Put aside the pressure and the expectations for just a second. Hold them at arm’s length, place Boston’s infatuation with the departed Kendrick Perkins right next to them, and then sprinkle Green’s smaller role on top. Seal all those things somewhere you can forget about them, just temporarily. Now judge the situation Jeff Green was brought into last season.
“It was tough to go into that situation,” said Jeff Green.
But let’s think about this from every angle.
His old point guard loved shooting far too many times per game. His new point guard was pass-first, sometimes to a fault, with five or six pairs of eyes open and scanning the court at all times, making it easy for all his teammates, including Green.
Green went from needing to produce as a third option to having almost zero pressure to produce on a nightly basis. He went from pounding on the block against players both stronger and taller (Amare Stoudemire, Zach Randolph, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, LaMarcus Aldridge and Carlos Boozer come to mind, though others might be better examples) to playing wherever Doc Rivers thought he had the best matchup. He was traded from a team expected to win in a couple of years to a team expected to win now — remember, at the time of the trade deadline, the Celtics were favored to win the NBA title.
And if Green wanted to learn, well, his prospective mentors included Kevin Garnett at power forward, who could help strengthen Green’s psyche, Paul Pierce, whose full repertoire of offensive moves should have lit up Green’s eyes, Ray Allen, whose work ethic is second to none, and Doc Rivers, who is now a top coach and used to be an All-Star player.
From many perspectives, the situation in Boston was perfect for Green. But now you can retrieve the pressure, expectations, Boston’s love for Perk, and Green’s radically altered role. And those negatives were too much for Green to handle.
“They’ve been together for a number of years,” Green said of the Celtics. “They’ve already won a championship, they’ve already have a system, they already have their chemistry and that bond on that team.
“It was tough to go into that situation.”
I believe Green is honest when he says he had a tough time adjusting in Boston. Here’s what else I believe: His PER was almost identical in Oklahoma City and Boston. His usage rate increased in Boston. His true shooting percentage improved. So did his field goal percentage, effective field goal percentage and turnover rate. His rebounding rate, three-point percentage and free throw percentage were slightly lower in Boston, but almost identical. He never learned Boston’s defensive schemes, but he was always a bad defender. He didn’t rebound the ball in Boston, but he had never been a plus rebounder.
In smaller doses, Jeff Green was almost exactly the same player in Boston that he had been in Oklahoma City. The new situation might have been difficult to adjust to, but statistically, at least, he did not get worse. In his smaller role, without traditional statistics to divert our eyes from the truth, Green was just exposed as what he always had been, a player with flaws, a player who excels at very little, a player the Celtics probably should not have risked so much to acquire.
Admittedly, I like my players headstrong and excuse-less. I like them to blame themselves when they play poorly. I like them to move into a situation and look for the positives rather than dwell on the negatives.
“It was tough to gather all that information so fast and try to gather the concepts of what [the Celtics] are trying to do,” Green said.
It also must be tough trying to convince an entire basketball world that you’re not who you really are. For awhile in Oklahoma City, Green had some folks fooled.