Scoring isn’t the biggest problem the Boston Celtics are having right now, rebounding is. I realize that. But after losing their third game in a row last night (to a Dallas team that has seen better days), something has to change.
When Kevin Garnett could not play against the Miami Heat on Monday (due to a groin injury and flu-like symptoms), head coach Doc Rivers called on their athletic, scoring power-forward Jeff Green to start in his place. With no true center, that wasn’t a problem (at least for a while), as Green had a coming-out party, scoring a new career-high of 43 points to lead all scorers—he bested LeBron James, who lead the Heat with 37 points. The Miami Heat’s strong defense down the stretch made the difference in the game (holding Green scoreless in the last two-thirds of the fourth quarter). However, this should’ve been a wake-up call to finally bench the inconsistent current starting PF Brandon Bass and make Green the starter from now until the end of the season.
But no. Once KG came back for the New Orleans and Dallas games, Green went back to his usual role of coming off the bench and only scored 13 points and 10 points, respectively. It’s not that he didn’t shoot well—he went 4-for-8 in New Orleans (50%) and was 5-for-11 (46%) last night. It’s that Rivers isn’t giving him the starter minutes he deserves at this point in the season.
How can he justify playing him 40 minutes on Monday night, seeing him score over 40 points against the best team in the NBA, and then play him only 27 minutes against N.O.? Seeing this happen is almost as frustrating as watching Celtics opponents get key offensive rebounds and second/third chance points, while the C’s go one-and-done at the other end of the court.
Will Bass be pissed if he is to come off the bench for the rest of the season, especially with how well he has been playing lately—he had a double-double last night, an unusual feat for him this year. Probably, but Rivers could talk him into realizing that he would be a strong veteran presence off the bench. As a starter, especially in the second half of games, Bass has looked slow, not aggressive going to the basket (like Green is) and doesn’t rebound well enough and consistently for his size—only 5.2 per game for this 6’8, 250-pounder this year; he averaged 6.2 last season.
Green is younger and faster, and with starter minutes could compete with Paul Pierce (whom he may replace as the team’s leading scorer whenever the Celtics captain retires) every night to be the team’s points leader. For March, Green is averaging about 16 points per game as it is; Pierce is scoring 18.6 points per game. If Green can average over 30-35 minutes the rest of the season, he also can use his aggressiveness to be a force on the glass (which the C’s desparetly need). With Oklahoma City, he had averaged over 6.0 rebounds per game, but this year as a bench player (in his first full season in Boston), he is averaging less than 4.0 per game.
So let Green fly up and down the court like he has been doing all year. He is already a great comeback story as it is, having sat out all of last season recovering from a scary heart condition. We’ve already seen how wise a move it was of Rivers to make defensive stud Avery Bradley a starter on a permanent basis since near the end of last season. So let’s see what happens with the exciting player that GM Danny Ainge originally drafted several years ago, then traded to Seattle in a package in order to acquire Ray Allen, and finally brought back to Boston a couple of years back in exchange for Kendrick Perkins. What have the C’s got to lose, except for more games (not to mention a decent playoff seeding)?
Photo credit of Jeff Green: Amazon.com/NBA Stickers