BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Celtics have some big plans for Jeff Green this season.
And it involves going small.
Green, who missed all of last season after undergoing heart surgery, says he is good to go and ready for a fresh start. His condition last year made him appreciate all the little things in life, and he is determined to enjoy every minute from now on. When he was well enough, he spent most of his time with the team last year, so he doesn’t see think it will take all that long to catch back on.
Although now with Green in the fold, the Celtics have plenty of options at their disposal.
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In losing Green all of last season, the Celtics lost out on the opportunity to instill the small lineup Danny Ainge had envisioned when he acquired the combo-forward from the Oklahoma City Thunder at the 2010-11 trade deadline. They were still able to go small with Paul Pierce moving to the four and Mickael Pietrus taking over at the three, but it was far from the small lineup Doc Rivers and Ainge had dreamed of.
Now, Rivers can finally start to build on that group, with Green the key to it all.
“He’s the main guy when you talk about the small lineup,” point guard Rajon Rondo said Monday before the team hit the practice floor. “He stretches the floor with his shooting and beat a lot of bigs down the floor as well. He can go from the four to the three, and defensively he can check 1-4 I believe.”
The Celtics practiced small-ball the entire day on Monday before leaving for their European Trip, and Rivers will have them continue to work on it every day throughout camp. He’s not sure how often he’ll call upon the unit, but he knows it will be much better than the ones he tried in the past.
“I don’t know if I’ll use more, but I know we’ll use it effectively,” Doc said on Monday. “We’ll be able to use it back and forth and we’ll be able to go big too with Jeff and Paul at the 2-3. We have a lot of lineups on paper that look good. We’ll see how they look when the season starts.”
Rivers said he envisioned Green as a “Power 3 or Up-Tempo 4.” He hopes to use Green’s speed against slower four’s in the league.
“One of the things he’s really worked on is ball handling,” said Rivers. “When he’s (at the) four, if we can throw the ball ahead to Jeff and he’s attacking the floor off the dribble, that will be terrific.”
Green struggled in his first go-around with the Celtics, averaging 9.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in a role that was never really determined as the 2010-11 season drew to a close. He played well at times, but seemed overmatched and at points lost during the playoffs, as the Celtics fell to the Miami Heat in five games in the second round.
But now that Rivers will have an entire training camp, and Green stuck around the team throughout his recovery from heart surgery last season, both sides should have a better idea of what they have.
“Trying to do that on the run, with 25 games left, is nearly impossible,” Rivers said of two years ago. “Trying to learn two positions, and ingratiating yourself with a group of guys, if I could have rethought that I probably would have just left him at one position and let him figure it out.”
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Green is excited for the opportunity to have multiple roles on a Boston squad that is only talking championship.
“That’s (Doc) using me to the best of my abilities; being able to play multiple positions and guard multiple positions,” Green said Friday at Celtics Media Day. “Me playing the three at times, me playing the four is what I can do and what he’s going to put me on the floor to do. I’m looking forward to it.”
Rivers has been impressed with Green’s conditioning after he missed all last season. And his teammates are excited to finally have Green in green from start to finish.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Jeff,” said Kevin Garnett. “He has a lot of skill man. I think, at times, like all of us we think a lot. He’s no different from that. But you see the skill level and you see that confidence coming and it’s a process. But, you’re kind of marveled at how good he is. So, I don’t think we’ve tapped into that resource yet.”