|Opinion: Celtics have to find out what they have with Jeff Green||11.15.12 at 11:20 pm ET|
A technical foul was the perfect punctuation to Jeff Green’s dunk on Al Jefferson Wednesday night ‘ not because Green deserved the penalty, but because the stoppage in play provided the opportunity for Celtics fans to digest what they had just seen.
Up to that point this season, Green had been a bust. His contract seemed like an albatross of Carl Crawford proportions. With his four-year, $32 million deal, Green is the fourth-highest-paid player on the team, behind only Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. The problem is Green is playing like the seventh- or eighth-best player on the team, depending on where you rank Jason Terry, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee.
Thursday night failed to offer any additional clarity to Green’s situation, with the forward scoring five points in 25 minutes during the Celtics’ 102-97 loss to the Nets in Brooklyn. It was a performance that made Wednesday’s heroics seem like an aberration.
Even after Green’s 16-point contribution in the win over Utah, he ranked sixth on the team in scoring (8.8 points per game) and seventh in minutes (21.6 per game). At best, he’s marginally overpaid when you consider Bass and Terry will earn $6.5 million and $5 million this year, respectively. At worst, he’s Danny Ainge‘s recurring mistake, first as the centerpiece of the trade that cost the Celtics Kendrick Perkins, and then as a $32 million version of Rashard Lewis.
The dunk of the season so far gave us a chance to see what Ainge saw in Green all along. The 6-foot-9 forward can flush on Al Jefferson in traffic. He can score 16 points in the flow of the game without having a single play run for him. And evidently, his teammates love him.
After Green threw it down on Jefferson, the ensuing scene seemed reminiscent of an And1 Mixtape Tour. Green didn’t deserve a technical; he almost seemed to be staring down Al Jefferson to make sure he did, in fact, dunk on an All-Star center. But perhaps Green’s teammates deserved the technical. Garnett followed Green around the court, cursing in his ear and pushing him in the chest. Other teammates took turns pushing Green, who typically shies away from that kind of contact.
The celebration seemed to stem from the fact that the Celtics need THAT Jeff Green. Garnett’s been saying it, and he’s right. Green needs to be meaner, more aggressive. He needs to dish out more NBA fouls, and he needs to get down low in the paint when Garnett is on the bench.
|Admittedly ‘lackadaisical’ Jeff Green finally shows he can be mean||11.14.12 at 11:32 pm ET|
When Jeff Green emphatically dunked on Al Jefferson in the fourth quarter Wednesday night and proceeded to stare the posterized big man down, things got loud. The Garden was full of fans and teammates alike that were happy to finally see an aggressive Green, but one voice overpowered everyone else.
“I can’t tell you [what he said],” Green added. “Use your imagination. Think Kevin Garnett, and the first thing [that comes to mind]. It was explicit, but he said to me the other day what I needed to be. That’s basically what he said.”
That term would be “an [expletive]-hole,” something Garnett had said Green needed to be following Saturday’s game against the Bucks.
“Jeff’s a really, really nice guy,” Garnett said on Saturday. “Some nights, you’ve just gotta be an [expletive]-hole.”
Green granted that wish when he took a pass from Garnett, drove to basket and dunked with authority over Jefferson. To make it even meaner, Green stared down Jefferson as he walked away, earning him a technical foul for taunting. The 26-year-old Green admitted he earned the tech.
“I did,” he said. “I guess you can’t look at the guy anymore. Courtney Lee said he’ll pay for it, so we’ll see.”
Garnett was not available for comment after the game due to a minor family matter, but he made his thoughts on the play clear on the court, as he could be seen pushing Green and enthusiastically barking his praise following the play.
He wasn’t the only teammate to praise Green, however. As Green prepared to field questions from reporters, rookie Jared Sullinger, whose locker is next to Green’s, gave his teammate daps and said, “Congratulations, Jeff. You made [SportsCenter's] No. 1.”
Green finished the night with 16 points, four rebounds and two assists in a season-high 27 minutes. He said he hopes to see his dunk on SportsCenter, but his biggest takeaway on the night was a much-needed confidence-booster.
“I had been playing a little lackadaisical as far as the effort before the prior couple of games, so it felt good to get that. It kind of boosts your confidence up and gets you going a little bit,” he said.
It isn’t every day that you hear a professional athlete volunteer to a scrum full of reporters and camera that his effort hasn’t been there. That’s normally the type of stuff that gets revealed deep into a 1-on-1, if it all. Perhaps Green just knows that more is expected of him, and he’s ready to be a little meaner.
“I don’t think anybody needs to tell me to be aggressive,” Green said. “It’s something that I see. It’s something that I need to do.”
Ben Rohrbach contributed to this report.
|Jeff Green posterizes, taunts Al Jefferson||at 9:46 pm ET|
|C-mail: Answering inbox full of Celtics questions||11.12.12 at 3:22 pm ET|
You’ve got Celtics questions. We’ve got answers. Or more questions. Either way, let’s scroll through the inbox.
@priusport: Where the heck is Darko?
Physically, all 7 feet and 275 pounds of Darko Milicic sits on the end of the bench this season, his ailing wrist often wrapped in tape or a soft cast. It’s a familiar place for Darko, whose history of cashing checks for sitting front row in a warmup suit makes him the envy of most men. And a conundrum for all coaches.
The Celtics certainly didn’t sign Darko as this season’s savior, but they expected more total minutes than games played from him. After all, he’s big, he blocks shots (2.6 per 36 minutes for his career) and he fouls — or “kills,” as Milicic himself might say. Players with less skill than Milicic have made a career out of those attributes.
So, maybe the wrist still bothers him. Or maybe C’s coach Doc Rivers considers him a liability. After all, when the Bucks owned the Celtics in the paint during the second game of the season, Rivers turned to Darko, who committed as many turnovers as he totaled rebounds, blocks and personal fouls in five short minutes.
@BostonsportZ: With trouble in paint with KG on bench, why no Darko or Collins yet? It can’t be worse.
If you thought Darko’s playing time was a limited sample size, check out Jason Collins and his streak of six DNP’s. The only reason he’s had to celebrate was his college roommate Joseph Kennedy III‘s election to Congress.
The C’s biggest problem has been the lack of depth behind Kevin Garnett. In Paul Flannery‘s must-read weekly Sunday notes column, he points out the Celtics are 18.3 points better than their opponents with Garnett on the floor than without, allowing a staggering 112.5 points on 53 percent shooting per 100 possessions sans KG.
So, why not turn to Collins? The 7-foot, 255-pound so-called Dwight Howard stopper has earned a reputation as one of the most heady defensive bigs in the game over 11 NBA seasons. But the C’s have yet to play a traditional center like Howard, facing undersized and finessed 5′s like Lavoy Allen or Chris Bosh for the most part.
@miccamacho6: Doc needs to forget about going small and go big. The 76ers are having a field day in the paint, especially when kg is out.
|Doc Rivers has had it with the lineup questions||11.10.12 at 2:11 am ET|
It wasn’t exactly what you would’ve expected after his team lost to the Sixers, 106-100. Doc RIvers was answering questions about what went wrong and toward the end of his five minute session with reporters decided to go off on a tangent about something that was really bugging him.
After the 106-100 loss to the Sixers Friday, Rivers was reminded that before the game he mentioned he might tweak the lineup when the team heads to Milwaukee and Chicago for games Saturday and Monday nights.
“I don’t know,” Rivers said. “We’ll see. We just finished this game so I’m not thinking about it [yet]. I will say this guys, this lineup stuff you talk about, it lasts for four minutes. Then we switch the lineup [with substitutions]. It’s the whole game that matters. I could start everybody on our bench [Saturday in Milwaukee]. You think it’s going to matter at the end of the game? Really, that’s the way I think. Clearly, you guys don’t think that’s way but that’s how I think.”
Rivers started the first two games with a lineup of Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass. In the next three games, including Friday against the Sixers, he started Jared Sullinger in place of Bass.
“I don’t think who starts matters,” Rivers continued. “It’s who plays well, who plays the most minutes. That’s what we’re focused on. I don’t think a guy in our locker room gives a flying crap about who’s starting.
“You have to find the right group. I think we have that. We’re just not playing well. The thing that’s hurting us right now is when Kevin is going off the floor. It happened again tonight. I thought in the second half it was better. Chris Wilcox gave us a lift. But right now, if y’all want to focus on something, that’s what you should focus on, is what are we going to do when Kevin goes off the floor in the first half. Every time we do it, and we have to do it, we’re struggling.
“And that’s on me. I have to figure that out because he’s not going to be on the floor. He’s coming out and he’s coming out at an exact time. We have to figure out something to make us click, and I think it’s on both ends. I don’t think it’s just our defense going down. I think our offense really struggles when he goes out. We have to do something about it.”
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|Bad Jeff Green is a sad Jeff Green||11.09.12 at 11:43 pm ET|
After shooting just 1-of-5 from the field and scoring four points in 18 minutes off the bench during a 100-94 loss to the 76ers, Celtics forward Jeff Green gave a few curt responses during his postgame press conference, eventually offering a “mmm-hmm” to one final question before catching the team’s flight to Milwaukee.
After scoring three points in the season opener, Green tallied 22 points over his next two games before netting just 10 points in 40 minutes over his past two — a drastic drop from his stellar preseason play. On Thursday, Danny Ainge expressed his disappointment in Green’s adjustment, and Friday was coach Doc Rivers‘ turn.
“It’s a dilemma, but he’s going to be a good player for us this year,” said Rivers. “And sooner rather than later, I’m hoping. We’ve just got to unlock him. Right now, he’s just absolutely frustrated; you can see it in his play. But that’s on all of us; it’s not just on Jeff. Jeff’s the easy target right now. Jeff’s part of this team, just like everyone else, and we have to do a better job of getting him going. He’s probably got to do a better job of getting himself going.”
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, in his weekly interview on WEEI’s “Big Show,” acknowledged that his team’s play has been uneven in the early going of the season en route to a 2-2 record. However, Ainge also noted that it is not unusual for a team that’s gone through considerable offseason changes to endure some growing pains at the start of the year during which the team’s talent isn’t necessarily reflected in the quality of its play or record.
“I hope it doesn’t take a while. I feel like we’re playing very good in stretches, but we’re just having some ugly stretches. I think that all the guys playing together has not been pretty at times, but we’ve had some good stretches. We’ve got to hang on to those, hope those outlast the bad stretches for now as we continue to improve into the season,” said Ainge. “The other guys, the new guys, really have to find their way and earn the trust of the team.
“Generally it takes a while to figure out who your team is. This year’s not different than any other year. Last year, we started 0-3. As time went by, I think a month and a half into the season no one thought the team was going to be good,” he continued. “We’re not playing as well as we’re capable of, but I do think you see good things out of each player, and I also see how difficult it is to get each of the players involved. That’s always a challenge.”
Ainge did acknowledge that Jeff Green, averaging 7.8 points and 2.0 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game, is still searching for his fit on the Celtics roster.
“We haven’t really figured out Jeff and when to use Jeff or felt an urgency to go to Jeff,” said Ainge. “I think that Jeff has had some favorable matchups through the course of the game, but at the same time our main offensive sets that go through [Rajon] Rondo and Paul [Pierce] and [Kevin Garnett] are working. There’s not really a need to change what we’re doing to go there.
“I think Jeff has been inconsistent in his production and just trying to find his way. I think him more than any other player, is just trying to find where he contributes. What we need from Jeff, is we need him to play that great defense, rebound every night. There’s going to be nights where he can get that 20 points off the bench, and some nights where his number isn’t called that much,” he added. “He’s been fairly productive when we’ve called his number, but he hasn’t been a productive playing off the ball and playing off of our stars.” Read the rest of this entry »