Green's play has been less than Celtics fans hoped for so far, but it will come.
There is a lot of pressure on Jeff Green. The expectations for him this season, after an entire year missed following surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm, are ridiculously high.
To be honest, he hasn’t lived up to them at all so far. That’s a fact. But the many Boston Celtics fans that believe he never will couldn’t be more wrong.
The season is young, and there is plenty of time for Green to find his place on a Celtics squad that he has been a part of, but unable to contribute to, for almost two years. Boston fans are overly anxious for him to break out, after the hype surrounding his arrival and the big contract he signed a few months ago.
It will take time, but Green will live up to that contract. Here are five reasons why.
By inking Green to a big contract in August, coach Doc Rivers and GM Danny Ainge clearly showed they have faith in Green.
The Celtics paid a high price to bring Green to Boston, and they’ve made another big investment to keep him.
The 2011 trade that made Green a Celtic involved shipping Kendrick Perkins, a starter and vital piece of the Celtics’ 2008 and 2010 championship runs, to the Oklahoma City Thunder. After missing a year following his heart surgery, Green was given a four-year, $36 million deal during the 2012 offseason.
Of course, none of that guarantees he’ll be successful. What it does do, however, is guarantee that he’ll have ample opportunity to prove himself.
For better or for worse, the Celtics are committed to Green. Even if he struggles early on, there’s no way the Celtics will give up on him before giving him plenty of time to turn things around.
Over time, the pressure on him will subside, and Green will be able to come into his own. As long as that means he starts to produce consistently for Boston, Celtics fans will forget all about his early struggles.
The Celtics would like to see Green's play return to the level it was at in Oklahoma City.
The fact that Green played so well in the preseason, averaging nearly 14 points in about 30 minutes per game, has been beaten to death. Clearly, it has not carried seamlessly over to his regular season play, where he is averaging less than eight points in just over 20 minutes per game.
However, that preseason success is still relevant.
It shows, post-surgery, that Green has still got it. The Celtics will eventually see the guy they traded for—the one that averaged more than 15 points in over 37 minutes per game during his last season and a half with the Thunder. Green was a confident, versatile and effective starting player in Oklahoma City, and his preseason performance showed he still can be one.
Green simply has not adjusted well to the spotlight in Boston. But with the talent that his preseason play showed he still has, there is absolutely no reason to believe that that won’t change very soon.
Green notched a season-high 12 points against Milwaukee on Saturday.
Though he took a step back in the Celtics’ most recent win against the Chicago Bulls, thanks to a mild ankle sprain that limited his action, Green looked the best he has all season in the team’s previous win against the Milwaukee Bucks.
As Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe writes, Green’s encouraging performance in that game was sparked by a play in which he went hard to the basket and attempted to dunk. Green drew a foul on the play and, more importantly, exhibited the aggressiveness that Celtics fans are so desperate to see out of him.
Green went on to score ten points in the second half, totaling a season-high of 12 in the game.
Unfortunately, the tweaked ankle against the Bulls prevented us from seeing if Green could build off of that encouraging performance, but at least it showed that things are headed in the right direction.
Garnett will attempt to transfer some of his legendary intensity to Green this season.
Not only is Kevin Garnett the 17th-best scorer the NBA has ever seen—he passed Allen Iverson to assume that position during Monday’s game against Chicago—he also knows what kind of attitude Green needs to succeed.
“You know, Jeff’s a really, really nice guy, and some nights, you know, you’ve just got to be an (expletive). You’ve got to be . . . I can’t really say what I want to say, but he’s got to be that.”
The general consensus is that for Green to succeed, he has to break out of his shell and be aggressive, looking to score more often and playing more physical defense. Has there been a better player in the history of basketball to teach that type of style than KG?
Green will have the opportunity to work with and learn from Garnett for three more seasons, as the Celtics extended the aging star’s contract in July. If even just a little bit of KG’s intensity can rub off on his 26-year-old understudy, Green and the Celtics will benefit greatly.
Green seems determined to become the kind of player Celtics fans are desperate for.
Having his teammates, coaches and fans telling him to be more aggressive is great. A mentor like Garnett is even better. But, ultimately, the only person who can make Jeff Green succeed is Jeff Green.
Though he’s a quieter type and generally isn’t especially vocal in the media, Green has made it clear that he knows what he has to do. In Bulpett's piece, Green offered this response to KG's remarks:
“It’s just something I’ve got to do. I can’t really think about it. It’s got to be a part of how I play. You’ve just got to be aggressive, because if I’m aggressive it’ll open up things for everybody else.”
Green is fully aware of what he has to do, and given time, he will get it done.
Thanks to the contract the Celtics gave him, the pressure on him right now is enormous. But Green has the skill set and the support to live up to it, and as this season progresses, he’ll do just that.