Remember how this was supposed to be the year that Jeff Green flipped the switch? He had a year off and a full training camp to learn the system. He had a new $36 million dollar contract and actually played well in the preseason. 8 points and 3 rebounds a game. That's what we've gotten so far. His per 36 numbers are even down from his lackluster 2011 stint with the Celtics. He's been clueless on defense, missing rotations on the regular. On offense, after showing aggression in the preseason, he's back to being the Invisible Man out on the court.
I'm not trying to be mean here. I'm just being honest. Green has said he was disappointed in his play after being traded to the Celtics. Well he's been worse this season, so what's worse than "disappointed?" Green vowed to focus on rebounding this season, but he continues to be putrid on the boards. Green has all the athletic tools to be a great player, but now in his 5th season has yet to put them together to even become good.
Now Green appears to be a really nice guy, so the media and fans like him. We all desperately want him to flip the switch, because that would be good news for the Celtics. Add in the recovery from the heart surgery and success for Green would be one of those feel good stories of the year.
All the Green apologists (who also moonlight as Danny Ainge apologists, since he is the one who made the stupid Perk trade and double downed on the mistake by giving Green the heinous contract) have their excuses. Excuse #1: It's only been 11 games. This first one is BS, as Green has a very large career sample size already. He got to play about 37 minutes a game for the Thunder. This isn't some rookie player. It's no coincidence that the Thunder immediately became a contender and a top defensive team after Green was dealt. At first most of the credit went to Kendrick Perkins, but this might have been one of those addition by subtraction things.
Excuse #2: Give him a break he's coming off heart surgery and sat out a year. This one is a bit comical because these same people were saying, "See look at what Jeff Green can do?" during the preseason. Now that's he's back to being the subpar player he's been in his NBA career, it's give him more time. This excuse would hold water if Green had been a very good player prior to the surgery and was struggling now after it. But this simply isn't true. Green has never been a very good player in the NBA.
Excuse #3: Green doesn't get enough minutes. Plenty of guys don't get 35 minutes a game and do well. Barbosa does fine with limited minutes. Sullinger as well. Green plays 22 minutes a game. That's not bad at all. What do you want him to play more? Doc is trying to make the playoffs you know?
What's remarkable in all this is how much of a free pass Green has gotten from the notoriously tough Boston media. My guess is this is for a few reasons. One is the heart surgery. People don't want to say anything bad about Green for fear of being insensitive. Two is the fact that Green appears to be a nice guy, so no one wants to be that guy that is mean to nice old Uncle Jeff. Lastly is I believe the Boston media that covers the Celtics tend to have less of the ornery types. There are a lot of young reporters that are still cutting their teeth and don't want to step on anyone's toes, which might hinder advancements in their careers, so they play nice in order to maintain full access.
What might be even worse than the free pass that Green has gotten is the over the top gushing anytime he does anything decent. His 1 point dunk versus Utah the other day got way too much praise. Do it 3 more times first. We don't need reminders of what you could be if you actually got your head out of your ass. Do it consistently. In short, Green's few highlights have become front page stories and his continued apathetic, lost play is a non-story.
This free pass stuff isn't new to recent Boston sports. Carl Crawford sucked up the joint for a year and a half for the Red Sox, but because he was a nice guy got a free pass. Had to be the nice guy thing right? Only other rationale I can think of is that people didn't want to criticize Crawford for fear of being labeled racists. But that never stopped the media before with Carl Everett, Manny, Mo Vaughn, etc, so it has to be the nice guy thing.
Jeff Green was supposed to be the x-factor for the Celtics. The young legs that launched the Celtics into contender status. He's paid like the Big 3, but is playing like a vet minimum guy. Someone needs to light a fire under him because he isn't going anywhere (Similar to Crawford and his contract, Green could only be traded if the Celtics also threw in a star like Adrian Gonzalez and required nothing in return, but we're not trading Rondo just to get rid of Green). So while Green continues to get a free pass, the Celtics continue to be a .500 team. You can't say anything bad about him, because he's a nice guy and had heart surgery. Hopefully he one day lives up to his potential. The odds aren't looking good though. We're stuck with him regardless. At least we're stuck with a nice guy.