Admittedly, I am not a Celtics fan. In fact, if I had to pick one NBA team to hurl into the sun for the good of humanity, it would be the Boston Celtics. Rondo is immensely talented, but he carries himself like the 6th grade boy that has just discovered bravado. I have a hard time liking athletes with maturity issues. Garnett is even worse. What kind of human being can wish Tim Duncan a “Happy Mother’s Day” just to get inside his head, knowing full well that Mrs. Duncan died of breast cancer when Timmy was tiny? That’s messed. And let’s not forget about Paul ‘Head Fake’ Pierce. I still haven’t forgiven him for the infamous minute and a half he spent wheeling about in my sympathy wagon during the 2008 finals. Ray Allen was the only player keeping me neutral toward the green machine. When he left the greener pastures for warmer sands, my disgust spilled through the hole he left behind. I could fill dozens of pages with my animosity toward the Celtics, and while the notion is appealing, that is not what prompted my fingers to the keyboard tonight.
Have you been watching Jeff Green lately? If you’ve only just joined the realm of the NBA obsessed, you are completely justified in saying, “Jeff who?” He missed all of last season after being diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm (swelling of the body’s major artery). Forget not knowing if you’ll ever play again, imagine not knowing if you’re going to make it through another day without dying of a massive internal hemorrhage. Let’s just say, the kid’s had it rough. Green had life saving surgery on January 9th 2012 and spent his recovery time finishing his English degree from Georgetown. That’s part of why I like him so much. He has the ambition to improve himself outside of basketball.
But back to the point. Despite having major heart surgery just one year ago, Green appears to be approaching full strength. He is the bench spark any team would be lucky to have. Hell, I’d take him on Portland in a heartbeat; he and LaMarcus could start a club for irregular ones, and we desperately need the depth. Perhaps un-ironically, what Jeff brings off the bench is heart. Like Mark Cuban, I am not fond of generalities in analysis, but it’s true. The emphasis with which Green plays basketball is a momentum shifter for the Boston Celtics. That’s why the stand-by Small Forward is living in the highlight reel.
Now, it has been brought to my attention by a cohort of mine that Green’s numbers are down this year. He is only averaging about 10 points/3 rebounds per game, compared to the 15 and 6 he averaged in OKC. If you are of his camp and believe that Jeff Green is not worth the 4 year $36M contract, that’s perfectly fine, but please keep the following in mind:
1) He was brought in to replace an aging Paul Pierce, hence the large contract. It was anticipated that Pierce would retire or otherwise be traded (he is being shopped again, just as he was last year) but he has remained a Celtic.
2) This means that Green is not starting, and thus, his average minutes have dropped from 37 in OKC to 23 in Boston. When you look at Green’s statistics per 36 minutes for this season, they are virtually identical to his averages when he was seeing 37 a game for the Thunder.
3) Another burden of Pierce’s presence (aside from Pierce’s presence) is how the offense is structured. The role of the 3 is conceived for spot up shooting and ranged jumpers off the screen. This fits the 6’7″ Pierce’s style nicely, but it is not Green’s (6’9″) forte. As a result, he’s seen a decline in field goal percentage.
4) Where Green comes to life is at the rim. His versatile size- 6’9″, 235 (the same specs as Kevin Durant) allows him to bang with the bruisers. Ask Al Jefferson if he remembers being on Green’s poster.
5) When he’s not slamming on Centers, his size creates defensive mismatches, opening up opportunities for his teammates and himself.
6) He’s playing basketball. He could be dead. That doesn’t mean he’s good; I just wanted to remind you.
7) Regardless, he IS good. He has maintained the expected level of play, in fewer minutes, with a new explosiveness that gets the crowd behind the C’s.
My point is this; Jeff Green has done no less than asked of him and he’s done it with style. The lousy leprechauns could use an unsung hero with a little bang-bang-boogie. He is my new hope within a retched hive of scum and villainy. I am very interested to see how the Celtics evolve in the coming years. He’s already their 5th highest scorer and he’s only in the secondary. I can’t imagine a future move to the starting lineup would do anything bad for his performance. An athletic forward that favors plowing the lane should couple nicely with the league’s assist leader. If he continues to improve his play, expect that $36M contract to be a bargain. Especially when Pierce’s time is up. If you’re too pressed for time to catch a game, just watch the weekly NBA Top 10 Plays. It’s Green’s scene.