|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.
|Al Jefferson: ‘I would’ve traded me for Kevin Garnett, too’ and other memories of Rajon Rondo and the 2006-07 Celtics||at 1:40 pm ET|
During the 2006-07 NBA season, when the Celtics finished last in the Atlantic Division and earned the No. 5 overall pick (Jeff Green) that became Ray Allen trade bait and eventually altered the franchise’s future, I bought a ticket to the Garden for $8. Eight dollars. Even on a measly sportswriter’s salary, that was a bargain.
As Tommy Heinsohn said, the young core of Al Jefferson, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen and Delonte West consisted of players who were “like puppies: Every time you saw them, you wanted to pet them.”
“We used to have a lot of laughs together, because when I was here, things weren’t going too well as far as winning,” Jefferson said. “But we always had the locker room live with me, [Rondo], Tony Allen, Kendrick Perkins and Delonte West. We all kept it live, and we were fun guys to be around. In the time we were here, when we were losing, we hardly ever got blown out. It was always close games, but we were just such a young team, we didn’t know how to finish those games. I knew if we could’ve stayed together, things could’ve got better for us.”
Considering how those players evolved — a double-double machine (Jefferson), a three-time NBA All-Star point guard (Rondo), a first-team All-Defensive wing (Allen), a starting center on a title team (Perkins) and one tough motherbleeper (West) — that team would’ve gotten better. Those Celtics wouldn’t have won a title in 2008, but you can see why some folks (wrongfully) thought twice about trading Jefferson as the centerpiece of a fairly famous 2007 trade.
“If I were Danny Ainge,” said Jefferson, “I would’ve traded me for Kevin Garnett, too.”
|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.
|Al Jefferson on Celtics: ‘If that situation were to happen, I’d love to do that again’||at 7:27 pm ET|
Talk about full circle.
If you’re a Celtics fan wouldn’t it be something if the Celtics were somehow able to land Al Jefferson in free agency next season? The man most famous for being the biggest chip that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston in the summer of 2007 spoke before taking on his former team Wednesday at the Garden. He forced the first overtime of Utah’s 140-133 triple-overtime win over Toronto Monday night with a rebound and a 3-pointer.
A lot of things would have to fall into place. First, Jefferson would have to turn down what he considers to be a situation in Salt Lake City that he says compares very favorably to Boston.
“We haven’t had any conversations,” Jefferson said before his match up with the Celtics Wednesday night. “This is all about going out and taking care of business. If I go out and take care of my business, everything else will work itself out. I’m not really concerned about it.”
Jefferson is making $15 million in the final year of his deal in Utah.
“I want to be in the NBA,” Jefferson said. “When both teams want me, that’s when I need to start worrying. Right now, I just want to be in the NBA, I want to be with the Utah Jazz to be honest with you. I’d love to stay in Utah. They do things the right way, kind of remind me of Boston, first class. They do everything the right way. They have to do what’s best for their team and I have to do what’s best for my family. Right now, it’s all about winning and getting back to the playoffs.
“I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. You really don’t want to think too far ahead. You have to take care of business day-by-day. If I do my part, everything will work out.”
As for Boston?
“This is my first home,” he said with a big smile. “This will always be my home away from home. Danny Ainge gave me a chance when nobody else did. If that situation were to happen, I’d love to do that again. But right now, like I said, it’s all about taking care of business and finishing out the season right.”
Last year, Doc Rivers took his former big man to dinner. This year?
“Nah, screw Al,” Rivers laughed. “I don’t have time for him. He’s too good now. I didn’t. It’s just a tough trip.”
Jefferson is averaging 15.8 points and 11 rebounds and has started all eight games for the Jazz this year. So much has changed for Jefferson, who has had his share of terrible injury luck, including blowing out his knee in Minnesota in three non-playoff seasons there before finally getting a taste of the playoffs last season with the Jazz.
“It was always a rebuilding year in Minnesota,” Jefferson said. “It’s just been great to get to the Jazz, where it’s just like Boston – all about winning. They always have winning in mind. Danny’s probably thinking right now of a way to win five years from now. That’s just the way it is [in Boston] and that’s the way it is in Utah.”
“He just keeps getting better and better,” Rivers said. “The thing I thought I’d never say about Al is he’s becoming a better passer, and I’m very happy about that for him. He just keeps working on his game.
“I think he hit that one little stretch, where he lost a lot and you can see he’s fought through that now. I think making that playoff run, he was a big part of it last year, has kind of restoked him, and it’s good. He’s a heck of a guy.”
|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.
|Kevin Garnett finding out ‘who’s willing to fight’||11.10.12 at 11:15 am ET|
Rajon Rondo said it: “It’s chaos” when KG sits on the bench.
Perhaps more than his physical presence, the Celtics miss his voice on the defensive end. Forget Ronald Reagan, KG is The Great Communicator, and Paul Pierce said it: Without Garnett, “you just have to talk it out.” So, as I’m sure your wife or girlfriend has told you a million times, it’s all about communication and a little effort, and in these “grind days” of the early season Garnett is finding out who’s willing to show the love.
“I try to teach the things that I know to some of the younger guys, if not anybody,” said KG following the C’s 100-94 loss to the 76ers that dropped their record to 2-3. “The things that I know have been over the course over a couple decades. I’ve understood actually how to play this game, understood my role at this point of my career. A lot of the things are just how hard I’m doing it. I talk very loud. I’m continuous with some of the things that I do. …
“But the things that I know are through experience. Trying to give that to a younger guy or somebody who hasn’t played in the league that long is difficult at times, but I try to lead by example. Anybody that’s looking to learn, I’m always open to teach. Nobody said this was going to be easy. Sometimes the darker days and your harder days are some of the most obvious days. It shows you who’s with you, who’s willing to fight, who’s willing to be in the hole with you, so this is showing a lot.”
|Irish Coffee: Celtics no longer intimidate NBA dregs||11.09.12 at 8:37 am ET|
When Jeff Green suggested “teams are no longer scared” of the Celtics after they lost to the Bucks, it seemed to be his interpretation of Kevin Garnett‘s postgame “pack of hyenas” speech. Under Doc Rivers in the KG era, the C’s earned a reputation for playing defense with an edge, and without it they’re just another basketball team.
So, when even 19-year-old rookies born in the Bill Clinton era don’t fear the Celtics, who will?
“We know they’re vulnerable,” said Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, the NBA’s third overall draft pick in 2012. “We know that they are an aggressive team, but they are a lot older then we are, so we are going to try and wear them down. They have a decent bench, and their bench comes in and gives them immediate scoring — everybody has the green light. So, our plan is basically to wear them down and keep pushing the ball in transition and make sure our pick-and-roll defense is what it needs to be, especially on Paul Pierce.”
Beal wasn’t the only Washingtonian unfazed by the Garden banners or Celtics mystique. If the current C’s players can’t get inside the heads of NBA newcomers or make them think twice about driving the lane, then they’re no longer hyenas on the hunt. Instead, Wizards and Bucks smell blood in the water.
Take Kevin Seraphin as Exhibit B. In two games against the Celtics, the 22-year-old product of France has totaled 35 points and 16 rebounds. So, when Garnett trapped him in the corner late in the fourth quarter, drew an offensive foul and tried to snatch the ball away from him after the whistle, he wasn’t intimidated, resulting in a Garnett technical and an 84-82 Wizards lead with 1:07 remaining. Who’s in whose head now?
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