Jeff Green is officially who the Boston Celtics thought he was.
After a tremulous start to the campaign, Green has emerged as the face of the future for a Boston team with an otherwise indiscernible one.
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce's reign in Beantown is going to end. Soon. The Rajon Rondo era isn't so much guaranteed as it is entangled in ambiguity. And Avery Bradley is, more or less, nine years Tony Allen's junior, a prolific complementary piece who will never shoulder the encumbrances of an entire franchise by his lonesome.
Just as the balance of power in the NBA has shifted over the last few years, so has the equilibrium in Boston.
The Celtics will make the playoffs this season. Hopefully, they'll even be able to avoid the Miami Heat in the first round. But after that, what is there? This team isn't in position to win a title this year. A Cinderella-esque run isn't out of the question, but plagued by injuries and adorned with two aging stars, Boston has never looked more out of place over the last six years than it does now.
Danny Ainge was supposed to have preserved the state and the status of this team. The $70-plus million the Celtics committed to their roster would serve not as a stopgap, but a solution the team could ride into the post-Garnett and Pierce era.
Left battered by an influx of injuries (Rondo, Jared Sullinger) and stricken with a bad case of underperforming (Courtney Lee, Jason Terry), Boston is instead attempting to stave off the Milwaukee Bucks. Not contend for an Atlantic Division title or a top-four spot in the Eastern Conference, but the Bucks. The eighth-place Bucks.
Through the fragments of a season gone askance, there is Green. A balefire of hope if there ever was one.
Green's return to the hardwood was always inspirational, but prior to the All-Star break, his performance was not. He was averaging 10.3 points and 3.3 rebounds on 44.3 percent shooting per night. While his campaign wasn't the worst of Boston's exertions, it was the most concerning.
The Celtics had invested four years and $36 million in Green, not so he could put up pedestrian numbers, but so he could represent the second of two stars (Rondo) they would configure future teams around. He wasn't that player. Not at the time.
Now he is.
Since the break, Green is averaging 17.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 blocks per game on 50.7 percent shooting from the floor and 43.3 percent from deep. The confidence he's played with, the manner in which he's carried himself is astounding. He's playing like a featured scorer, like a cornerstone, because he is.
Green has joined the starting lineup (seven-straight games) and is coming off a 34-point performance against the Detroit Pistons. That 43-point outburst against the Heat is still fresh in our minds as well.
There have been impinges, yes. Lackluster performances against the Memphis Grizzlies and the Minnesota Timberwolves come to mind. For the most part, though, Green's transition into a more prominent role, as a more pronounced figure has gone smoothly since the break. And his insertion into the starting lineup is no exception.
In the seven-consecutive starts Green has received, he's averaging 21.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, one steal and 1.3 blocks per game on 53.3 percent shooting (50 percent from three). Boston is 3-4 in such contests but that's not the point. It hardly is when we're evaluating a player's future.
Green is still developing. He's yet to hit the peak of his ceiling. Which, for the Celtics, is great. He's someone we can believe in, someone we need to believe him.
This isn't the same player who began the season. He's gone through the motions and remnants of an insecure scorer (offensive hesitancy) still remain.
But with every rim he attacks, point he scores, rebound he grabs and shot he blocks, there's hope. For the Celtics and for Green, there's hope.
A belief that Green is who the Celtics traded for, who they signed over the summer.
That he is who we thought he was.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports, 82games.com and NBA.com unless otherwise noted.
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