Kendrick Perkins was one of the most popular non-star Celtics in a long time. His tenure in town was second only to Paul Pierce's on the team, but now that tenure is over. Perk is not walking through that door.
With that said, Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and a few more to-be-determined players will be walking through that door. In fact, Green and Krstic are suiting up to face the Clippers tonight. We can get around to Krstic and the other players another day, but clearly the centerpiece new addition is Jeff Green.
He will forever be linked to the departure of Perk (and the arrival of Ray by the way), but that doesn't mean we should transfer any of those hard feelings to him. It isn't his fault we had to say goodbye to Perkins. In fact, he's saying goodbye to teammates and fans that really, really liked him too.
So it is a new era for him and for us. What can we expect from this era? Just who is Jeff Green? Only time will tell, but the early indications are that he'll be a good teammate and will probably help win some basketball games.
I admit, I haven't followed him very closely. I thought he'd be just a footnote in our history due to the draft night trade. Turns out he's going to be a little more important than that. Here is a sampling of opinions of Green by scouts and writers that are more familiar with his game than I.
First of all, the jury seems to be out on his defensive skills.
This is a 6-foot-9 power forward whose Player Efficiency Rating has never reached league average, who grabs a lower percentage of defensive rebounds than Pierce, and whose presence on the court has consistently turned the Thunder into a porous defensive team. When he’s on the bench, the Thunder are pretty stingy. When he’s on the floor, they’re the Raptors. Almost none of the Thunder’s best lineups feature Green. That trend has something to do with the other starters, but it has repeated itself in each of Green’s four seasons in the league.
And here's what Ainge saw with Green: only 24 years old, a phenomenal teammate by all accounts, someone who played out of position battling bigger players and never complained (not once). I remember looking up his stats a few weeks ago, when I was working on my trade-value column, and wondering whether his confidence was waning: He had been a 39 percent shooter on 3-pointers in 2008-09, but he dwindled to 30 percent this season. Ainge probably hopes that Green (A) will be better playing his natural position, (B) can swing from big forward to small forward depending on the matchups, and (C) can spell Pierce and Ray Allen even better than James Posey did three years ago.
Turns out that's exactly how Doc and Danny expect to use him.
"We needed to get that [small forward or power forward] swing guy," Rivers said prior to the Celtics' 89-75 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Thursday. "One of the things I was just saying is that this gives us the ability -- like the year we won it -- at times we can go small with Green at the 4 and Kevin at the 5, with Paul and Ray spreading the floor. We've been trying to get that lineup ever since [James Posey] left. You forget how many times we did that in the playoffs, which was every fourth quarter. We haven't been able to duplicate that and, in some ways, it's hurt Rondo."
Doc has been pining for a "big 3" for a long time, and he had one in Posey but that was short lived. Green is just 24 years old and learning as he goes. We have a few months to take a look at him and see if he's worth re-signing in the offseason. If he isn't, we have the option of signing and trading him. But that's a few steps beyond what I'm ready to think about. For now, let's just hope that he can pick up the Celtics system quickly. And it sounds like he can.
"He has a really good understanding of the game of basketball, his IQ is very good,’’ one Eastern Conference scout said of Green. "And when Jeff is on, he and his team can beat anybody, anywhere, on any given night. Jeff can switch and guard 3’s with no problem. The negative with him is he is not really consistent and it drives you crazy. I see his upside, my deal is his consistency. But he’s talented. He’s really talented.’’
System is very important here too. Not that the Thunder necessarily ran a bad one, but he might have opportunities here that he didn't in OKC. Durant has improved greatly on defense in the last year but Garnett is all-world on defense. The coaching staff and players know how to incorporate players into the system and get them to buy in. If guys like Nate Robinson, Von Wafer, and Shaq can buy into the defensive mentality, surely a hard working, talented, smart kid like Green can too.
He will have to work on his consistency but he's also not going to be counted on quite as heavily as he was in OKC. They had 2 scoring options and then Green. The C's have a plethora of scoring options in the starting lineup and the 2nd unit even has guys like Big Baby and (knock on wood) Delonte West to help put points on the board.
I think the best case scenario is that he helps us to a Championship this year and then develops into a great building block to go with Rajon Rondo into the future. Of course the worst case is that none of that happens and all this will be for nothing. Behind door number 3 I've heard him compared to Lamar Odom, who has been a liability for the Lakers at times but also helped them win 2 titles. Only time will tell.
We get our first look at him tonight. He's got just about every built-in cut-him-some-slack excuse (new team, new system, Doc was away on personal matter so he couldn't even work with him much directly) but that won't stop us from dissecting every move he makes on the court. But that's part of the fun.
I miss Perk dearly, and I hope Danny knows what he's doing here. Green has to eventually come up big for us because Perkins always seemed to (when he was healthy). But for now, lets give him the benefit of a fresh start. Putting aside what we gave up to get him, Jeff Green is a Celtic now. Let's see what we've got.