What we saw isn't what we'll get with Green


MIAMIFor weeks, we have been told by both our ears and eyes that Jeff Green was a changed man.

The sometimes timid, unsure and mostly unpredictable -- but ridiculously talented -- swing man was no longer in the building.

It almost had the feel of a campaign spiel, hearing Green remind us all that he would assert himself on a nightly basis and deliver the kind of high impact play that anyone who has seen him play knows he's capable of delivering.

Then the Boston Celtics played a game that mattered on Tuesday night.

Unfortunately for Green and the C's, the new Jeff Green looked a lot like the old one in Boston's 120-107 loss at Miami in the season opener for both teams.

It's too soon to beat up Green too much. After all, it's just the first game and, for Green, it was his first game in more than a year.

Afterwards, Green talked about how the emotions of having had such a long layoff from the game played a role in his struggles early on against the Heat.

"I had to deal with it a lot the first couple of minutes," Green said. "Just the adrenaline kicked in, got tired quickly. That's not an excuse. I have to do a way better job."

That was the general sentiment heard from most of Green's teammates following the loss.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Paul Pierce said afterward. "We're going to continue to grow."

That includes Green, who is just 26 years old and, by NBA standards, still has a couple of years before his game should peak.

A big part of his growth is simply becoming more consistent, not just in terms of his play but also his demeanor.

Green is a likable guy, well-regarded by his teammates, fans and the media.

But good guys are trumped by great talent in this market.

And when you talk about Green, it is temperament -- not talent -- that has been the issue.

Simply put, he has to morph himself, and all those skills that he possesses, into a difference-maker in order for the Celtics to have the kind of season they envision.

Most nights, Green is a mismatch waiting to be exploited by the Celtics.

And part of the blame has to be placed on the C's, who from time to time, tend to go away from or ignore some of the many options that favor them.

But ultimately, Green's play comes back to his level of aggression.

And fair or unfair, Tuesday's performance gave those who are still skeptical even more reason to doubt he'll be as big an X-factor as many believe.

But here's the thing.

Prior to him missing last season, one could legitimately question his toughness and temperament. It fluctuated in just about every part of his play.

But this Jeff Green is a different player than the one Boston acquired via trade from Oklahoma City.

The one blessing of his heart surgery is that it allowed him to sit back and see the game from a perspective that so few young NBA players ever get an opportunity to do.

Green saw first-hand how the best players in the league, at his position, played with an edge most nights and that edge was a big factor in their success.

It wasn't anything Green hadn't heard before.

But to see guys like Pierce and LeBron James and Kevin Durant and a host of elite wings go so hard so consistently -- and not have an opportunity to compete himself at the time -- has brought about a renewed focus to bring that kind of aggressive play to the floor.

True, it was nowhere to be found on Tuesday.

But that doesn't mean it's not in him.

He made a point during the preseason to dispel his critics with a bevy of dunks, highlight-worthy blocked shots and an overall game that actually made him stand out on a second unit that already includes a pair of Sixth Man of the Year (Leandro Barbosa and Jason Terry) award winners.

But dominating Emporio Armani isn't quite the same as dealing with elite teams in the NBA like the defending NBA champion Miami Heat.

The C's are doing the right thing in not putting too much stock into what truly was just one of 82 regular-season games.

Green will get his chance -- plenty of them, actually -- to make amends for his lackluster return to the floor on Tuesday.

Having gone through all that he has this past year, it's only a matter of time before the changes that we've heard about and seen glimpses of, will be in plain sight for all to see.

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