Jeff Green still insists, no matter how much everyone in Boston continues to bring it up, he's not dwelling on the fact that the Celtics traded away the beloved Kendrick Perkins to bring him in from Oklahoma City two months ago.
"Not at all," he said. "I really don't worry about it. You all are the ones that bring it up, not me. It goes in one ear and out the other."
The Celtics were 41-14 the morning of Feb. 24, the day Danny Ainge pulled the trigger on the fateful trade of Perkins for Green. They were tied for first place with the Heat atop the Eastern Conference. The Bulls were still an afterthought. The C's had toughness, they had confidence, and they had a starting five that had still never lost a playoff series.
Then came the trade. Perkins has gone to OKC and become an instant hit — he's protecting the rim, he's pulling down rebounds, and he's got the Thunder in the West playoffs as a No. 4 seed. Green is doing all right in Boston, but he's still trying to figure it out. He doesn't know yet when to take his own shot, when to defer, when to do the intangible stuff. One thing's for sure — he's no Perk.
"I don't take it personally at all," he maintains. "Kendrick was a great player, and he meant a lot to this team. I'm not going to come in here and try to do what he did, because I can't. I'm just going to continue to play my game, continue to be myself."
Green has been respectable with the Celtics. He's averaged 9.8 points per game in only 23.5 minutes, a pretty impressive figure for a bench guy. He's brought speed and athleticism that adds another element to Boston's second unit. The C's bench mob is exciting to watch again — they run, they gun, they put points on the board in ways we haven't seen around the Hub in a long time. At his best, Green looks like a young Paul Pierce.
But those times come and go. Green's production is far from steady — he has some stretches like the last two games this season, where he totaled 34 points, 23 rebounds and seven assists, and others like last weekend, where he was a total no-show against the Hawks and Pistons.
He's not Perk because Perk was the same guy every night. He didn't always score, but he did always give that steady presence in the middle. He was always big, always tough, always intimidating. He gave the Celtics something they couldn't get anywhere else.
In order to totally set the minds of the Celtics' fan base at ease, Green needs to put together a big postseason. He gave the team 20 points and 15 boards Monday against the Wizards — he needs a few more games like that to validate everything.
He says he doesn't care, and that's the right thing to say. But how could it possibly be true? Green is 24, playing his fourth professional season, beginning his second NBA playoff run. It's time for him to be his own man. He doesn't want to be "that guy in the Perkins trade." He wants to be Jeff Green.
There have been questions these last few weeks about how Green has fit in in Boston, both on and off the court. Those questions are legitimate ones. But Green can answer them now. The playoffs are beginning, and for the new guy, it's a golden opportunity.
Kendrick Perkins made a name for himself in Boston by winning. Jeff Green can now do the same.
"I think a lot of people have been putting us on the back burner, saying that we don't have what it takes anymore," he said. "I think we're going to show a lot of people that we do."