Jeff Green stuck it to his former teammates. - Jared Wickerham
Jeff Green may always be known as the guy the Celtics got in the infamous Kendrick Perkins trade of 2011. But in a big head-to-head matchup with Perkins and the Thunder tonight, Green stepped up and had a big game in his own right.
If you Google the name "Jeff Green" and take a gander at the "People also search for..." panel on the right-hand side of the page, you will inevitably find Kendrick Perkins' big ugly mug glaring glaring your way. This will likely always be the case.
Green and Perkins are inextricably linked, for obvious reasons. It's rare to see two starters change hands from contending teams at midseason, and when they do, people take notice. And they scrutinize. Green and Perkins have been compared and contrasted relentlessly over the last 21 months, and frankly, neither has come out looking good.
So it was a pleasant surprise for the Celtics to see Green, who's been mostly underwhelming throughout the first month of the season, give a breakout performance in front of a sellout crowd at the TD Garden, in a head-to-head showdown with Perkins and the Thunder.
Yet Green insists his former teammates' presence in the building had little to do with it.
"It meant nothing," he said of the OKC showdown. "We won one game. I don't know what you're trying to get at. It's one game. Oklahoma is Oklahoma. I played for them, yes, but that was damn near two years ago. I've moved on and I'm part of the Celtics now. This is where I'm at. I respect what they do, I respect their players, but my feeling is I'm done with them."
Whatever the reason, Green came out ready to attack against the Thunder tonight, and he was a big reason the Celtics overtook OKC in the third quarter and held on for a 108-100 win. Green finished with 17 pointa, a season high, on 6-of-11 shooting. The Celtics have never run their offense through Green, so the versatile reserve forward has had step up and create opportunities for himself. Tonight, he did it.
"He was spectacular tonight," coach Doc Rivers said of Green. "It's funny -- I think the two plays that I called for him, he didn't score. He scored on all the plays that weren't his. That's what we've kept telling him that he has to do -- stop waiting for us to call for it. Just go get it. I thought he did that tonight."
"I was aggressive, attacking the rim," Green said. "I just tried to make plays. I got to the free throw line, I got an and-one, I was just being aggressive. That's what I've got to do -- I've got to find my niche, got to continue to work at it, continue to stay positive, continue to be aggressive."
Green has had a tough time adjusting to life as a Celtic emotionally, as well as basketball-wise. His arrival in Boston was jarring in 2011, as fans were slow to cope with the loss of Kendrick Perkins and thus reluctant to accept Green as one of their own. Green was less than stellar off the bench in spring 2011, and then a heart condition sidelined him for all of the 2011-12 season.
He's still struggling to earn Boston's respect. And as long as that burden keeps weighing on him, it's going to be difficult for Green to block out the distractions.
Maybe it was because he was facing Perkins head-to-head tonight; maybe it wasn't. But for whatever reason, he found a way to clear his head for one night and produce.
"He just played," Rivers said. "I think when you're not playing well, you think way too much. But I told him this morning -- just go play. Things will work out. You may play well tonight or you may not, but just go play. Stop thinking, just go play. Basketball will take care of itself. He's played it his whole life.
"Jeff wants to do well. It's not like he doesn't want to play well. He wants to play well. He wants to do well for this team. He hears it. He knows it. And I thought he did that tonight."
It may just be one game, but it might turn out to be one significant game for Jeff Green. For one night, he wasn't just "the guy from the Perkins trade." He was his own man, and he contributed to a big Celtic win.