Toward the end of the Celtics' remarkable 2012 Eastern Conference Finals playoff run (that restored Celtic Pride), he couldn't carry the team. Doc Rivers signaled as much when he had Brandon Bass cover LeBron James in Game 7 of the Finals. Jeff Green's absence had finally proven to be too much.
In 2007, Green was coming off a remarkable NCAA run with the Georgetown Hoyas and scouts were drooling about his versatility. He was a load in the post, he could pass out of the post and he could stretch the defense with his jumper and ability to drive to the hoop.
At that moment, I envisioned him as a replacement for Pierce. He has more length, a better jump shot and is more athletic with better foot speed. It took four years before Uncle Jeff wearing a Celtic uniform became a reality; which came with some controversy and slight resentment.
He was the man that had the unenviable job of taking Kendrick Perkins' place. Perk will always be a Celtic in the fans' eyes no matter what uniform he wears. This placed unfair expectations on Jeff and turned a blind eye to Perks' limitations. All of this made for a very tentative player who was unsure of where he fit in.
Jeff had at once been part of a trade that brought banner 17 and the destroyer of Doc Rivers "never been defeated in the NBA Finals" starting five. That was a lot of pressure to step into.
The most noteworthy fifth pick in the NBA draft that I remember seeing play was Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls. No one thought he would be any more than a journeyman. I am not saying that the fifth pick in the 2007 NBA draft will be that caliber of a player, but he may just be a notch below.
Jeff Green never had the opportunity to have the offense run through him on the pro level. He had the misfortune of being in the same draft class and team as the reigning scoring champ, Kevin Durant. Let's not forget "I need to prove I can score like Durant" Russell Westbrook. His role was to just fit in; he wasn't required to create for anyone and essentially did the same thing as Harden. He became expendable because Serge Ibaka needed to get on the floor.
He has tremendous athleticism; however, his approach to the game is very cerebral. This approach can make for a long and productive NBA career. He catches a lot of his opponents of guard with his ability to get off his feet quickly. He does a much better job than the Captain with that move.
The beauty of "Uncle Jeff's" game is Doc and Danny not asking him to change his game. They are asking him to let his play make him part of the conversation on small forwards in the NBA. Boston will then be able to boast that they have two of the top-15 small forwards in the NBA on their roster.
There may be an added benefit for Paul Pierce; this may force him to come into camp in the best shape of his life. Pierce has never been challenged for his spot; Danny, however, has signaled all that is about to change with Green now being a Celtic.
Pierce is about to face the reality that he may also have to start adjusting mentally to coming off the bench. Danny Ainge has finalized the Jeff Green deal and he is gaining fast on PP's starting position. It is now up to Uncle Jeff to prove that he is the future Celtic small forward.
He will never surpass James and Anthony, but the hope is that he will give them a run for their money.
Green has never been asked to play a major role and his free agent deal, as reported on csnne.com, shows that this is about to change. Jeff had not proven anything on the court before his surgery, and what makes Danny think he will be better now?
Green will earn his stripes; to paraphrase Kevin Garnett: through "grit and balls." Watching how the team conducted itself in the playoffs may have given him the formula on how to do so. He all but said that he does in this Celtics.com interview shown in video window above with Jessica Camerato.
The value of having Pierce and Green on the same roster will show if Boston meets LeBron or Carmelo Anthony and company in the 2013 playoffs.
Everything is right for Jeff Green to be part of a championship core; it is up to him to seize the moment.