (2010 against the Nuggets).
And only one player has done the 43-7-4 combo against the Heat -- Hakeem Olajuwon in 1989.
Green's 43 points are the second-most scored against the Heat by a player in a game over the last three seasons. The only player with more was Paul Millsap, who had 46 for the Utah Jazz in 2010.
One other note: A player has scored at least 31 points against the Heat nine times this season. That player's team is 0-9 in those games.
A graphic look at Jeff Green's 43-point night:
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