BOSTON — Jeff Green takes losing hard. He was close to inconsolable after a tough loss to the Wizards last week, taking accountability for the defeat while speaking with reporters.
At least he spoke with reporters then, however, which was more than he did Tuesday.
Green left the locker room without addressing the media after the Celtics’ 92-91 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on New Year’s Eve day. On its own, that wasn’t noteworthy. Green, like every player, occasionally ducks out when no reporters approach him for questions. But Tuesday’s game was one that brought quite a few queries to mind.
With Kris Humphries, Kelly Olynyk and Courtney Lee all playing well, Green joined starting big men Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass on the bench for the entire fourth quarter and all except six minutes of the second half. But while Sullinger and Bass watched from the bench — and Sullinger even dashed onto the court to help up a fallen teammate during a timeout — Green stood with his hands on his hips at the end of the bench.
Green and Bass were also seen having an argument on the bench in the third quarter. When asked, Celtics coach Brad Stevens downplayed the dispute as part of team sports.
“I think the biggest part of the decision was, I thought Gerald [Wallace] played pretty well,” Stevens said. “He was giving us a ton of energy at the three. It was hard to take out a guy like Courtney, who was making big shots, right there. They’re small, so you can match up, and Kelly and Kris were rolling. Disagreements are part of the game, part of team basketball, but how quickly you move on from there says a lot.”
Sullinger, who left late in the second quarter with what the team described as a bruised wrist, shrugged off spending crunchtime of a tight game on the bench. When a group of reporters, huddled around Green in the locker room while waiting for him to finish getting dressed, moved to ask Sullinger some questions in his adjacent locker, Green slipped past them and out the door of the locker room.
Bass, a soft-spoken forward who rarely addresses the media, did not appear in the locker room after getting dressed.
Green has had an up-and-down season despite leading the Celtics in scoring at 15.9 points per game. He had reached double figures in the last four games and was coming off a 19-point performance in Saturday’s win over Cleveland, but even his performance in that game came in fits and starts. He scored 15 points in the first half against the Cavs and sputtered to four free throws after halftime, missing all four shots he took from the field.
Greeen finished with eight points on 4-for-10 shooting with five rebounds, one assist, two steals and three turnovers in Tuesday’s loss.