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Through 25 games on the NBA season, the Boston Celtics have struggled to find consistent play at a high level. They have had controversial assist streaks overshadow game outcomes, new faces trying to find their niche, and old faces trying not to look, well, old. All too familiar with this quest for reliable performance is forward Jeff Green, who since coming to Boston via trade in February of 2011 has had more than his share of ups and downs on and off the court.
When the Celtics acquired Green and Nenad Krstic from the Oklahoma City Thunder for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson, the deal was met with mixed emotion. Green filled a need, no doubt, as a versatile small/power forward with youth and athleticism. However, Perkins, a career Celtic, had been a staple of the team’s defense for years and was respected in the locker room as one of the quiet emotional leaders of the team. His physical play and toughness also made him a fan favorite despite his offensive deficiencies. Most viewed the trade as Perkins for Green straight up and probably rightfully so, as neither Krstic nor Robinson had much of an impact on the teams they were traded to and no longer remain with either club.
As a result, there were high expectations for Green before he even stepped onto the floor with his new team and he projected to be an instrumental piece in another Celtics’ title run. During that 2010-2011 season, Green played in 26 games for the C’s but was not the sweet youthful elixir to an aging franchise that some had hoped for. The Celtics, with only marginal help from Green, were eliminated by the talented but undersized Miami Heat in five games in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals, leaving many fans wondering, “What if we had Perk?”
About a week after signing a one year, $9 million contract extension for the 11’-12’ season in December of 2011, Green was diagnosed with an aortic aneurism which would require season ending heart surgery. This perspective-changing experience put Green fighting for good health rather than points, rebounds, assists, or fan appreciation.
Thankfully, the surgery went well and Green made a full recovery, meaning all systems were a go for Green come the 12’-13’season. Now an unrestricted free agent, Green and the Celtics agreed to a four-year, $36 million contract, which raised eyebrows for arithmetic and performance reasons. If the Celtics were only willing to give Green a one-year deal worth $9 million before his surgery, why give him four years at that same per year cost after missing an entire season? Once again, circumstance had an impact on Green’s expectations moving forward, and like the entire team, he has had peaks and valleys early this season.
Fast forward to the present, and the Celtics and Green have no shortage of questions. Why haven’t Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, and Jared Sullinger had a greater impact? Why can’t this team rebound? Are the C’s old, or just pacing themselves? How much will Avery Bradley’s return help? Oh, and what’s with this Jeff Green fella?
This season, Green has shown flashes of what Danny Ainge envisioned when he brought him to Boston, with high-flying dunks and game-changing plays. Unfortunately, they have only been flashes, teaser trailers for a full length motion picture we have yet to see. Can he be a 15-point, 8-rebound guy off the bench, or is he only someone that can occasionally fill up a stat sheet but not help the team long term? That has been Green’s story not only this year, but his entire time in Boston. As the Celtics strive to be better and return to past form, so too does Green, a process which has probably taken longer than he expected.
And so, after one trade, two contracts, a surgery and about a season’s worth of total games played in a Boston uniform, do we know who Jeff Green the player is? And through 25 games this season, do we have any idea what kind of team the Boston Celtics are? No, but that’s the beauty of time. You might fear it, it might make fans restless and legs older and championships harder to come by and glory just a memory, but it always tells the truth, and only time will tell.