There is no Celtics player under a bigger spotlight than Jeff Green this year. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say no Celtics player is under more spotlights this season than Jeff Green. There are people watching to see how he returns from his heart surgery. Others are looking to see if he lives up to his contract. And a lot of us just want to see if he’s going to be anything more than the lost guy we got in exchange for Kendrick Perkins.
We were tantalized in the preseason by flashes of athleticism. But, for a variety of reasons, Green’s play can, at best, be characterized as spotty so far in the regular season. The hope is, with time, Green and the rest of the Green-Teamers will figure it out, and things will slowly fall into place.
That doesn’t mean the journey will be easy. At yesterday’s open practice, the media got a rare glimpse at the entirety of a Celtics practice (there’s usually a curtain obscuring things for most of it). There, everyone saw Doc getting on Jeff Green after a miscue. Doc wasn’t shy about it. And he didn’t let up.
“Jeff is important to us, not [just] for this year but for long term. I’m hard on Jeff,” Rivers said, clearly referring to the $36 million investment through the 2015-16 season.
Then Rivers thought pattern changed on the fly, almost as if he was catching himself lowering expectations of the swingman who was just given a four-year commitment from the team after proving himself healthy after heart surgery last January.
“I don’t actually think I’m hard on him. I think I’m fair on him,” Rivers said. “I think he’s hard on me. So, we’re going to demand out of him this year to be great because I think he has the ability to be great.”
My favorite thing to say about Green is that he has the ability to be the biggest matchup problem on the Celtics. He can be the tall, athletic, new generation type of player that today’s propensity for small-ball should demand. He hasn’t been, though, and drawing that type of NBA monster out of the mild-mannered Green seems to be the biggest challenge on Doc’s plate this side of grooming his current point guard for greatness.
What Green will be is up for debate. There is no debate, however, that he has all the requisite physical tools. He can run, and jump, and cut well enough to perform at a higher level than many NBA players. That means the problem for Green lies deep within his cerebral cortex, and the job of fixing the wiring falls on Doc.
In that sense, Doc’s the bomb-squad guy in the movies that can figure out if it’s the red or green wire that needs to be cut before the whole place gets blown to smithereens. He’s been quite good at it for quite some time. But Green’s wiring is especially challenging. Doc’s got some time to figure it out, but the more time the ticks off that clock, the more pressing the job gets.
Is Doc up to the task?