Boston Celtics: Jeff Green
"You can't really put a timetable on the rebuilding process," said Green. "As long as you continue to get better each day -- going to practice and just get better -- that’s what it’s going to take for us to get better as a team and to increase wins. I think we ended the season well and this whole summer each guy took it upon themselves to get better, which is going to make our team better."
What did Green focus on during the offseason?
"Just get better as a player, all around," he said. "I don’t have one or two things that I focused on completely throughout the whole summer. I think it was more just becoming a better all-around player and trying to take the next step to becoming a leader on this team."
The 28-year-old Green is coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 16.9 points over 34.2 minutes per game. But despite welcoming the bull's-eye that landed on him with Rajon Rondo sidelined for the start of last season, Green never quite flourished as the sort of go-to presence that many hoped he might develop into (particularly after a strong playoff showing to close the 2012-13 season).
Green expressed optimism about what a healthy Rondo can add to a young Celtics core this season ("With him being 100 percent healthy, I think he’ll make our team just that much better," said Green) but the question remains whether the advancements of Rondo's supporting cast, and Green in particular, can help Boston take the next step in its rebuild.
On this night, the conversation at the Mildred Avenue School leaned heavier on education than hoops. While recovering from heart surgery that paused his basketball career, Green went back and finished his degree at Georgetown in 2012. This past summer, he made a $1 million donation to the school (which was matched by the Indiana Pacers' Roy Hibbert, while Patrick Ewing and agent David Falk pledged an additional $3.3 million toward the construction of an on-campus facility that will bear the name of Hoyas coaching legend John Thompson Jr.).
"Georgetown has done a lot for me in so many ways," said Green. "They gave me a great education. They gave me an opportunity to play basketball at a high level. And with the personnel that’s around that school, Big John [Thompson Jr.], the professors, my coach, [John Thompson III], they also made me a better person. I owe a lot to them for getting me to where I’m at, so it was a no-brainer for me to just give back in order to help build a new facility in John Thompson Jr.’s name. He’s done so much for that school, I think he’s really deserving of it. I think it’s going to be great for the school in the long run."
With a focus on Thursday's education event, Green added: "[Kids] look up to NBA players and to put our story out there about how we got to where we are and how education got us to the point we are now, I think it’s big for these kids to hear. I think that’s why we are out here, spreading the word, that education is very important. And it should come first."
A few more notes and quotes from Green's brief Q&A with reporters:
• Meeting the new guys: Green said he's spent time this week meeting the newest faces on the team, including rookies Marcus Smart and James Young. "I’ve had a lot of time to talk to the guys, get to know them off the court, but also work out with them, get to know them on the court," said Green. "We’ve become close through the last couple days that I’ve been here. And they’ve been here for a long time. They’ve been working hard to get ready for this upcoming season."
• Beard Inspiration: Russell > Harden: Given the option of picking Russell or former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate James Harden for his beard inspiration, Green joked, "I would go with Bill Russell before James Harden. It’s something that just grew; I wasn’t planning it. Just a different look, nothing big."
• Players in the community: Gotham was asked about having the Celtics players involved in community activities, whether it's Green at the education event or newcomer Tyler Zeller at a food bank in Lowell earlier this week. "It’s really important," said Gotham. "The kids look up to the players. To have guys like Tyler, like Jeff today, this is their offseason. They are not under any obligation to do this kind of stuff, yet they value their role as a mentor to these kids and they know they make a positive difference by just spending time with them. Just the simple act of showing that they are willing to spend their time, that sends a great message to these kids, that someone’s caring about them, someone is thinking about them. We’re lucky, we have a great crew of guys who are able to not only make that statement, but also set an example like Jeff going back and getting his diploma at Georgetown, the importance of education."
"I'm very fortunate to be in a position to give back to the University and to the program that has done so much for me," Green said in a release from the school. "The environment created by Coach [John] Thompson III and his staff helped shape me both academically and athletically. Georgetown and Georgetown basketball is at my core and is part of who I am."
Said Thompson III: "This generous gift from Jeff will help to enhance the experience of many future Georgetown student-athletes. Jeff's commitment to our school and to our program speaks not only to his experiences as a student and an athlete here, but gives a small glimpse into who he is as a person. We're very fortunate to have Jeff Green represent this institution."
Hop HERE to read Georgetown's full release on the donation.
Memphis' Mike Conley took home the honor with a total of 2,335 points, while Green was second at 1,971. Phoenix's Channing Frye (1,915), Washington's Bradley Beal (1,897), Portland's Damian Lillard (1,881), and Chicago's Mike Dunleavy (1,832) rounded out the voting among divisional representatives.
The NBA will make a $10,000 donation on behalf of Conley to his charity of choice, the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, specifically for research pertaining to sickle cell anemia. The NBA will make a $5,000 donation to each of the divisional winner’s charities of choice, including the Cleveland Clinic Foundation on behalf of Green.
Green underwent surgery at the Cleveland Clinic to repair an aortic aneurysm that forced him to sit out the 2011-12 season.
According to the league's press release, the award reflects the ideals of sportsmanship -- ethical behavior, fair play and integrity -- in amateur and professional basketball, a key focus of the league’s NBA Cares program efforts. The winner is awarded the Joe Dumars trophy, named for former Detroit Pistons guard and Hall of Famer Joe Dumars, the award’s first recipient.
NBA players voted with 11 points given for each first-place vote, nine points for each second-place vote, seven points for third, five points for fourth, three points for fifth and one point for each sixth-place vote received. Each team nominated one of its players for the award.
Green received 65 first-place votes of the 325 total ballots cast.
Player: Jeff Green
2013-14 base stats: 16.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.7 APG, 41.2FG%, 34.1 3PT%
2013-14 advanced stats: 0.928 Off ppp (59th percentile); 0.851 Def ppp (60th)
2013-14 salary: $8.7 million
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and the rehab of Rajon Rondo, Green was fitted for a monster bull's-eye, one that he eagerly wore in hopes of establishing himself as a go-to presence. It didn't happen and even Green admitted by season's end that he couldn't be the focal point. He averaged a career-best 16.9 points per game, but his shooting percentages dived. Chalk some of that up to offensive experimentation, but Green struggled with consistency. The discouraging part was that his total rebound percentage (7.6) was a career low on a team devoid of a pure center and he still averaged more turnovers per game (2) than assists (1.7). If Green is to be a complementary player, he needs to be more of a presence in areas other than scoring.
GM's Take: "I think Jeff had a good year and Jeff has been consistently a very good 3-point shooter and very good in transition offense throughout his whole career and I think that he got even better at that this year and he got more versatile," said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. "The fact that he wasn’t more of a more below-the-crease or corner 3-point shooter, he shot the ball from all over the 3-point line, he shot the 3-point shot off the dribble, things that we wanted and we encouraged him to do to expand his game. He became more a focal point of the offense and he had his ups and downs with that, but I think his game is complete and I think that Jeff is improving as a player. I think he still has a lot of growth still left in his game and I think he’s going to have a better year next year than he had this year."
Season highlight: Green provided maybe Boston's most endearing moment of the season with his buzzer-beating 3-pointer over LeBron James as the Celtics stunned the host Miami Heat 111-110 on Nov. 9. Green finished with 24 points on 8-of-16 shooting with five triples, including the winner off a pretty cross-court inbounds feed from Gerald Wallace. That hoop helped Boston post a season-high four-game win streak.
Season lowlight: Coming off a quiet preseason, Green declared, "I have to take on the challenge of being that guy. Of course I’ll have my ups and downs, but I’ll have more ups than downs. I can guarantee you that." There's a metric called Game Score invented by John Hollinger that mashes up individual aspects of a player's box score and delivers a numeric representation of his performance. Considering that a score of 10 is defined as an average outing, Green had 40 games of 10.0 or higher and 42 games below, according to Basketball Reference. It only hammers home the need for Green to do more to impact the game beyond scoring.
Final grade: C-
Teacher's notes: We can hear some of Green's harshest critics scoffing from the other side of the interwebs. Some voters are going to crush Green here and we'll be surprised if he ends up with a passing mark in the fan vote. And our inclination was to do the same, but only because Green is clearly capable of more. We're willing to concede that expectations might have been a bit too high overall, but we'll also stress that we're not certain that Green made as much progress as Ainge seems to suggest (though, hey, what rebuilding GM is going to say otherwise?). With a healthy Rondo and some other talent alongside him, Green has potential to be an excellent complementary player. You can tell Brad Stevens yearns to get the most out of him. Right now, the Celtics are not getting the most out of him on a consistent enough basis.
What's next? Green has two more seasons remaining on a deal that will pay him $9.2 million next season. Even with the cap set to rise generously, that's still a bit on the high side for the production the team is receiving. Drafting at his position, or adding a starter-caliber swingman, could make Boston think harder about any outside interest Green receives.
Honor roll: Click HERE to read past report cards.
Don't agree with teacher? Just want to sound off on Jeff Green's 2013-14 season? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.
But Green is not affecting the game like most others on that same list.
Green needs to put his energy into being a more consistent defender, a more common distributor, and at least an occasional rebounder. Green must find ways for the Celtics to be more successful when he's on the court.
Because right now, that's not happening.
Make no mistake, very few Boston players, particularly the ones logging the sort of minutes that Green is, are putting up glossy numbers this season. But the splits on Green are striking.
In the 11 games since the break, the Celtics are minus-110 in plus/minus during Green's 407 minutes of floor time, and plus-41 in his 121 minutes on the bench. Boston's offensive rating is 5½ points better when Green is off the floor, and its defensive rating is a staggering 24 points worse when he's in the game.
Worried that trash time was skewing those numbers, we narrowed that look to the first half of those 11 games. Boston's net rating when Green is on the court was minus-18.6 (91.7 offensive; 110.3 defensive) and plus-13.6 when he was off the floor (108.4 offensive; 94.8 defensive).
Now, numbers don't tell the whole story. Kris Humphries also has some bad on/off splits in the post-All-Star sample, but the eye test tells you he's playing better recently.
Can the same be said for Green, who remains up and down with his production? When you separate the good from the bad, it's clear it has little to do with scoring output.
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LOS ANGELES -- Rapid reaction after the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics 101-92 on Friday night at Staples Center:
THE nitty-gritty: MarShon Brooks exacted revenge on his former team by scoring 10 fourth-quarter points as the Lakers rallied from a 13-point deficit over the final 15 minutes. Brooks, playing his first game for Los Angeles, scored 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting in 23 minutes. Kent Bazemore, also acquired from the Golden State Warriors in a swap for Steve Blake, added 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Brandon Bass scored 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting with eight rebounds, while Jared Sullinger had a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds). Jeff Green scored 11 of his team-high 21 points in the first quarter.
Turning point: The Celtics were up 11 entering the final frame, but it was Brooks (honestly) who spearheaded the Lakers' comeback. After scoring the final basket of the third quarter, he registered four field goals in the first 3½ minutes of the fourth as the Lakers surged ahead. It was Bazemore who hit a 3-pointer to put the Lakers up seven with little more than four minutes to go and left Boston scrambling for a timeout. Boston never got closer than five the rest of the way.
Loose balls: The Celtics were outscored 38-18 in the fourth quarter. The Celtics shot 39.2 percent overall (38-of-97), while the Lakers shot 48.2 percent (40-of-83). Boston missed 18 of 22 3-pointers it put up (18.2 percent). A quiet night for Rajon Rondo: six points, 11 assists, six rebounds over 34:16. Joel Anthony was a healthy DNP for Boston.
What it means: The Celtics (19-37) lost their third straight and flip-flopped spots in the league standings with the Lakers (19-36). Boston now owns the NBA's fifth-worst winning percentage (.339). The Celtics will visit the Sacramento Kings, the team with the fourth-worst winning percentage (.333), on Saturday on the second night of a back-to-back. Boston's four-game trip wraps up on Monday in Utah.
Green scored 11 fourth-quarter points to help the Celtics race away and it was in that stretch that he provided maybe the most encouraging individual sign by consistently knocking down a mid-range jumper that's been no friend of his this season.
We know Green can score going at the basket. He's excellent in the corner, shooting nearly 40 percent from that spot beyond the arc this season. But the Celtics and coach Brad Stevens have put a heavy emphasis recently on getting Green shots in the mid-range, both on catch-and-shoot opportunities coming off screens and in the pick-and-roll.
Struggling with his shot a bit early on Monday night, Green drew the ire of Stevens when he passed up an open look off a screen late in the first half. Stevens implored Green and his teammates to take those open looks in the second half and it's a big reason why Boston raced away in the final frame.
The usual disclaimers apply to Monday's game: The Bucks were playing without much of their primary talent and own just nine wins this season (two of which came at the expense of Boston). You can nitpick that, despite his excellent offensive night, the 6-foot-9 Green managed to grab just one rebound in 44 minutes, when 5-foot-11 Phil Pressey doubled that total.
But let's focus on the good here, not the bad. Green realized early on that his 3-point shot wasn't falling and got himself going by being aggressive going to the basket. As Celtics fans know all too well, Green has a propensity to stop attacking the basket, but his consistency in the mid-range ensured he was an offensive factor the entire game against Milwaukee.
Maybe the most encouraging sequence came early in the fourth quarter. Boston owned a two-point lead entering the frame and got a defensive stop out of the gates. Green then took a little handoff from rookie Kelly Olynyk at the top of the circle and used the rookie as a screen for a 17-foot jumper.
Green registered a steal at the other end of the floor and, when he couldn't find an outlet pass, dribbled the ball up the court himself. Sensing he had rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo on his heels, Green pulled up for an 18-foot jumper from the right side that forced Milwaukee to call timeout.
Green's a different player when he's confident in his shot and he made some big ones in the fourth frame, including a 3-pointer off a pretty dish from Jerryd Bayless, a tough baseline fadeaway and a strong right-handed drive when he caught a mismatch.
There will be those who joke that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge should have been working the phones after Monday's game. Green is seemingly only increasing his potential trade value with offensive outbursts like this and, if the Celtics believe he's reached his ceiling, then it might be in their best interest to explore what a contender might be willing to give up for him.
But it's nights like Monday that also leave you wondering if there is more to Green. This is the sort of output many expected when the Celtics were without Rajon Rondo at the start of the season and Green was forced to be the focal point. Two of Green's biggest outings recently have come in games that Rondo sat out on the second night of back-to-backs.
Which, of course, makes you wonder just how much Green could thrive when the Celtics do have a rust-removed Rondo, a healthy Avery Bradley and an emerging Jared Sullinger. Could Green finally meet the pundits' lofty expectations when some of the spotlight is off of him?
The only discouraging aspect of his recent emergence is that, over the last 10 games, Boston still owns an offensive rating of just 96.8 when Green is on the floor. That number does spike to 102.4 in Boston's five wins in that span, but it's at 89.9 in the losses, speaking to the inconsistencies that fans lament with Green.
What's undeniable is that, rebounding aside, Green is having an excellent February. We're seeing progress that wasn't always on display earlier this season. The questions are can he keep it up as the competition gets better and, if offers for his services trickle in, is Boston committed to keeping him around to find out?
On a feel-good day in which the Celtics shot 50 percent as a team for the first time since early December and emerged with a rare win, Green finished 2-of-13 shooting with eight points, the only starter not to score in double figures.
Here's the concern: Rajon Rondo is back after a yearlong absence and starting to look like his old self as he shakes off some rust; Avery Bradley has shown tremendous strides in his offensive game while being one of Boston's most consistent two-way players; and Jared Sullinger is blossoming in his second season, even while playing out of position as an undersized center.
Green? He failed to distinguish himself when anointed the focal point of the offense without Rondo at the start of the season, has shown mere glimpses of his obvious potential (31 points vs. Cleveland in November; 39 points vs. Washington last month), and simply has failed to display the sort of advancement one would expect from a 27-year-old with his talents on a rebuilding team.
For his part, coach Brad Stevens refuses to lament what Green has failed to do. Instead, he's put Green's failures on himself and his coaching staff while pledging to put Green in better position to succeed moving forward.
"All of us have had our games where we didn't do our jobs as well as we would have liked to," Stevens said. "To put that on him is not fair to him. I support him. I think he's going to play really well throughout the rest of this year. … My focus isn't necessarily on how he's done so far, but more on how can I help him to be the best he can be every day."
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While Green is likely being shopped, the remaining two years on his contract paying $18.36 million could be problematic. Green is having a good season for the Celtics, however he has not lived up to his contract or expectations as a leader. The Celtics will likely need to include one of their many future first round picks for some team to take Green.
Chris ForsbergMidseason check-in: All on board?
"Green has been exactly who he has been over the first six years of his NBA career, which is sort of the problem. Thrust into the spotlight with Rajon Rondo rehabbing and Boston's veterans departed, Green was supposed to flourish as the focal point of the offense. Instead, his per-36-minute numbers remain in line with his career averages, his scoring up a bit (17.1 points per game), but his field goal percentage down (42.9 percent). His defense has been better, but the Celtics are still waiting for Green to be the sort of offensive player they can lean on every night."
Making Green's effort all the more impressive was the fact that Boston as a team shot just three free throws in the first half (only one by Green) and the sixth-year forward got to the stripe 14 times after intermission.
Green finished with a team-high 22 points despite 4-of-11 shooting and made 13 of his 15 freebies. Alas, he missed one free throw that really hurt while trying to cap a three-point play after a layup off a beautiful inbounds feed from Gerald Wallace with 33 seconds to go. Instead, Orlando scrambled to corral the loose ball on the floor and called a timeout to retain possession in a tie game. At the other end, Tobias Harris drew a loose-ball foul on Kris Humphries and hit the two free throws that decided the game.
Green had the ball in his hands during Boston's final possession, but hesitated on a potential 3-point look then drew a crowd when he tried to drive. The Celtics never got off a final shot as the Magic escaped with the win.
A Celtics team that lost for the 14th time in 16 games routinely has been forced to look for silver linings during this stretch. They won't find many in this effort, a game in which Boston shot 36.7 percent and kicked away an 11-point first-half lead. Humphries had another energy-filled performance, rookie Kelly Olynyk seems to be making strides in his last couple of outings and Rajon Rondo had a decent night in his second game back from ACL surgery (six points, six rebounds, four assists, a steal, three turnovers over 21:20).
But what the Celtics should try to extract from this loss is Green's aggression. On a night where he was 1-for-7 outside of the paint, Green found success going hard to the basket and earning his way to the charity stripe. Green has the power and athleticism to get near the rim and, while shots might not always drop, he can create points through contact.
According to Synergy Sports data, Green leads the team by drawing shooting fouls on 12.3 percent of his total possessions. What's more, 13.9 percent of Green's possessions end with him at the free throw line (second best on the team behind only Brandon Bass at 14.2 percent).
Green easily leads the Celtics with 25 and-1s this season, nearly a third of the team's total (78). He's drawn a team-high 124 fouls, accounting for 22 percent of the team's total foul drawn. The next closest on the squad is Bass at 79 fouls drawn.
Sixteen times during his Boston tenure, Green has registered 8 or more free throw attempts in a game. In those games, he's averaged 20.9 points per contest. It's not hard to see the correlation between Green generating easy points at the line and more consistent output. Sunday's loss is exactly the sort of game that ought to remind Green of how important it is to have him consistently attacking the basket and the good things that tend to come out of it.
Green wasn't nearly aggressive enough on the glass (only three rebounds over 35 minutes), but he didn't turn the ball over and drew seven second-half fouls while attacking the basket. The Celtics didn't get the win, but Green's effort is something they can build off moving forward.
Green finished with just four points on 2-of-10 shooting with six rebounds and four turnovers over 27:43 during Monday's 104-92 loss to the Rockets, Boston's ninth consecutive defeat. Asked about sitting out the entire fourth quarter as Boston attempted to rally, Green said, "It wasn’t because I was playing bad, it was because I sprained my shoulder at the end of the first [quarter], then it just kept nagging me throughout the game. Maybe that’s the reason, I don’t know."
In eight games this month, Green is averaging 15.3 points but shooting just 41.5 percent from the field (including 31.1 percent beyond the 3-point arc). His rebounding is up (6 rebounds per game), but his assists are down and turnovers are up and he's minus-75 in plus/minus for the month. What's more, Boston's offensive rating is 7.2 points better when Green is off the floor during this eight-game span.
Asked about Green's lackluster outing after Monday's game, Stevens said, "I don’t want to make excuses for him, and at the same time I don’t want to assume anything, but he just didn’t have it. And that’s OK. That’s why other guys are on the team -- to step up and to fill that void when that happens. I thought some other guys did a good job, but clearly he wants to play better than that."
A few more notes from Boston's afternoon session at the team's training facility:
- SULLINGER'S STIFF NECK IS 'OK': Stevens had a similar response when asked about Jared Sullinger's neck, which the second-year big man said spasmed a bit on the Boston bench during Monday's loss. "Full-go today, didn’t mention anything to me about it and didn’t mention anything about sitting out," said Stevens. "Obviously, I get the feedback from our trainers every morning about whether or not guys are available to practice, and both were available." Sullinger, who sported kinesio tape over the neck after Monday's game, said he was OK after Monday's session. "It’s OK, just a little banged up," he said. "Battling down there with the big boys kind of does that to you. It’s stiff, but at the same time, I can look left and right, and can drive in my car, so I’m OK."
- PERSONAL DAY FOR BOGANS: The Celtics had 13 of their 14 players on the court for Tuesday's session, but veteran wing Keith Bogans was excused for personal reasons. Stevens didn't expound much, noting, "He was not here today, we gave him the day off." Bogans has been a healthy DNP in 18 of his last 20 games, seeing time recently only in the immediate aftermath of the Jerryd Bayless-for-Courtney Lee swap.
- REBOUND COMPETITION WITH SULLY + HUMP: Jared Sullinger noted that he and Kris Humphries, the two primary rebounders on the Celtics, have a friendly competition with each other about who's grabbing more boards, particularly now that the two are sharing the floor in the latest starting lineup combination. "I love playing with all the bigs, just because we’re so unselfish," said Sullinger. "[Brandon] Bass is so unselfish on defense, and Hump is the same way. It’s just fun competing out there, especially with me and Hump. Rebounding, we always compete who can get the most rebounds in a game, or who gets the most rebounds while we were on the floor. That’s the beauty of having two rebounders on the court." Is anyone keeping stats on how that competition is going? "No, we don’t go that far. It’s more like a gentleman's bet. We like to fight for the rebounds."
Green sat out the entire fourth quarter of Boston's ninth consecutive loss and revealed after the game that he sprained a shoulder (he wouldn't say which) in the first quarter, limiting his effectiveness the rest of the way. Green finished with four points on 2-of-10 shooting with six rebounds and four turnovers over 27:43. He was minus-12 in plus/minus.
Green, who has been held out of the fourth quarter of past games, was asked about being on the pine again Monday.
"It wasn’t because I was playing bad, it was because I sprained my shoulder at the end of the first, then it just kept nagging me throughout the game," Green said. "Maybe that’s the reason, I don’t know. The [group] that was in, they did a great job of fighting and getting back into the game."
A reserve unit led by newly acquired Jerryd Bayless rallied the Celtics, down 19 entering the final quarter, to within seven in the final minutes, but Houston kept Boston at arm's length.
Asked how the shoulder felt after the game, Green answered, "Still attached." Pressed on if he'd be able to play in Wednesday's visit from the Toronto Raptors, Green said, "That’s the plan."
Is Green upset he's been held out in the fourth quarter of games this season?
"I understand tonight, I couldn’t give anything because of the shoulder," he said. "At any other given time, I do want to be out there."
Sullinger, back in the starting lineup after a three-game stint as a reserve, finished with eight points on 3-of-11 shooting with a team-high 10 rebounds over 22:35. He sported some visible black kinesio tape on his neck after the game, prompting questions about an injury.
"I don’t know [what happened], [the neck] just got real tight while I sat on the bench, spasmed up a little bit," Sullinger said. "I’m going to be all right."
Sullinger has battled a deep bone bruise in his left hand that contributed to a recent shooting slump. He had busted out of that a bit the previous two games, but said his focus remains on simply getting the Celtics back in the win column.
"When you’re a competitor, you always find a way to stay positive," Sullinger said. "You always find a way to try to win. We’re fighting every day."
Broadcast video appears to show teammates and assistant coach Jay Larranaga trying to defuse the dust-up. Asked after the game about a potential squabble, first-year Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, "Disagreements are part of the game, it’s part of team basketball. But how quickly you move on from there says a lot."
What had both players worked up? It was likely the struggles of Boston's first unit. The starters were minus-7 in plus/minus over 10 minutes together in the first half, allowing the Hawks to chip away at an 18-point advantage that the second unit helped build. When that lead further dissolved at the start of the second half, Stevens pulled his underperforming starters in favor of the second-unit frontcourt featuring Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Kelly Olynyk.
How bad was Boston's first unit? In 17 minutes of total floor time, Boston's starting five (Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford, Green, Bass and Jared Sullinger) combined for 5-of-27 shooting (18.5 percent) with only three assists and 18 total points. The group was minus-13 overall. The second unit of Phil Pressey, Courtney Lee, Wallace, Humphries and Olynyk was 13-of-20 shooting (65 percent) with 12 assists and 35 points over 13 minutes. That group was plus-15.
Did the sideline tiff prevent Green or Bass from reentering the game? Stevens suggested that he was set to ride the reserves the rest of the way. He leaned on a full reserve unit straight up until 4 ½ minutes to go when Bradley and Crawford checked back in.
This isn't the first time that Stevens has used his reserves for extended stretches late in games. Back in early November, Green sat out the final 15 minutes of a loss in Detroit. Stevens hasn't been afraid to ride hot hands (and send a message in the process). He's often reminded his starters that, if they don't bring their A games, there's a set of reserves eager for their floor time.
The guess here is that any frustrations between players will blow over quickly. The underperformance of the first unit as a whole and figuring out why it happened is where the players should channel any lingering anger.
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.
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