Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Jeff Green: His Time is Right Now

In a sports market like Boston, most judge an athlete's talent on their yearly salary. If they fail to live up to a dollar amount, then the fans will let them hear about it every chance they get. But who are we to say who deserves what amount? Better question, why is an athlete either over paid or under paid? You hardly ever hear that an athlete's worth is just where it should be.

After 11 games, the Celtics are 6-5, and are currently the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. While Doc has always been one to preach defense, they are allowing teams to score an average of 99 points per game. Is it time to panic yet? The jury might be out on that answer. But here is the 32 million dollar question, how long until Doc uses Jeff Green the way he should?

When Green first arrived in a controversial deal that sent Kendrick Perkins to OKC in 2011, most failed to realize the main reasons behind the trade. Besides the fact Perk was commanding a good amount of money that Danny didn't agree with, he also knew OKC would have to choose two out of their "big three" to give max deals to. Also, people forget after Marquis Daniels (Pierce's only back-up at the time) went down for the year with a spinal cord injury, there was no way the Celts could make a run without giving Paul rest down the stretch before playoff time.

What makes it even more interesting is the fact that it's no secret Ainge has always been a Jeff Green fan, and why not? In his first three and a half years as a starter he averaged 16 points and 6 rebounds per game. He was the best player in the deal. Ironically, OKC let Green go, and gave Perk an extension worth close to $30 million, and were unable to give James Harden (Jeff's back up, turned starter) the money he was looking for this past offseason. Unfortunately, it's the price you pay for running a team in a small market these days.

Once a Celtic, Green could not find his groove or role with his new team. When you look back on trusting a lazy Shaq and a forever injured Jermaine O'Neal to be back in time to give the C's frontline a push in the playoffs, we can see it was risky and know how it ended. It was already looked at as a dumb move by the man in charge, and because of how Jeff performed, which did not help matters in the least.

Fast forward to July of 2012, and Jeff has survived a life threatening heart condition and is back playing basketball with the team who believed in him the moment they acquired him. He's here in Celtic green for at least four more years. That should tell him that he is not just part of this current group but part of the future as well. After averaging 14 points and five rebounds in eight preseason games in October, all might be forgotten from 2011. There was a chance for a fresh start for the fans in Boston.

But of course you can't talk about any athlete without talking about how much money they make. Being the fourth highest paid player after Pierce, KG and Rondo, people expect results and quickly. The problem is Green, as it stands, might be the seventh or eighth best player on this deep team, depending on where you rank Bass, Terry, Sully and Lee. Based on his salary some might expect Jeff to be the fourth best player on the squad. He has the skill set to be since he doesn't do one thing particularly well, he does everything pretty well. Yet we don't know what his role is, hell he doesn't know what his role it.

So far Jeff Green is averaging eight points, which ranks him sixth in scoring on the team and is averaging 21.6 minutes a game, which ranks him seventh. Most say he is "over paid" when you consider Bass and Terry will earn $6.5 and $5 million this year, respectively. Green is still searching for his identity which has lead him to jog up the court on offense and find a corner, and on defense, he struggles with rotations, as for physicality, he is very strong and athletic. But when you see him dunk on Al Jefferson's neck last week, you still have to think to yourself"this kid has something..." Not like the last Celtic player named Green, who could jump out of the gym but had no work ethic (Mr. 2007 Slam Dunk champion) and who has been in and out of the league. This Green, the 2012 version is too good to be just average.

The main thing the Celtics do need him to do this season is help limit KG and Pierce's playing time. So far they're at 30.1 and 34.6 minutes a night. They should give Jeff more minutes and more of a role, which would help them both, KG and Pierce, average fewer minutes than they currently are for the season. Doc could do what he does best, make Green more comfortable, such as he has done with Sully. One solution that comes to mind is why not start Jeff Green for a game or two? Jared Sullinger has started four games and it has paid off for not only the team but for his confidence. At this point I feel like it's all mental with J.G., maybe a run with the starters could not only get him going offensively out of the gate, but could help with his defensive assignments as well.

Here is one lineup Doc could consider to help out young Jeff. Moving Pierce to the back court with Rondo, Jeff starts at the three, either Bass or Sully at the four and KG at the five. Having Sully start would help the scoring out more with the second unit and Lee or Terry becomes Paul's backup at the two, while you have Bass, Wilcox coming in for Jeff and KG. This would allow Wilcox to grab more minutes playing either the four or five. Either way, this coaching staff needs to work with this talented group, it's just as much as a learning curve for them as it is for the players.

It's time for Jeff Green to find more minutes and a role, because 21.6 minutes split into three or four segments is not going to help someone grasp defensive schemes and help get his offense going. This forward of the future is in the best shape of his life and rightfully so, as we see glimpses of what he can become, and also see glimpses of 2011. I'm not one to judge an athlete's ability on how much money they make. I watch the player for what they do and how it helps a team. It's not my money to spend, it shouldn't affect how I view a sport, but yes most people feel entitled on having an opinion either way.

We have to remember a professional athlete gets rewarded salary wise for what they are projected to do or for what they have already done. In Jeff Green's case, it's been a good four years and the Celtics have bet a $32 million house that his best is yet to come.

Joel Pavon

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