In case you've missed it, Jeff Green has been playing very well lately. In fact, without much else to talk about around here, it has been pretty much topic number one for the last week or more. So on one hand, I feel like I almost have to apologize for yet another Jeff Green article. On the other hand, I need to rant a little bit here and this gives me an excuse and a release. But first, some important points.
First of all, Jeff Green is still getting better on the basketball court because he's getting more comfortable with his role and his responsibilities in the system (on both ends of the floor). This new lineup pairing him with Paul Pierce wasn't even possible earlier in the year because he wasn't ready for it (according to Doc).
Rivers admitted the team simply wasn't ready for the Pierce/Green combo earlier this season. "Well, it’s grown. Because early on it was bad," said Rivers. "I mean, we did it in [training] camp -- we started out with that lineup -- and it was not very good. It was more on the other end, on the defensive end. Even in the offensive end at times, because they were both running to the post. It just took time and it was really Jeff just needed to get more comfortable. I didn’t want to put him in that same spot that we did when he got here the first time [after being traded from Oklahoma City]. We were trying to show him 3 and 4 at the same time, now we’re seeing 2, 3, and 4 -- so, we made a conscious effort to try to stay away from that lineup until we thought Jeff was right."
Secondly, (again, in case you've forgotten) Jeff Green was having heart surgery a little over a year ago and he's still getting his wind back.
"Not yet. Still times when my body gets fatigued. My body still gets fatigued from the countless lifting. The travelling is probably the biggest thing, going to different time zones and not eating right because you don’t have everything that you need there. It is a lot better than the beginning of the season. Thankful for that."
So the bottom line is that he's still learning and still working on getting fully healthy.
With that as a backdrop, allow me to rant for a little bit.
I'm really tired of the overreactions to Jeff Green on both sides of the fence. In this corner is the "haters" that point out his every flaw and explain in great detail why he's not worth the money he's getting and why Ainge was crazy to give him that contract this past summer. In that corner are the fanboys. They love Jeff with all their heart and they can't believe that anyone would second guess him for a moment. They are the TRUE Celtics fans and shame on you for thinking any differently. Every time he scores more than 20 points, they feel justified in pulling out the I-told-you-so card and playing it repeatedly.
Jeff Green is overpaid, underpaid, an albatross, a savior, a bust, a future star, a good-player-on-bad-teams guy, a building block for a Championship team. He's hot or cold, left or right, up or down, heads or tails.
Enough from both sides!
Maybe, just maybe Jeff Green is just Jeff Green. A very talented basketball player that hasn't fully realized his potential over the course of a full season yet. He hasn't really had the chance to mature in a straight line progression. First there was the trade that turned his world upside down. Then of course there was his heart condition that robbed him of a full season. But he's getting better.
But is that going to be enough? Can he be a star? Can he be the difference maker that we've needed for so long? Can he bridge the gap beyond the Big 3 era?
How about we just wait and see? (Yes, I understand the irony of running a blog where all we do is debate stuff like this and telling you that you shouldn't talk about it so much.)
But maybe that's projecting and we should stay grounded when it comes to discussing Green because the projections are what gets us in trouble. They burn so hot and blow so cold that they set him up for a never-ending cycle of failure and redemption.
For me, I'm content to just enjoy this. I've been pulling for Jeff Green to succeed ever since he arrived in town.
I never blamed him for the Perkins trade. That was on Danny. It is working out now, but at the time I felt like it derailed a chance we had to compete for a title. But that was never his fault. Neither was signing a big contract. He's going to look for the best payday he can get and nobody in their right mind would fault him for that.
Of course it is frustrating to see a player not perform up to expectations and sometimes we take it out on that player (perhaps too much). But we can take it to the other extreme as well. Asking Green or expecting him to be a star right now is probably pushing for too much.
Can he be a star? Sure. He's got the talent, work ethic, and environment where he very well could become an incredible basketball player who goes to multiple All Star games and maybe even leads the team to a Championship. He could get there. Or maybe he won't. Maybe he'll take two steps back when Garnett returns to the lineup. Or maybe he'll be confused about his role again next year with Rondo back running the show. Or maybe he'll be hot and cold his whole career. We just don't know and we won't know for sure until it happens.
But so what? Why can't we just enjoy this? I don't want him to be labelled as a star in the making because I don't want the expectations set that high. I don't want to set him up for failure.
Put another way, Paul Pierce is a one-in-a-billion superstar. Just because we've been spoiled by seeing him mature and grow into what he is today doesn't mean we'll necessarily see that happen (to that degree) with Jeff Green. That's just not fair to him. Maybe he will reach that level someday, but if he is just a really, really good player on a contending team, wouldn't that be enough?
I don't know what the future will hold. I don't know what's going to happen this postseason and I don't know what will happen this summer and beyond. I love to speculate and debate as much as the next person, but maybe we should just wait and see with Jeff Green for once. But that's just me.