He’s still getting used to it, in a lot of ways. He hasn’t yet grown accustomed to the confusing city streets, the throng of media members around his locker every game, or the Hall of Fame players around him in the Celtics’ huddle.
But the kid still knows how to play basketball, and that’s all that matters. Green had a breakout game at the TD Garden on Friday night, coming off the bench and torching the Golden State Warriors for 28 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
Is it easy being Green? Maybe not. But he sure is making it look that way.
“I’m just out there trying to play hard,” Green said. “If I have a good game, I have a good game; if I don’t, I don’t. I’m just trying to do whatever it takes to win.”
He did a lot on Friday night. He emerged as a force in the second quarter, getting out in transition and running with Rajon Rondo after every Warrior turnover. The points came easy.
He was back in the fourth quarter, knocking down clutch shots to bury the Warriors when they attempted a comeback. Green was the biggest reason the Celtics got a lead, going up by as much as 18 midway through the third, and in the final minutes, he was the biggest reason they kept it.
The Celtics may have been worried a week ago about integrating Green and all the other new pieces. Now they see the truth — it’s happening organically.
“We didn’t even do anything,” coach Doc Rivers said. “He just ran the floor. He’s a gazelle. I mean, the guy can absolutely fly. Our guys know that now, and you can see them, they’re getting it to him. And he knows that they’ll get it to him, so he’s running. It’s just great awareness.”
“When you’ve got weapons like that on the floor, you’re going to get easy looks,” Green said. “When you’ve got a great guard like Rondo and you’ve got a team that can share the ball and make the extra pass, you’re going to get them. You’ve just got to be prepared and be ready.”
Green’s primary role, especially now with Glen Davis out with an injury, is to be the offensive star of the second unit. But he was more than that on Friday night — he entered the game in crunch time against the Warriors and hit a trio of big shots to keep the Celtics out in front.
He’s not just a big fish in the small pond of Rivers’ bench. He can step and play with the starters a little, too.
“It’s important to get in a groove with those guys,” Green said. “It’s important that I get out there and try to use my abilities to help them out. When we have Paul rebounding, we have KG [Kevin Garnett] rebounding, and we’ve got a great guard like Rondo that can see the floor, it makes it a lot easier for myself.”
With the regular season winding down and the playoffs not far off, the Celtics are actively working to develop a crunch-time unit that can carry them back to the promised land of the NBA Finals. That’s no easy task. But Green has jumped into that fray quickly, proving that he’s not afraid to mix it up with the big boys.
“He seems comfortable,” Ray Allen said. “He seems very comfortable. He’s not a guy that’s shell-shocked by what’s going on out there on the floor. He fits right in. He just plays the game — he’s a basketball player.
“He gives Doc so much diversity out there on the floor. We can go so many different ways with Jeff out there. Jeff can guard a seven-footer, he can post up, he can shoot the 3, he can drive the lane, he can dunk. He’s like a rover. He can play all over the floor. He’s a guy that we have to get used to, because now we know what he can do well — everything.”
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