Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me dozens of times and I'm just a sucker. I've always been a sucker for Jeff Green and I'm perfectly happy to get sucked in again. Since I'm an eternal optimist, I can always say "hey, maybe this time it is it."
Jeff Green dominated preseason, but when the real games began he faded into the background. Every few games or so he would have a solid-to-great game but it would be followed up with largely invisible games - at least on offense.
Of course, you do have to give a guy a pass when he's recovering from heart surgery and still getting his legs under him. A little over a year ago he was unable to walk and now he's playing basketball with some of the best athletes in the world.
Oh yeah, and he never had a very well defined role and he doesn't even have a specific position that he plays. He's a tweener the floats between 2 or 3 positions and has no (or very few) plays called for him when the team is running at full capacity.
There's the rub. When the team is at full throttle, the first 3 options are Rondo, Pierce, and Kevin Garnett. Jason Terry is the designated shooter and everyone else has to grab whatever scraps fall off the table. That's fine when the team is winning and everyone is healthy. It is less fine when the team is losing and Green is making more than $9M a year.
However, ever since Rondo went down, Jeff Green has been on a roll. He was key (especially on defense) in getting a gutsy win over the Miami Heat and he's averaging 16.7 points per game for February. Basically, as his role has expanded, he's stepped up to the challenge. That alone speaks to his character.
Last night was just the pinnacle of his ascent - which just so happened to happen in his first start (with KG out).
The workload was left to Green, who scored 13 points in the first period as the Celtics raced to a 16-3 lead they would never relinquish. The Celtics played tiny, with 6-foot-8-inch Brandon Bass at center and Green matched against burly Luis Scola. Green made scoring look effortless. He took Scola away from the basket, used his length to create space, and went for a streaking layup or jumper.
Seeing Green's full arsenal shows why team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge chose to sign him to a four-year, $36 million contract in July. With Pierce erratic this season and Garnett unable to carry the team as he did in previous years, the Celtics need assistance and Green is providing it.
So is this a sign of things to come or just another tease? Nobody is expecting 31 point efforts out of him on a nightly basis, and the best players have good and bad nights. But if he can average anywhere near 16 per game that would be huge for this team. He's getting more touches which leads to a higher comfort level which leads to more confidence which leads to results.
For the rest of the year the team is going to need him to take some of the burden off of Pierce and Garnett's shoulders. Next year he'll either have to continue that role or (big gulp) fill the void if they decide to retire (or get traded). Basically the opportunity is there. So far he's stepping up.
Fool me 100 times, I don't care. I'm still going to be rooting for this guy to succeed.