With the pending departure of Celtics captain Paul Pierce on the horizon, many fans will be looking to Jeff Green to fill the sneakers of the Boston mainstay for at least the near future and hopefully the long term as well.
Pierce’s shoes are certainly big ones to fill.
There is no doubt that his No. 34 will one day hang in the rafters amongst all of the Green Team’s legends, which is the biggest honor that can bestowed upon a Celtics player.
And for Pierce, it is well-deserved. He owns a myriad of team records and is the franchise’s second all-time leading scorer behind John Havilcek. He is also second to Larry Bird in Celtics career scoring average.
Any time you can be mentioned in the same sentence as Hondo and Larry Legend, you know you’ve had a great career. Throw in the fact that Pierce is a 10-time All-Star, an NBA Finals MVP and a bona fide Hall of Famer and it will certainly not be the easiest transition for the young Georgetown alum.
Jeff Green’s talent and potential are undeniable. We saw glimpses this season of just how dominant he can be on any given night.
James would ultimately score 37 of his own, including the go-ahead basket at the end of regulation to seal the deal for the Heat, but fans walked away from that game knowing that the Celts have a legitimate budding superstar on the roster.
The problem for Green has been consistency. Couple that with the fact that some of his best games during the regular season came while Kevin Garnett was out due to injury and it was hard to gain a complete understanding of how he could ultimately fit into the lineup.
He definitely seemed to thrive as a starter and, should Danny Ainge make the move to trade The Truth, will be thrust into Pierce's spot.
Many analysts have also questioned if Green has the same natural killer instinct that Pierce has exhibited throughout his Celtics career.
At times this season, it seemed as though head coach Doc Rivers was desperately trying to pull that side out of him. Yet there were other times when Green showed his merciless side, knocking down big shots in pressure situations—particularly in Game 5 of the playoffs against the Knicks.
Green has not yet been given the opportunity during his NBA career to be "the guy." If Pierce is ultimately traded, then he will certainly be pushed into that role.
Even though it may not be the flawless transition fans are hoping for, Green Teamers should take solace in the fact that Green has the potential to be the best player on the court on any given night.
It’s certainly sad to see Pierce go, but it will be exciting to see what Green can ultimately do for this team. His inconsistencies this year will certainly lead many to question whether or not he can be that type of franchise player.
It must be remembered, though, that Green was coming off of major heart surgery and missed an entire season. Not only did he have to adapt to a new team essentially, he also had acclimate himself to simply playing the game of basketball again.
As the season went on, fans got to see Green gain confidence with each game back and having a more solidly defined role this upcoming season will only help his progress.
Many have speculated on Rivers' role in a possible rebuilding stage for this team. Ainge recently stated (via The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn) that the Celtics coach would be coming back next season, quashing any rumors that had been floating around previously.
One theory for him staying may be that he knows he has something here with the young combination of Green and Rajon Rondo. Garnett has previously said that he believes Green will ultimately be one of the best players to ever play the game.
Could that be Doc’s feeling as well?
Amid the doom and gloom that have been thrown out there regarding this team’s future, Green should be looked at as a bright spot. Will he have the same impact that Pierce had on this organization over the past 14 years? It’s way too early to tell.
One thing is for certain, though. He has the potential to be everything Pierce was and then some.
Potential, however, will only get you so far. It’s up to Green whether or not he wants his number hanging in the rafters next to the captain’s.