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Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Jeff Green hopes to show he's better

By Peter May
ESPNBoston.com

WALTHAM, Mass. -- You often hear words such as "explosive" and "versatile" when the topic of conversation is Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green. And he can be both. But the word in vogue these days as the team goes into its hurry-up training camp is "spectator."

Jeff Green
After struggling to fit in last season, Jeff Green is getting a late start in his first camp with the Celtics.

For the second straight day, Green watched as the Celtics went through the rounds Tuesday, sidelined by what the team calls a "medical issue." No one seems to think it's a big deal; Green joked about the matter at the annual media day, saying, "I'm all good. People are spreading rumors, trying to assume that I'm some kind of way, but I'm fine." He later added, "There were some things [Monday] with the doctors, and we're still waiting back to get the OK. But hopefully I can [practice]. That's my plan."

Green didn't divulge what exactly was wrong, and his agent, David Falk, didn't respond to a text message seeking further clarification. Green dismissed speculation about a heart condition, saying, "No, it's not all these heart rumors or anything else that all these bloggers or any of you guys are starting. It's nothing."

He continued, "I didn't ask [what it was]. I was more concerned with trying to get to practice. When [the doctors] said that I had to wait, I mean I'm a patient guy, and we have a long, short season. So I'm not going to rush. I've been here. I've been still doing some things and still trying to keep up. I just haven't been able to scrimmage with the team."

Maybe that will happen Wednesday. Or Thursday. No one seems to think it won't happen sometime soon and that these first two days of missed workouts won't be long forgotten by the time the Celtics play the New York Knicks a week from Sunday.

Coach Doc Rivers, who earlier in the day said he thought Green would be able to join the team in practice, made it clear he wants the explosive, versatile Green on the floor ASAP.

"The good news is that he has been here and watched and observed, but we want to get him [on the floor] as quickly as possible because he's important to us," Rivers said. "He's important to our bench. We need him on the floor."

Once Green does play, Rivers is hoping for a more dominant, effective and productive Green than the sometimes tentative, occasionally confused Green he had last season. There were a couple of shining moments, but they were brief. Mostly, Green looked like someone who had just come over in the middle of the season in a trade that didn't sit well with his new teammates or his new fan base.

Wait a minute. That is what Green was last season. Maybe he wasn't a lost soul, but he looked like one without a mental GPS. He said most people simply don't understand why a player doesn't seamlessly blend into a new team, regardless of the situation or the time of the season.

"It's tough, especially going from -- in my position -- starting my whole career and coming here and coming off the bench, and then coming to a franchise like the Celtics, who [have recently won] a championship and doing what they've done over the past years. It's tough," he said. "But people are going to say what they want. It's people who have never been through these kinds of things and who have never experienced it, so it doesn't bother me. They can keep saying what they want, and it's still not going to bother me. You just move forward."

Sounds like a guy with a rather large chip on his shoulder, doesn't it? And that is not necessarily a bad thing.

The Celtics need Green to be mean, to be less deferential and more assertive, and to take full advantage of his biggest attributes, his size and athleticism. Those qualities can be hard to showcase when you walk into an entirely new situation and onto a team with ultra-strong personalities, some of whom were still seething over the departure of close friend Kendrick Perkins.

And, let's be honest, the Jeff Green we saw with the Celtics last season was more often underwhelming than overpowering. He had his moments: 21 points in 28 minutes against the Golden State Warriors and 19 points against the Indiana Pacers. But he was points-challenged in the postseason, reaching double figures just once (Game 2 of the Miami series, in which he scored 11). And he was more of a spectator, playing no more than 24 minutes in any of the team's nine games.

The company line from the Green camp is that this season, thanks to having adjusted to his new team and coaching staff, we will see more of the Jeff Green who averaged 15.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in 49 games with Oklahoma City in 2010-11. While invoking a triple-double negative -- "I don't need to prove nothing to nobody" -- Green nonetheless admitted that Celtics fans didn't see everything he has to offer on any kind of consistent basis. (We already knew that, but it was still nice to hear him say it.)

"You've seen a little glimpse, but it was a tough situation for myself to come to a veteran team that was losing a big piece of their team," he said. "It seems like everybody put the pressure on me to fill Perk's shoes, but I'm not the same player as Perk. We play two different positions. But it was tough. A lot of people put a lot of pressure on me, but I didn't. Nobody here really saw me play, so people can judge and say what they want. But it really doesn't bother me."

The Celtics gave Green a big salary bump (to a reported $9 million) but also didn't extend him, meaning Green could be a member of the free-agent class of 2012. So it's a double-edged sword for the Celtics. If Green explodes this season and showcases his versatility, he might well be out of reach for them next summer. If that leads to a championship, that's a risk the team is more than willing to take.

But Green can't do anything right now, other than watch. That's not the Jeff Green any of the Celtics want to see when time is precious in a shortened training camp. But it's in the hands of the doctors now, and all Green can do is wait for clearance -- and then strive to make everyone forget the final two months of the 2010-11 season.

Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.