After three less than stellar performances to open the season, it didn't take the Boston Celtics long to flip the general mood of the fan base on its head. Before 4% of the season has been played, the Celtics have managed to turn themselves from a deep, experienced title contender, to an underachieving amalgam of pieces that don't fit. And we haven't even had Thanksgiving dinner yet!
I can't say I blame Celtics fans for their concern. After a semi-promising opening night against the Heat (they scored over 100 points against a good defense, amiright?), the Celtics were dismantled in front of a packed TD Garden for their home opener, and submitted a lackluster performance in a win over Washington that they would have blown if every member of the Wizards didn't forget how to do sports in the final 90 seconds of the game. When the offense doesn't appear plodding and inefficient, the Celtics are allowing free passage to the basket for layups. Stars and scrubs alike have been lighting up the Celtics this year, they have not discriminated. Also, Wizards.
|Jeff Green hears your hate and he combats it with flying, fancy open-mouthed funk dunks.|
It is not that Celtics fans are upset, but rather the target of their ire for which I take umbrage. (You were probably wondering where the umbrage was. Well now you know. I took it.)
The superfluous criticism of Jeff Green after just three games has been unfair. I understand that there are a number of factors that have led to this criticism, but I still don't think he's as bad as everyone is claiming he is so far this year.
The reasons Green may be under such scrutiny are partly his fault and partly out of his control. Green's success in the preseason may have given fans and the media a fault sense of hope and expectation for the Celtics reserve forward. Green averaged 14 ppg, shot 49% from the field and 40% from behind the arc. Fans should understand that in most of those eight preseason games Green was the team's first offensive option when he was on the floor. Plays were being run for him, and the competition, from both the opponents and his own teammates, was far inferior to what he was to face in a regular season game. Green has reached 27 minutes in a game once this season. Of the eight preseason games, Green only played less than 27 minutes twice, and played 38 and 32 minutes in his two best games, the final pair of the preseason. If you give Jeff Green the confidence, and most importantly, the playing time of a starter, you will see similar results.
Another reason Green is being put down is the contract he signed in the offseason. The Celtics gave Green 36 million based on what they want him to be down the road, not based on what he's done so far in his career. Was he not supposed to sign the deal? I will come down on a player who signs for big money with the Celtics, then performs worse than he has in the past after he got the money. I find it hard to harp on a player who signed a contract and remains the player he always was. This is where Jeff Green is at right now. I would sign that contract again today if I were Danny Ainge, because I think Jeff Green will live up to it when/if he is given a chance. If Rivers is going to keep him around 20 minutes a game, not make him a focal point of the offense when he is in, and yank him every time he hits a rough patch, you will continue to see a similar Jeff Green as what you've seen. Let me be clear here that I do not think Jeff Green should start over Paul Pierce, play 40 minutes a night, or be the first option when he is in with the starters. I just don't think he should carry the expectations of that type of player when he isn't given that type of opportunity yet. I still expect big things from Green this season in the role he currently has with the team.
|Former Celtics reserve Jiri Welsch makes Jeff Green look like Michael Jordan.|
Beyond the expectations vs. reality discussion is the fact that I don't think Green has really been that bad so far this season. I never thought he was James Worthy in the preseason, but I don't think he is Jiri Welsch now. Against the Heat Green was limited to just three points, and didn't have a strong defensive showing, but I thought his shot selection was solid. He took three shots inside and one mid-range jumper. The lay ups weren't falling like they did before the season started, but I liked his aggressiveness in his first game back, on the road, against the best team in the league and the best player in the world. My only issue in that game was that he failed to take a shot in the second half. I don't want Green losing confidence in himself just because he misses a few shots. If Green isn't running the floor, taking his man off of the dribble, and scoring, he doesn't help the team tremendously. I think he is an okay re bounder and passer and a serviceable defender against bigger wing players, but what they need Green to do is run the floor and score. I'm afraid with negative press, and with Doc Rivers reportedly getting on him, Green may lose confidence in himself. I think that Green bounced back in the games against the Bucks and Wizards, shooting 10-of-19 from the floor including two 3-pointers, but the criticism only seemed to get louder.
I realize there are always going to be Jeff Green haters. People will hate the contract. They will hate the fact that he replaced Kendrick Perkins, one of the few professional athletes in history that most fans can run faster than and can jump higher than. But if the Celtics fans and media can be patient, they'll see the kind of positive impact Jeff Green will have on this team, this year. It may take a minor injury and a few games off for Paul Pierce for fans to see Green's true potential, I just hope it doesn't come to that. The Boston Celtics need a healthy core, but also a confident Jeff Green, to get back to the Eastern Conference Finals this year.
So can we just wait until the sixth game of the season to rip the guy?
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