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Jeff Green returns, Celtics’ future takes shape

Posted By Paul Flannery On July 8, 2012 @ 1:21 pm In General | 7 Comments

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Jeff Green is back, and he represents an important part of the Celtics' future. (AP)

Jeff Green is back with the Celtics, his agent confirmed over the weekend, and while deals can’t be officially signed until Wednesday, it’s for a reported $36 million over four years.

There are two main takeaways from the deal. First, That’s a lot of money for a player without a natural position, especially one coming off surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm. Second, Green’s deal means that he is officially part of the core, and while the focus has been on bringing the band together, the Celtics actually have managed to get a bit younger this offseason.

This is an important move for team president Danny Ainge, who has invested much time and energy in the forward. He was with Green throughout the medical process last winter, an effort that played a significant factor in the new deal, agent David Falk said.

“The Celtics have developed a very special bond between Jeff and the team,” Falk said. “This is where he wanted to be. There was a high level of good will.”

Green and the Celtics are confident that he will be able to continue his career with no further complications and before we get to the actual basketball implications, take a moment to remember the anxiety that existed last winter when his heart condition was detected. His career is back on track and that’s an exceptional development in his young life.

The trade that brought Green to Boston was jarring for everyone involved, from Kendrick Perkins to Nenad Krstic, but few have been affected as much as Green. He went from getting consistent minutes on a young team to an undefined role on a veteran crew.

Green was around the team for most of last season, even going so far as it sit on the bench for one game. While there is much to be worked out on the court, Green is no longer in unfamiliar territory. That’s all to the good, but on the court there are question about how coach Doc Rivers will use the versatile forward and whether he’s worth the kind of big-money, long-term deal.

Green is an in-between forward without a natural position, who has seen his 3-point shooting plummet from 39 percent in the 2008-09 to the low 30s. He’s not a strong rebounder for a forward and while he posts solid numbers across the board there isn’t one exceptional thing that stands about his game. Still, in his 26 games with the Celtics in 2011, he actually shot over 48 percent from the floor and his per-minute scoring and rebound totals were in line with his career averages of 15 points and five rebounds per 36 minutes.

The Celtics believe that Green has room to improve and he is motivated to prove them right. The first step is creating a defined role. He was Paul Pierce’s primary backup in 2011, but minutes at the other forward spot were inconsistent playing behind Kevin Garnett.

This is a different team than the one Green joined in 2011. With Garnett now at center, Green’s defensive matchups are less of a concern when he plays the four and he and Brandon Bass would conceivably tag team the position. Additionally, Pierce finally has a legitimate backup, something that hasn’t been true since James Posey came and left.

The trend in the Eastern Conference has been to play smaller lineups and Green allows for more natural matchups. (See: Miami using LeBron James at the four and Philadelphia’s funky configurations). The Celtics often countered with Pierce playing the four and multiple guards and wing players around Garnett and Rajon Rondo. Green makes those lineups deeper and more versatile.

He also adds a needed jolt of athleticism and it will be fascinating to see how he meshes with Rondo and Avery Bradley, as well as  other young players. Consider that Rondo and Green will both be 26 years old when the season begins and Bradley, JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo are all 23 years and younger.

They represent the future of the Celtics and as much as we’re focused on the present, the next generation is already taking shape.


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