- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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WALTHAM, Mass. -- You get the feeling that, by week's end, it's possible Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers will have watched every bit of available game tape that exists on Jeff Green. Maybe even pored through all 10,035 career regular-season minutes that Green has logged over three-plus NBA seasons. All the while looking for something -- anything -- that will tell Rivers how to best utilize his versatile new talent moving forward.
For the first time since a surprising roster shakeup at the trade deadline, the Celtics practiced with all five of their new faces Thursday at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint, and Rivers is hell-bent on finding the best way to put these new puzzle pieces together.
And while it's easy to toss a Nenad Krstic into the starting lineup and not miss a beat, or throw Troy Murphy out on the court after a two-month NBA hiatus and have him instantly help space the floor, it's not as simple to put Green on the court and expect good things to happen.
He's talented enough to do that, but Rivers knows that the key to hoisting Banner 18 might ultimately be in how he's able to utilize his new multidimensional toy.
"What we're trying to do, as a staff, is watch a ton of film," Rivers said. "We're trying to figure out what [all of Boston's new players, including Green] can do well, then we're trying to put that in our offense and try to run it that way. It's going to be difficult, it's going to be tough, but we're going to get it done."
Rivers openly gushes about the All-Star potential Green possesses, but recognizes that it's up to him and his staff to bring it out of the 24-year-old combo forward. That's no easy task on a talent-loaded team on which Green's minutes will actually dip while coming off the bench.
That's why Rivers suggested that the knee tendinitis that will sideline top reserve Glen Davis for as much as week might not necessarily be a bad thing for Green and the rest of Boston's newbies.
"Maybe this is good for them," Rivers said with a shrug. "In a sick way, they may have to be force fed, have to be thrown in there, regardless, and figure it out."
But no matter how much court time is available, Rivers really believes it's on him to maximize that time for Green.
"I haven't figured out how to use Jeff yet," Rivers admitted. "I don't know yet. We gotta figure that out quickly because he's good."
The Celtics have similar feelings about the four other fresh faces on their roster (five if you count Delonte West, who had just resumed basketball activities after missing 49 total games this season before tweaking his ankle and sitting out the past two games). Green, Krstic, Sasha Pavlovic, Troy Murphy and Chris Johnson all stayed late after practice Thursday as assistant coaches worked overtime trying to teach basic sets and formations from Boston's playbook.
Time is working against the Celtics, especially considering there are only 22 games left in the regular season. What's more, Boston is still waiting to get players healthy before it can fill out a full second unit. All of which makes things even more difficult to get Green & Co. comfortable.
For his part, Green is enjoying the transition, even with less court time than he enjoyed with Oklahoma City.
"It's fine, it's just having that energy right away," Green said of coming off the bench. "It is tougher when you have been playing 37 minutes, but if I'm playing 16 minutes or 25 minutes, I'm going to give it my all and try to do my best while I'm out there on the court."
The Celtics seem intrigued by utilizing Green at the small forward position, a more natural fit for him, but know he's spent more time at the power forward spot with the Thunder. They'll bounce him around a bit, with Rivers telling anyone in ear shot about how much he likes a James Posey-like role for Green with this year's team (which means we could soon see extended court time for a late-game lineup featuring Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Green).
Sitting atop the East, the Celtics jettisoned one-third of their 15-man roster last week in an unexpected overhaul. That's left a coaching staff sleep deprived while scrubbing through film of the new arrivals, trying desperately to figure out how to make this all work before the playoffs arrive.
In a way, this has to have energized Boston's coaching staff, no?
"I don't [know] if energized is the word I would call it," Rivers said with a laugh. "It is a challenge and that does excite you some. It's a challenge, but, if we get this right, we can get really good, on both ends of the floor."
Good enough to win Banner 18? That remains to be seen. But the Celtics seem to think they'll have a better shot when they figure out how all these pieces fit together than they did a week ago working with a different puzzle.
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.
7dEthan Sherwood Strauss