BOSTON (CBS) — There are few players in the NBA that cause more divisiveness among a fanbase than Jeff Green.
Ever since he arrived in Boston in February 2011, after being traded for fan favorite Kendrick Perkins, Green has had a tough time gaining universal support from Celtics fans due to his up-and-down play. A sizable contract Danny Ainge gave him last summer only increased the expectations fans had of the talented athletic small forward.
With Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett out of the picture this season, the hope was for the explosive Green to become the featured piece in the Celtics offense. Green told reporters before the season that his goal for the year was to be a 20-point per game scorer and become a reliable member of Boston’s starting unit on both ends of the floor.
And for the first month of the 2013-14 season, Green lived up to these promises, and it appeared he had turned the corner from his past seasons of being consistently inconsistent on the offensive end with his production.
The numbers during November were particularly promising. Through his first 24 games, the hybrid forward led all of Boston’s scorers, averaging 17.3 points per game. He was efficient with his offense, hitting 46 percent of his shots from the field and 41 percent from downtown. He was aggressive with getting to the rim, averaging a career-high 4.9 free throw attempts per contest.
Most importantly, Green stayed consistent during the first month of the season. He scored in double digits during 21 of those 24 games. Brad Stevens knew he could be counted on for production nearly every night on the offensive end, and that helped the Celtics jump to a surprising start to the top of the Atlantic Division.
Over the past few weeks, however, the Celtics’ fortunes have changed. The team has lost five of their last six games, blowing several double-digit leads in the process. Not coincidentally, Green’s own play has regressed mightily over the same time period.
Over his past eight games, Green’s offensive game has fallen off a cliff. He has shot just 36.6 percent from the field and a paltry 28.6 percent from beyond the arc, while continuing to hoist 3.5 3-point attempts per game. Green’s aggressiveness has taken a major hit as well, as his free throw attempts have been cut in half from 4.9 to 2.4 per game during the swoon.
Overall, he’s averaged 11.4 points per game during the slide and has scored in single digits three times in the past couple weeks, bringing back the inconsistent label from years past by Boston fans.
Every player goes through a slump here and there, so it makes sense to cut Green some slack and hope he breaks out of it. Unfortunately, his recent behavior earlier this week during a game against the Atlanta Hawks has made matters worse.
As Stevens substituted Green out of the game in which all the starters, including Green, were struggling mightily, the veteran forward appeared to be tuning out his head coach as Stevens attempted to talk to him while he left the floor. Later in the second half, Green got into a disagreement with Brandon Bass on the bench, and then stood at the end of the bench for the remainder of the game, isolating himself from his teammates.
All parties involved downplayed the incident at Wednesday’s practice, including Green.
“It was just a miscommunication, that’s all,” Green said. “We both wanted to win — we just get frustrated with the process. That’s all it was. It wasn’t nothing big. We’re trying to figure out a way to win. Like any team, you’re going to bump heads. Because somebody might see it one way, somebody might see it another.”
Green continued: “But when it all boils down to it, we’re both trying to figure out a way to win. And that’s what it was. We just had a miscommunication and you guys just saw it. That’s it. It happens with every team. It probably happens more than you know.”
It’s likely this incident was only a minor blip on the radar, but it will be crucial to see how Green, one of the veteran leaders on this team, bounces back from it in the coming days. Tuesday’s game wasn’t the first time that Stevens benched Green for the fourth quarter in a close game when he didn’t have it going, and Green needs to show that this kind of coaching won’t affect him.
With a tough five-game Western Conference road trip awaiting the Celtics next week, there is a high probability of more losses and potentially more turmoil in the C’s locker room.
As one of Boston’s more experienced players, Green needs to break out of his slump and become a reliable member of Boston’s offense yet again. Otherwise, he might find himself on the trade block next month with several other members of the Celtics.