Wednesday night was Jeff Green's first visit to the TD Garden since being dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies two-months ago. It was a quiet return for the forward who put up 11 points (4-of-13 shooting), 4 rebounds, an assist and a steal in 31 minutes of action against his former team. The Celtics ended up winning the ball game 95-92, bringing their record to 15-13 since the swap that sent 'Uncle Jeff' to the Western Conference.
When asked before the two teams met last night on how things have changed now that he's in Memphis, the veteran had this to say about his role.
"When I got here coach [Dave Joerger] made it simple. He said 'Be yourself' and that's all you can ask for. Coming into this situation I didn't think was a challenge because I didn't have to change who I was. I didn't have to change my style. My goal was to come in and play hard, just like I did when I was [in Boston].
I haven't changed one bit. My approach to the game is give it my all." [Boston Globe]
In 26 games (22 starts), Green is averaging 12.5 points, 4.1 rebounds on 40 percent shooting. He's reached double figures 21 times, and he's been the athletic wing the Grizzlies were looking for to make a deep playoff run all along. In a definite upgrade from Tayshaun Prince, Memphis is 19-7 since acquiring Green's services and are currently the number two seed out west. They are in great position to possibly making it to the Finals.
"The West is tough," said Green. "The style we play, how we play, how they played before I got here, I just had to come in and help any way I can." [Boston Globe]
In Green's first and only Boston visit, the Garden crowd received the former Celtic with a warm round of cheers during player introductions, when his name was called last. There was no video tribute of course, those usually reserved for players that have helped raise a banner. Despite playing 222 games and averaging 14.6 points in his four plus years in green, he never really wanted to de dealt.
"It's a business, it happens," Green said of the January 12 trade. "I had my speculation. I just went upon each day like I'm still a Celtic, like I got to play hard every game." [Boston Globe]
Still Green couldn't help but reminisce and reflect on a time that help shape him into the person and basketball player of today. I mean, it wasn't all bad for the young vet who could easily name the positives during his stay in Boston.
"It was great. I matured and my growth as a person and as a player all happened here," he said. "Playing under [former coach Doc Rivers], he instilled so much in me as far as being aggressive, especially playing alongside [Kevin Garnett], Paul [Pierce], [Rajon] Rondo -- I learned so much. I grew a lot. It all happened here.
"Boston will always hold a special place in my heart as far as going through heart surgery and my growth. The years I had here, it was special." [ESPN Boston]
It was not an easy transition from championship aspirations to a rebuilding phase that required becoming the number one option whether he wanted it or not. Green only had great things to say about coach Brad Stevens, and what he learned under his tutelage the last year and a half.
"Just give everything you’ve got," Green said. "He’s a guy who preaches hard work and he leads by example as far as what he does as a coach. He wants to get better. He’s trying to get his players to play hard and they’ve been doing that these last couple games." [ESPN Boston]
Danny Ainge took a risk with Green three years ago, and while most would say he didn't quite pan out as the 'Paul Pierce' replacement plan sort of speak, maybe that was just never in Green's repertoire. He's in a place now where he's the fourth or third option at best, even as far as leading the offense on any given night in Memphis. His new club is not the typical 'run and gun' that most teams in the opposite conference operate under. The Grizzlies are the mellow, hard-nosed defensive minded group that won't wow you offensively, but are still probably the biggest threat to make it out of the stacked west. Either way there might not have been a better system suited for Green other than the one he's in right now.
I guess Ainge always knew the day would come when he'd have to move probably the biggest gamble that he'd ever taken in his 10 plus years as the GM of the Celtics (C's might have had a better shot in 2011 to get back to the Finals). Or maybe he simply just wanted to give Green a chance to compete for a championship and grab another draft pick in the process. The way I see it, whether you were a fan of Green or not, he tried his best, given the situation he was placed under when he arrived. He fought to not only stay alive but to resume his basketball career and play at the highest level. Some nights were great, others not so much. His ability to get to the hoop was something unique in it's own right, but in a market like Boston where so much is expected of their athletes, Brad Stevens probably summed it up best.
"I always said that my thing about Jeff was, he is a very good basketball player, he’s an easy guy to coach. But just as impressive, and maybe even more so, was just who he was off the floor and in the community events. When he visited kids in the hospital and those type of things, he’s a genuinely good person. ... Certainly I wish him well moving forward." [ESPN Boston]
Good luck Jeff!
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