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Green’s turn has come

More at ease in Celtics system, he feels ready to help

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / April 29, 2011

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WALTHAM — It was a whirlwind at first, moving to a new team, a new city, learning a new set of plays, all as a demanding fan base showed its skepticism. Jeff Green’s life changed. His role changed. He was asked to be a different player, to provide energy off the bench, to fill a void the Celtics thought they had as they marched down the stretch to the postseason.

It wasn’t always simple. It certainly wasn’t smooth. And now, with a difficult second-round matchup against the Heat looming, Green will have to prove that he can do more than he did in the first round against the Knicks — that he can justify the trade that brought him into a sometimes uneasy situation in Boston.

“It was tough at first,’’ said Green, who went from playing 37 minutes per game with Oklahoma City to coming off the bench in Boston. “It was like being in a tornado.

“So much is thrown at you, you’re going in circles, so much stuff coming at you in a period of time. It’s tough. But the team here helped me along the way. I made some mistakes, but they helped me out.’’

Now it’s his turn to help them out.

“It’s important to try to come off the bench and bring that energy right away,’’ Green said. “[The starters] do such a great job with getting the team started. It would be a tough position to come out lackadaisical and let the team back in. So I try to do the best I can to try to continue the success that the first unit has brought to the table.’’

Part of that will be with his defense, spelling Paul Pierce on LeBron James. He got Carmelo Anthony relief duty against the Knicks, and got better as the games went on, with coach Doc Rivers praising his effort in the final two games of the series.

“I thought Jeff did great the last couple games,’’ said Rivers. “I thought he played well. He’s doing a lot of things that we need him to do, so he’s starting to get comfortable.’’

Even when bodying up to some of the bigger offensive talents in the Eastern Conference.

“He didn’t get frustrated with Carmelo, even though he got in foul trouble and things like that,’’ said Glen Davis. “He just has a positive attitude about everything.

“I’m just glad he’s on our team. He’s so young, and hopefully we can stay here and play together. Jeff is a great teammate. He’s coming along on this team really, really well.

“He’s just got to keep his head up and keep practicing and everything will work out for him.’’

That hasn’t always been possible for Green, though. There have been stops and starts. There have been mistakes. It has taken time to learn the plays and build the chemistry and make it all work.

“It’s been tough trying to pick up all the plays, the strategies,’’ he said. “I try to quickly do it the best I can. When I do an assignment wrong, I get mad at myself. It’s positive criticism for myself. Just remember things a little bit quicker.’’

It makes sense, then, that the first thing Davis said when asked what he has noticed about Green in their time together was “his intensity.’’

He added, “The way he posts up. Things like that, and how he plays so hard.’’

That will be tested against Miami and James, with the bench players needing to be more involved and more successful than they were against New York, especially early in that first-round series.

Green must continue with that intensity, bringing energy, being aggressive, helping Davis lead the second team — all things that should be aided by the week of practice between the final game of the Knicks series and the start of the Heat series.

At times, Green said, the lack of practice time down the stretch was an issue for him. This week, the Celtics hope, should take care of that.

The goal is to make Green comfortable, to make him successful, to find a way for it all to come together and for him to be the player the Celtics sought in the trade.

“Certain things kind of clicked at different times,’’ Green said. “I think that the Knicks series, I kind of set the tone for myself, how I need to play.

“Everything is not perfect, as I want it to be. But I’m getting there.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmalieBenjamin.

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