Leaps and Bounds - Green’s Play Opening Eyes
WALTHAM - When the media entered the Celtics locker room after Wednesday night's game, Gerald Green displayed a bit of naivite.
Gerald Green is earning more playing time and emerging as a real scoring threat in his second NBA season. Elsa/NBAE/Getty
Finished dressing after his postgame shower, Green turned around and looked wide-eyed and a bit shocked to see a handful of reporters hovering around him.
"Oh, you guys are waiting for me?" Green asked.
He should have known better, but frankly, Green hasn't had many nights like that in the NBA. He played in just 32 games last season after two separate trips to the D-League in his rookie year, and played a season-high 26 minutes Wednesday night.
Green scored 16 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter rally that just fell short, leaving the Celtics with a tough-to-swallow 98-96 home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. But his offensive output in the comeback was impressive, belying his youth and inexperience and the fact that he's rarely been on the floor when the game is on the line.
"It felt good to be out there," said Green, who connected on seven of his 10 field goal attempts, including three of five from three-point land. "Coach put faith in me, the team put faith in me, and I just try to go out there and play hard."
Green is starting to emerge as a real offensive weapon the Celtics can look to for scoring, and while there were signs of his development during the end of last season, over the summer in Las Vegas and in limited stretches early this year, Wednesday's game might have been a breakthrough.
But while his box score lines are starting to get better, it's his defense that's getting Doc Rivers' attention.
"It's much better. He's better focused, he's learned what we've taught him, he asks questions, and he understands game plans. Today we watched film, and we're walking out on the floor, and he grabbed me [and said], 'we're doing this, this and this.' He didn't do those things last year because he didn't think of those things last year. He's made great strides," said Rivers.
What a difference a summer can make.
"Last year he was lost completely," said Rivers. "This year he's playing good defense. He [still] gets tricked by veterans, but as far as being a solid defender, he's becoming that."
The other obvious area of improvement is his ability to score without the ball. Before home games at the Garden, Green can be seen practicing a move where darting from the baseline, he curls off an imaginary screen (Assistant Coach Dave Wohl, or sometimes at practice, a trash barrel), catching the ball and shooting his silky-smooth jumper. Given that he's using a screen, and how high Green can jump, it's essentially an un-guardable shot.
"What he's starting to do now is figuring out how to score within a system," said Rivers. "Gerald's used to 'throw me the ball, get out of the way, and I'll show you.' That doesn't work in our league."
Most of Green's buckets came on breakaway dunks in garbage time last year. But the minutes he's getting this season have been much more significant, whether he's spelling Paul Pierce or playing alongside him. He's rounding out his game nicely, and while he can still throw it down with the best of them, Green has spent more time on the perimeter than above the rim.
And get this: on December 7, 2006, Gerald Green is the best three-point shooter in the NBA, Checking in at 57% on 17-30 shooting from behind the arc.
"I don't want to just be a dunker," said Green. "I've been working on my three point shot all summer, and I'm trying to be more effective with it."
According to Rivers, Green's play likely means more minutes.
"It's not going to be hard. There's going to be a lot of minutes for him, other guys are going to have to sit. He's coming on, and making shots."
Two Deadly Sins
In a preseason interview about the upcoming year, Doc Rivers talked about cutting down the team's fouls and turnovers, because both were playing a major role in the Celtics losing basketball games.
Wednesday night, the Celtics gave up 67 points combined on turnovers and fouls - the Grizzlies notched 28 points on 21 turnovers 39 points on free throws.
"Before we even play basketball they have  points. They only scored 98," said Rivers. "It's tough to win a game when you do that."
Rivers noted that several of the turnovers were unforced, and that many of the fouls that were committed happened on weak side help when guards got beat on defense and bigs had to rotate to help out.
"We're still getting beat off the dribble. When you get beat off the dribble, the next guy should help, and if he's late that causes the foul," Rivers said. "I thought we had a lot of that last night."
Wally's Ankle Still Sore; Allen Locked In
Rivers always reminds reporters that "Doc" is just a nickname, but given how much he's been forced to talk about injuries this season, Rivers is starting to sound more and more like a bona fide medical practitioner. Every media session with him typically starts off with the injury report, and the good news is getting harder and harder to find.
It was revealed before Wednesday's game that Kendrick Perkins would miss three weeks with his plantar fasciitis injury, and now Wally Szczerbiak's ankle is proving more damaging than initially thought. Szczerbiak was spied running the treadmill during Tuesday's practice, but the latest word is that Szczerbiak will not dress Friday night against the Suns.
So when will Wally be back on the floor?
"Probably not Saturday, and maybe not Monday. I don't know that [for sure], but just the way things look, it doesn't look good," said Rivers. "That hurts us. We could have used another offensive gun last night clearly. But we'll make due with what we have and we'll figure it out."
With Szczerbiak's offense out of the mix, Rivers went looking for some defense in the starting lineup, giving Tony Allen his first start of the year. He plans to stick with Allen in that role, and said that while T.A.'s offensive game isn't quite there yet, he was pleased with his "lock-down" defense against Mike Miller. It was suggested to Rivers that Allen could someday develop into a Bruce Bowen-like player.
"We'd like that. I think he has the ability to have better offense, but right now he should just stick to [playing like] Bruce Bowen and let the offense come."