Mar 10, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green (8) attempts a shot against Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) during the first half at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics Files: In Defense Of Jeff Green

Mar 16, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green (8) shoots over New Orleans Pelicans forward Al-Farouq Aminu (0) during overtime of a game at the Smoothie King Center.The Pelicans defeated the Celtics 121-120 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, Jeff Green admitted in an interview with Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald that he understands he has many critics out there, and that he really could care less about them:

I can care less about what other people have to say about my performance. You know, everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, so I really don’t pay attention to it. I’m just trying to come into each year being healthy and being able to play this game.

I understand the fact that Green is making nearly $9 million this season is enough for fans to expect more consistent play for him, but I’m here to tell you: this is not Jeff Green‘s fault.

He’s just not that good.

(Please note: even the worst NBA in the history of the NBA is 1,000 times better than I could ever have been.  Well, maybe not Greg Kite.  Ah, you get the point!)

The fact that Green is Boston’s leading scorer this year is inconsequential.  Look: SOMEONE had to lead this god-awful team in scoring, and Green just happens to be the most logical choice.  He’s athletic, has decent range, and can get to the rim and draw fouls when  that is what he wants to do.  Yes, there are nights when he is the best player on the court, such as the night he went off for 39 pts. against New Orleans (okay, he was only the second-best player on the court that night), and when he torched Philadelphia for 36 pts.  (Granted, it was the 76ers.)   Watching him play on nights such as those, it’s tempting to ask, “Why isn’t Jeff Green an All-Star in the NBA?”

That’s exactly the sort of questioning that makes Boston Celtics fans so frustrated with Green, and it’s exactly the sort of question asking that we should NOT be guilty of any more.

There is no doubt that Green has been blessed with an athletic skill set that makes the majority of us green with envy.  (Yeah – I know you saw what I did there!)  Physically, Green is capable of averaging 25+ points per game in the NBA – that, my friends, is a fact.

However, critics who are only looking at Green’s skill set are missing a huge piece of the picture.  Anyone who has followed Green’s career can tell you that he is a complimentary player.  Put him on a roster where he is the third or fourth scoring option, and you’ll find fans who are thrilled to have Jeff Green playing for their team.   The Oklahoma City Thunder would be a fearsome team, the stuff opposing defensive coaches lose sleep over, if Green still played alongside Kevin Durant today.  Kevin Durant would be a happy man if he knew he had Green on his roster, as Durant wouldn’t have to worry about being the only one to carry the offensive load.  Look at all of the energy KD has been burning through this season – how much gas will be left in the tank once the playoffs come?  Trading Green for Kendrick Perkins could have single-handedly doomed Durant to the fate of being labelled one of the best NBA players never to win a championship.

(Granted, there was no way the Oklahoma City Thunder’s front office knew this at the time.  Green has improved since coming to Boston, so hindsight is 20/20.   Still, the fact remains that Green would be far more capable of helping Kevin Durant win a championship that Perkins is.)

What the Celtics have asked Green to be this year, however, is unrealistic.  He is not, and never will be, “The Man” on an NBA team.  He’s just not wired that way, and it’s not his fault the Boston Celtics paid him “The Man”-like money.  I like Green, and I have been guilty of wondering, “Why doesn’t he play like this all the time?” – but I have come to realize that it wrong of me to ask that of him.  Green just doesn’t have the focus, the will, of the great players, and no amount of money in his bank account will change that.  Sure, green put up 39 against the Pelicans – and then had 5 the next night in Dallas.  Know how many he scored the night before he lit up Philly for 36?  Eight.  The will of the superstar just isn’t there, readers.  And that’s okay – not everyone in the NBA can, or should, be expected to play at such a transcendent level.

Should the Celtics draft wisely this offseason, and maybe bring in a free agent to address a weakness, Green can enjoy a lot of success in Titletown, and be a key contributor to helping Boston raise its 18th banner.   He’ll never be the team’s leader, though, and he should never be expected to be their go-to guy night in and night out.  Rajon Rondo can feed him the ball on nights when he is hot, but the Boston Celtics are going to need to land themselves (or make a trade for) a true superstar if they intend to win a championship any time soon.

So get off of Jeff green’s you-know-what, if you are currently on it.   Come this time next year, maybe two years from now, he’ll be the team’s third-best player and a valuable contributor.  Either that, or the Celtics will have traded him for a free agent of a few second-round draft picks.  Either way, we won’t be able to complain!

 

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