Commentary

Celtics still trying to figure out Green

Updated: March 18, 2011, 4:15 PM ET
By Peter May | ESPNBoston.com

Doc Rivers has had Jeff Green for three weeks -- and he still is trying to figure out the multidimensional, multitalented forward.

Power forward or small forward? Inside guy or outside guy? Deferential guy or aggressive guy?

How about all of the above?

"I'm still learning how best to use him," Rivers said before his team headed to Texas for a Friday night meeting with the Houston Rockets. "He can do so many different things in so many different ways."

Rivers said he had never had someone like Green, especially as a weapon coming off the bench. He can score, as he showed Wednesday when he had a 13-point quarter, a 17-point half and was on course to become the first Celtics reserve in the new Big Three era to go for 30 points. (Leon Powe did it near the end of the 2008-09 season, but he did so as a starter.)

Then, in the second half, Green took two shots. He finished with 19 points. There's a Garnett-ian, unselfish streak in Green, what Rivers calls "his passive-aggressive thing." The coach said he's working on triggering the aggressive part of Green as he experiments with how to use the 6-foot-9 forward.

Against the Pacers, Rivers ran plays to get the ball to Green in the post. Green also nailed a 3-pointer. Green ran the floor like a gazelle. Rivers said he thinks Green may be even faster than Rajon Rondo who, you may recall, challenged Usain Bolt to a race. Green won't go that far, but he thinks he could take Rondo.

"I would win. I would definitely win. You can ask Rondo," Green said. "I run a 4.2 in the 40. I'm lying, no, I don't. But I'm pretty fast, so it'd be a tough match."

Said Indiana coach Frank Vogel: "He is a real athlete who can really run. Normally, when you talk about spread-4s in our league, you're talking about big, slow guys, not really athletic guys. [Think Troy Murphy.] But he's not like that. He's got great speed. And he is an absolute beast in the post."

There's no sense of buyer's remorse in Boston with the 24-year-old Green. He is exactly what the Celtics needed when they were looking for a player to spell Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Actually, he's a lot more.

Going forward, after the potential lockout and after the Big Three hang 'em up, it's not a stretch to see Green and Rondo leading the new-look Celtics. That's assuming, of course, that the Celtics can re-sign Green.

No one knows what the landscape will look like when the league and the players reach a new collective bargaining agreement. But we already know this: the Thunder offered Green an extension and it was rejected. In a way, it's not that dissimilar to what the Celtics and Kendrick Perkins went through.

[+] EnlargeJeff Green
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesJeff Green has averaged 11.1 points in 10 games with the Celtics.

Oklahoma City already had maxed out Kevin Durant and it will have to back up the truck to keep Russell Westbrook. The Thunder's offer to Green was insufficient to move him to sign on the dotted line.

"If you're drafted fifth overall, and you play well, and you're 24 and your team comes to you with an extension offer, if it's not a max deal or near a max deal, there's really no incentive to do it," said David Falk, Green's agent. "He might not have been the No. 2 guy in Oklahoma City, but there are teams out there that might look at him as their No. 2."

Under the current rules, Green becomes a restricted free agent on July 1, which is when the current CBA expires. He would be eligible to sign an extension with the Celtics. He also would be eligible to get an offer from another team, with the Celtics able to match. If neither of those occurred, he would become an unrestricted free agent in July 2012.

But those rules will disappear on July 1, so there's no knowing what the conditions will be when the new deal is signed.

In the here and now, Green gives the Celtics and Rivers a host of options and possibilities. Already, Green is loving playing with Rondo. The two spent some time together at the USA Basketball training camp last summer and Green already has discovered that if he runs the floor and gets open, Rondo will find him.

"He passes the ball well," Green said. "It's a [great] thing when you've got a guard who can pass the ball like Rondo. When you've got a guard who can pass the way he can pass, it's fun. I know he loves when the guy converts it, so I try to do my best to make sure it's not a turnover, and I try to get him assists."

Defensively, he is just as versatile. Green is what coaches call "long," and last year in the playoffs he guarded Pau Gasol on one possession and Kobe Bryant on the next. How many guys can do that?

In June of 2008, following Green's rookie season, Falk took him and another client, Elton Brand, to the NBA Finals. He wanted both of them to witness the atmosphere of not just the NBA's showcase event, but an event that featured the league's two marquee teams, the Celtics and the Lakers.

"This is what it's all about," Falk told Green.

The hope and even the expectation in Boston is that this June, Green will be able to give his agent a full accounting of what it's really all about.

Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.

Peter May

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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