Jeff Green is a piece of IKEA furniture. You acquire him, take his contents out of the box and rest them on the floor. The pieces are all there. But (at least if you’re like I am) it’s a long process to assemble them into a finished product. While you stare blankly at the pieces spread on the floor, you wonder if they’ll ever fit together the way they’re supposed to.
Green (quite literally) swears he can play. But he only needs to say so with such emphasis because a legion of doubters exist who wonder if Green’s skills will ever mesh, who wonder whether Green will one day make the transition from “the J.D. Drew of basketball” into something better, a transition we suspect he might be capable of making although we aren’t entirely sure.
Considering Green is now 25 years old, four full years into his career, at a stage when many players are entering their primes, it’s easy to look at Green’s tools and wonder if they’ll ever fit together the way they’re supposed to. (Boston Herald)
“Yeah, man, you know a lot of people don’t know what I can really do,” he said. “In Oklahoma, I was kind of overshadowed by Kevin (Durant) and the way Russell (Westbrook) picked up, but, excuse my language, I can really (expletive) play. I can really play this game, man.”
That belief was supported by discussions he had following the season.
“I had some good meetings with (coach) Doc (Rivers) before the lockout, and I’ve been talking to P (Paul Pierce) and Ray (Allen),” Green said. “Next year they’re really going to allow me to play, and I think that’s what I need. I need to go out there and just play. Sometimes I think too much, but I just need to go out there and play the game. I’ve got great confidence in myself, but things were a little difficult last year.”
I listened to the new Childish Gambino CD today while driving my car. I’m not in love with the CD. It’s pretty good. But during one song, Gambino stops rapping and begins to tell a story instead. What he talks about doesn’t really matter. It has something to do with a 13-year old, his crush, and a broken heart. But the conclusion to the story was thought-provoking.
Gambino said the story “isn’t about how girls are evil or love is bad. This is a story about how I learned something. And I’m not saying this thing is true or not. I’m just saying it’s what I learned.”
Here’s what I’ve learned about Jeff Green:
- He’s talented, but not preternaturally so. He can run. He can jump. He’s reasonably strong. He’s not a bad outside shooter. He’s a solid passer, can play two or three positions (with various results) and handles the ball decently for someone who stands 6-9. But he has no specialty on the court. Not everyone has a specialty. Scottie Pippen did pretty well for himself as a jack-of-all-trades. But specialties help. Ask Bruce Bowen, to whom professional basketball meant nothing more than playing rugged defense and shooting corner threes.
- In Oklahoma City, Green posted solid traditional numbers. 16.5 points and 6.7 rebounds one season. 15.2 points and 5.6 points last year before the trade.
- Those numbers were hollow. Green’s production was boosted by the fact that he played major minutes. But his impressive traditional statistics were achieved without much efficiency, and sometimes to his team’s detriment.
- The Celtics were 11.7 points per 48 minutes better without Green on the floor. There is no more damning statistic than that.
- Green plays with a vacant look in his eyes. I’m not sure this means anything about his competitiveness. It might, but it probably doesn’t. Remember, Tim Duncan is similarly subdued. The boring San Antonio Spur would probably flip you the bird for suggesting that he doesn’t show enough emotion, but his fingers are too weighted down by rings.
- There’s a train of thought, led partially by Green, that Green didn’t adjust well to playing alongside Boston’s many Hall of Famers. But Green’s production was actually very similar in Oklahoma City and Boston. He just didn’t play as many minutes. Check his PER (admittedly not a perfect measurement of production, but one of the better measures we have): 12.91 in Oklahoma City last season, 12.92 in Boston. Green’s rebounding rate, true shooting percentage and usage rate also remained almost unchanged after the trade.
- There are reasons why Jeff Green intrigues people. He’s versatile. He’s skilled. He seems like a good person to have in the locker room. We suspect he is capable of better play, even while we’re cursing him out for missing a box out, questioning Danny Ainge for making the trade or fretting about how much money Ainge might throw at Green when (and if) free agency finally comes.
This is a story about how I learned some things. And I’m not saying these things are true or not. There’s a chance Green re-signs with the Celtics, adjusts to life in Boston, and becomes an All-Star. I acknowledge that possibility. I’m just saying this is what I’ve learned.