Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE
Jeff Green's case is a perplexing one. Who is he, and can he help Boston?
BOSTON -- Will the real Jeff Green please stand up?
Green has been one of the more perplexing players to put on the Boston Celtics green and white since that fateful day when he was shipped to Boston from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for the much beloved Kendrick Perkins.
The man has potential -- at least, that's what we've been told again and again. We've seen flashes of it, too. Green started his career alongside Kevin Durant and put up some decent numbers in three and a half seasons with the Thunder.
Green had never averaged fewer than 10 points per game -- that is, until he came to Boston. His best season came in 2008-09, when he averaged career highs in points (16.5) and rebounds (6.7) in 78 games, all of which he started.
His production dipped once he was traded to Boston, but most chalked that up to his limited experience playing with Boston. Green's totals fell to 9.8 points and 3.3 boards in 26 regular season games. In the postseason, Green's numbers were even worse -- 7.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per game in nine contests.
Boston brought Green back on a one-year, $9 million contract for the next season, which was supposed to be his coming out party here in Boston.
Finally, we would get to see what this Green kid was really capable of.
Alas, it was not meant to be. Green was sidelined for the entire season with a freak injury -- an aortic aneurysm was discovered during a routine physical -- and it was not know if he would ever play basketball professionally again.
Of course, that would not be the last time we'd see Green. Fortunately, he made a full recovery, and was rewarded with a hearty four-year, $36 million deal to remain with the Celtics. At long last, we would get to see Green unleashed.
The final verdict? Well, it's still early, but we can already call it inconclusive.
We have seen two versions of Green this year. One is a dominant force who gets to the basket and makes a statement, and he's often compared to James Worthy (mostly by Mike Gorman) -- but that Green was mainly seen during the preseason. The other has been an ineffective reserve who mainly eats up minutes, has no consistency and lacks direction when he's on the court.
All of the above has averaged out to about 7.7 points and 2.5 boards a night.
Those numbers might be acceptable for a late offseason addition who wasn't expected to contribute much to a team, but that's not Green. For the money he's earning, Green needs to be an impact player. He needs to do more than log minutes -- he has to give Boston effective minutes while starters get rest.
Ideally, Green has two roles on this team as defined by coach Doc Rivers. He's either going to play the three or the four. When he's at small forward, he's supposed to use his strength to overpower defenders and get to the bucket. At power forward, Green is supposed to channel his athleticism.
"What we're trying to get him to see is when he's at the three he's a power player; when he's at the four he's a speed player," Rivers said.
Green played arguably his best game of the season in Friday night's blowout of the Portland Trail Blazers. Green finished with a team-high 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting and registered four steals, three boards and two assists in 23 minutes.
There were a few negatives -- five personal fouls and four turnovers -- but by all means, it was exactly the kind of game Rivers and company were looking for.
"Jeff did a good job at running the [fast] break, getting easy opportunities for himself," said Celtics captain Paul Pierce. "Instead of us [trying] to pound the ball tho him in the half court, I'll always tell him if he'd get out and run, there's easy opportunities for him because he's one of the fastest guys every time he steps on the court and he's able to use his athletic ability, so he did a good job with that and staying aggressive throughout the night."
"Jeff's a very, very talented player," said Kevin Garnett. "We just have to continue to promote him, teach and be a teammate -- support him in everything he's doing. Nights when he's not having it, try to give him easy baskets."
Plenty of games still lie ahead, but with the jury still out on Green, it's now or never. Green must prove his worth to this basketball team by developing a consistent presence on the court. If he can, then he will be a mainstay in Boston for years to come. If he can't, he might not even make it through his new deal.
Gethin Coolbaugh is the Editor of SB Nation Boston. Twitter: @GethinCoolbaugh.