This is a series of posts which highlight each key player in the Celtics’ run towards banner 18. It will highlight the areas of their game they need to improve most for the Celtics to be able to compete with the talent-blitzed teams of 2012-13. The area will sometimes be a player’s biggest flaw, or sometimes his biggest strength, but each post will highlight what this Celtics team needs players to change this season for the Celtics to have success.
As Jeff Green walks around Boston with a giant question mark on his forehead, several smart folks have begun to analyze how he will contribute to this year’s Celtics team. We ‘Finally!!!’ know he will be a member of the Boston Celtics, so next came predictions of what he might offer the team (including great looks here and here).
To add to the conversation, let’s begin with what Green brought Boston toward the end of the 2010-11 season. Many folks seem to believe Green played worse wearing the green and white than he did with the Thunder. That’s not entirely true. Because he was no longer a starter, his per-game stats took a major dip. But his average points per 36 minutes was consistent with the rest of his career. He shot a better field goal percentage and comparable 3-point percentage in Boston, but whatever minor increases he saw shooting were counteracted by a dip in rebounds per 36 minutes. Long story short, Green did not really play worse for the Celtics. Statistically, they got what they should have expected to.
Yet Green seemed to play with a heightened passivity in Boston he didn’t always display in Oklahoma City. When playing alongside Boston’s stars, Green seemed to want to hide in the shadows. When Doc Rivers encouraged Green to be the second unit’s primary scoring threat, he often forced his looks and seemed uncomfortable in an aggressive role. Doc’s cries for Green to lead the bench as a scorer were like continued attempts to push a square block into a circular hole.
With Jason Terry and Courtney Lee added to Boston’s rotation, Green should fit better now on Boston’s bench. He won’t have to be a first option anymore, which is better-suited to his basketball personality and should be better for the Celtics–to extend the analogy, Green shouldn’t have to be such a square block anymore.
The Georgetown product has only played with the Celtics for half a season, during which he was under an intense microscope of Celtics fans upset about the departure of their beloved Perk. Many eyes are still watching (and Green’s reported $36 million contract certainly won’t decrease anybody’s focus on his play), but they have relaxed a little bit after Green’s aortic aneurysm allowed him to step out of the limelight for a year and gave fans time to look at the situation with less emotion.
Green says he is coming back ready to play and ready to strive for a championship, but every player should be held to that standard. More important to Boston’s success is how Green and Doc work together to find exactly what the combo-forward will provide for Boston this year, to allow him to find on-court comfort with the Celtics. Once Green finds that place, his goal should become maintaining it and bringing consistency to the second unit. The size and athleticism Green offers will be very important to the success of the Celtics bench this season. He just needs to find a role that will help him utilize his considerable talent and impact the team more than he did during his initial stint in Boston–which, when you consider that Green played just as well in Boston as he ever did in OKC, would mean playing the best basketball of his career.