Jeff Green hasn't asserted himself like everyone hoped.
The Boston Celtics were somewhat of a feel-good story to start the season, sitting at 12-14 with a roster of spare parts and their best player sitting on the sidelines. The season has not been without disappointment, though.
They've lost five of their last six games and tumbled to 13-19 with a dangerous upcoming schedule. Their next seven games will feature five of the top six teams in the Western Conference. There are a lot of losses about to pile up on this still shaky Celtics team, and good feelings will undoubtedly start to fade.
The good thing about disappointment is that it can be temporary, before a decision or experience changes the feeling in a positive way. The Celtics still have some work to do before the disappointments of their season are rectified.
On the surface, it is tough to say that the Boston Celtics' leading scorer this season has been a disappointment.
However, Jeff Green's 15.8 points per game have simply not answered the call to being Boston's top offensive option this year. With Paul Pierce and even Rajon Rondo out of the way, the chance was there for Green to grab hold of this team and score in bunches, like he had been doing in limited minutes.
He is only 0.6 points better per 36 minutes than he was last year, when he spent a ton of time as a backup with the basketball regularly floating between Rondo, Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
The opportunity has been there for him to assert himself on a regular basis, but Green still feels more comfortable only doing so on rare occasions. When a defender falls asleep on the perimeter, Green is ready to make him look bad with an easy lane for a highlight dunk. However, possession after possession, he is proving to be incapable of taking over the scoring load.
He may be averaging 15.8 points per game, but over the last eight contests, Green has scored north of 13 points just once. The Celtics are 3-5 during that stretch, with one win coming in the game he scored 19.
It is a shame, really, because Green definitely gets it. He is a passionate player who at least thinks he is giving his all each night.
“Offensively, I played like poop,” Green told Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe, after an eight-point performance recently.
This disappointment has stemmed from all the way back at the beginning of this season, when the Boston Celtics dropped very winnable games against the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks to start 0-2.
Boston was tied with Toronto entering the fourth quarter, while Milwaukee needed a 34-15 final frame to defeat them. The issue continued two games later, as the Celtics dropped another game they should have won against the Memphis Grizzlies, courtesy of a 13-point fourth-quarter drubbing.
Fast-forward to their recent loss against the Atlanta Hawks, and we see the Celtics leap out to a 19-4 start and lead 42-24 at one point of the game. However, they then fell 92-91, continuing the disappointing trend of blowing big leads.
It was the third time in their last five games that they had blown a big lead and lost. The other two games involved blowing a big lead, but beating the Cleveland Cavaliers by three and of course losing to the Indiana Pacers.
The main argument here is that the Celtics don't have a close-out star. A player who will keep scoring to get his 20 points, even when the team is up big and content to coast. When the Celtics get content to coast, everyone coasts, and they aren't good enough to win while coasting.
“What we want to do is get up 18-20 and push it to 24-26 when the other team starts quitting,” Kris Humphries told Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe. However, that isn't what they have been doing.
Part of this problem may be artificially created by opponents as well. Teams coming in that take Boston for granted may get burned early on. The Celtics aren't that bad of a team and have players who will score and take advantage of lazy, disinterested teams. However, when those teams turn it on, they can defeat Boston handily if given enough time.
Prior to the season, Boston Celtics fans would love to tell you about Rajon Rondo's toughness and how he would never do what Derrick Rose had done last season.
However, that almost expected early return has pretty much fallen by the wayside at this point. We are rapidly approaching one year since Rondo went under the knife for his ACL surgery. While he still has a ways to go before the Rose comparisons come, it is a little disappointing that we haven't seen him play yet.
The real disappointing news came straight from the source.
"It might be mid-January, late February, I’m going to come back when the time is right and I get my stamina," Rondo told Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe in late December.
It is wonderful to know that he is taking this so seriously and considering everything before making his comeback. Still, not watching him play basketball for a full year is disappointing.
The Boston Celtics have a lot of work to do in order to make this roster a contender. Most of that work should fall on president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.
Ainge has the responsibility of fielding a winning team for Brad Stevens and his staff to coach up and the players to work hard and improve. However, for those secondary and tertiary things to happen, Ainge must first complete his task. Since the big trade with the Brooklyn Nets this past offseason, the Celtics haven't made moves to better themselves.
They were recently heavily involved in talks to trade for Houston Rockets center Omer Asik. According to Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski, the trade was on the verge of happening before someone got cold feet. His reports got everyone in Boston worked up and intrigued, only to be left hanging like Tom Brady after a high-five request.
“When you read our name out there, sometimes it’s true and sometimes it’s not,” Ainge told 98.5 The Sports Hub, according to The Boston Globe. “I think the reports are embellished, but we are having discussions and seeing what’s out there.”
As long as Ainge is still on the prowl, the chances are good that something will happen. It is just a bit disappointing that it hasn't happened yet.
If there was any part of the Paul Pierce era that fans didn't like, it was the hero-ball, last-second isolation plays that the Boston Celtics would run to try to win games at the buzzer.
With Pierce in Brooklyn, it was thought that that era was over. However, with four seconds remaining and the team down one to the Atlanta Hawks, the Celtics got almost zero movement and a tightly-contested Jordan Crawford jumper.
There were no picks set for a running Crawford off the inbounds pass. Courtney Lee sprinted meaninglessly across the baseline, while two others stood in their corners with the inbounds passer soon joining them.
A week prior to that, Boston dropped a 107-106 contest to the Detroit Pistons. Brandon Bass wanted to take the game-winner this time, but got caught on an island while dribbling too much, forcing Brad Stevens to take another timeout with about five seconds left.
The call then was to have Jeff Green drive on one of the best defenders in the NBA and try to get a shot over the outstretched arm of Josh Smith. If you didn't watch, you can probably guess how that one finished.
Even in wins against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat, the closing plan was sketchy. Jared Sullinger missed everything on a long three with 20 seconds left and his team up two on the Cavaliers, forcing a shot-clock violation and giving Cleveland a chance to win. Green's buzzer-beater against Miami was an amazing shot, but heavily hinged on LeBron James letting Green walk away from him unguarded for two seconds.
Stevens has been great overall in his first year, but there are things that will take some time to learn, and this type of game-planning may be one of those items.
‘‘I'm glad we still had time left on the clock,’’ Stevens told the AP after the Miami game. ‘‘It is proof that in this game if you score quickly, you are going to have a chance to at least shoot the ball if the other team misses free throws."
He has the first part of it down, and with reps the rest will come.