ALBANY, NY Jeff Green has goals this season that go beyond simply returning to action after missing all of last season following heart surgery.
While much of his offensive play thus far in the preseason has been praised, the 6-foot-9 forward is focused on leaving his imprint on the defensive side of the ball.
Saturday was certainly a step in that direction with Green's defense being one of the keys to fueling Boston's 109-98 come-from-behind win.
"That's my calling," Green said of his defense. "I have to be a guy who can go out there and guard the best player on the opposite team. Whether it's Carmelo (Anthony of the New York Knicks), LeBron (James of the Miami Heat), Kevin Durant (of Oklahoma City), Kobe Bryant (of the Los Angeles Lakers), whether it's a big, doesn't matter. I see myself as being one of the top defensive players in this league. I just have to go out there and prove it."
Green's versatility as a defender was on display Saturday night, as he took turns guarding smaller players like Mychel Thompson or bigs such as Chris Copeland.
"Jeff is so talented athletically, explosive," said Boston's Rajon Rondo. "We expect a lot out of Jeff, and he's accepted the challenge."
While that may be the case now, it certainly wasn't when he arrived via trade from Oklahoma City in 2011.
Green seemed to struggle finding his niche with the C's, something Doc Rivers attributes in part to him being surrounded by a slew of future Hall of Famers and current all-stars.
"It's hard to be aggressive on our team," Rivers said. "When you're new, you see Kevin (Garnett) next to you, and Rondo you almost feel like you shouldn't be aggressive. Every new guy that has come to our team, even veterans have had that problem."
Although having an aggressive mindset is a plus, it's not a necessity in Rivers' eyes.
"Sometimes that's just not who you are; you are a player that defers," Rivers said. "That's not all bad, either. As good as Jeff Green is, sometimes he falls into that category when he defers to the other guys. We're trying to convince him at times he's the best player on the floor. Because Jeff's so team-oriented, I don't think he sees himself that way but we do."
Unleashing that aggressive side is a lot easier on nights like Saturday when both Paul Pierce and Garnett were given the night off.
So it should have come as no surprise that two of the C's most aggressive players were rookie Kris Joseph (13 points) and Green who both saw more minutes than usual because of Pierce's absence.
When Green inked a four-year, 36 million contract to return to Boston, he repeatedly said that his level of aggression would not be an issue.
So far, he's kept his word.
"If I'm aggressive, it opens up everything for them; plain and simple," Green said. "I just have to go out there and take my turn. When the ball comes my way, make a play; make a play for my teammates."
We expect greatness out of everyone and Jeff has the tools. I wouldn't push a guy who doesn't have any talent. I would encourage him but the way I'm on Jeff, Courtney (Lee), Jared (Sullinger), I expect a lot from those guys and they're going to be big for us. It may seem like I'm on them all the time, but like I said gotta get those guys to jump on board and expect and demand greatness every night."