The Los Angeles Lakers have devolved into a big ole mess, dropping four of five to start the season as rumors of coach Mike Brown's permanence abound. Their 2008 and 2010 NBA Finals collaborators, the veteran Boston Celtics, are also in the midst of an uneasy start. The team has split its first two contests, heading into Friday night's game against the Philadelphia 76ers. Yes, the team has chipped out a 2-2 record, but both wins came against the Washington Wizards. The Wizards, man. Wizards.
With those monumental conquests in place, Celtics GM Danny Ainge took to the airwaves to muse aloud about the use and production of hybrid forward Jeff Green; the player that Ainge traded starting center Kendrick Perkins for 21 months ago, and one that Ainge curiously bid against absolutely no-one in signing to a four-year, $36 million deal during last summer's offseason. Green, who has actually played reasonably well after missing all four of his looks during Boston's season opener against the Miami Heat, wasn't exactly the focus of Ainge's ire, but it is apparent Danny's looking for a little bit more.
"We haven't really figured out Jeff and when to use Jeff or felt an urgency to go to Jeff," said Ainge. "I think that Jeff has had some favorable matchups through the course of the game, but at the same time our main offensive sets that go through [Rajon] Rondo and Paul [Pierce] and [Kevin Garnett] are working. There's not really a need to change what we're doing to go there.
"I think Jeff has been inconsistent in his production and just trying to find his way. I think him more than any other player, is just trying to find where he contributes. What we need from Jeff, is we need him to play that great defense, rebound every night. There's going to be nights where he can get that 20 points off the bench, and some nights where his number isn't called that much," he added. "He's been fairly productive when we've called his number, but he hasn't been a productive playing off the ball and playing off of our stars."
Asked if Green has been too passive, Ainge described the subject as "a hard call. He has to find a way, we have to find a way, to allow him to contribute more. … In time he will figure it out and we'll all figure it out."
Again, Danny isn't slamming Green here; but this is an early indication of what we worried about from the Celtics both when they traded for Green (during what they hoped was a championship run in 2010-11), and re-signed him last summer.
Namely, what do they expect from the guy?
There is nothing, save for a blip of a season in 2008-09, that suggests Green should be tossing in the occasional 20-point night off the bench. He simply isn't a strong enough shooter or finisher to pull that off, especially in limited minutes. Even working on that Thunder team in 2009, with Russell Westbrook still finding his way and the league's 29th-ranked offense badly looking for easy scores, Green managed just 16.5 points in 37 minutes a contest. He'll play just over half as long, per night, with Boston. This isn't to say that one or perhaps two 20-point nights could roll down the pike this season, but to put this sort of pressure on Green is ridiculous.
Derrick McKey (Getty Images)And, frankly, Green's last three games haven't been that bad. Yes, two-thirds came against the Wizards — the Wizards, man — but he's averaging just under double figure points while making over half his shots in about 21 minutes per contest. Just two rebounds a game, yeah, but he's never been a strong rebounder at either forward position. He's consistently been Jeff Green, and everyone but Ainge seems to have the same idea of what "Jeff Green" is at this point.
Former Seattle SuperSonic and Indiana Pacer Derrick McKey is the reference I keep going to with Green. A lanky would-be defender that could occasionally hit a long corner jumper or finish off of a broken play. Putting the pressures of that contract aside, those payroll numbers aren't Green's fault, this is an existence that Jeff could easily work his way into.
If Ainge was hoping to see some sort of slashing, scoring youngster to put his team over the top? It was never going to be Jeff Green, if Green's past is any indication; and on top of that, saying anything short of "we have 78 games to go" in response to anything at this point is silly.
Appreciate the candor, Danny, and the potential you see in Jeff. At some point, though, those expectations are going to have to align with reality, as we let Green figure his way out in Doc Rivers' offense.