Green putting it all together

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Green putting it all together

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."

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

WALTHAM, Mass. – When the news came out that Al Horford was going to be a Boston Celtic, Amir Johnson couldn’t wait to meet his new teammate.

He didn’t have to.

Johnson soon found himself on plane headed to Atlanta to not only work out with Horford, but also try and work out some of the kinks that tend to come up among new teammates in those early days of training camp.

“I took it upon myself when I saw Al was part of the team, I automatically wanted to go down to Atlanta and work,” said Johnson who added that he brought his daughter along for the trip and they went to dinner with Horford’s family during the visit. “I thought it was great just to get that chemistry going. I just wanted to get to known him, make him feel comfortable.”

It’s still early in training camp, but Johnson and Horford seem to be meshing quite well on the floor. 

“The chemistry’s definitely coming along,” Johnson said. “I know when Al wants to roll or pop, and just working my way around it. Al’s more of a popper and eventually he’ll roll. It’s up to me to read whether I stay up or work the baseline.”

Johnson has been in the NBA long enough to know that often the keys to success are subtle nuances that may be overlooked by fans and spectators, but players know are essential to them being successful.

Being able to not only understand a player’s game but figure out how to play well with them, are critical to teammates being successful.

Last season, Johnson was Boston’s primary rim-protecting big man which is a role the 29-year-old Johnson has been cast in the last few years he was in Toronto. Horford brings a similar set of defensive skills to the table which gives Boston a true 1-2 defensive punch along the frontline.

“It’s big time,” Johnson said. “We communicate to each other. It’s all about communication out there; just knowing he can hold it down and he trusts me to hold it down. It’s key.”

GREEN INJURY UPDATE

Gerald Green is expected to get a few more days to rest his hip flexor injury which he said on Thursday was feeling better.

The injury should keep the 6-6 wing from participating in the team’s Green-White scrimmage on Friday, but it isn’t considered serious.

Still, Green is eager to get back and return to full contact work which is why he is getting a steady diet of treatments during the day and returning in the evening for more treatments from the Celtics’ medical staff.

“It’s almost like a precautionary thing; make sure it doesn’t get worst,” Green said.

The injury occurred earlier this week but Green could not pinpoint exactly what he did to suffer the injury.

“I don’t think I stretched properly,” Green said. “I’m not 25 no more. Just try to come out there and go at full speed. Those are things I’ve got to learn now I’m in my 30s.”
Indeed, one of the many benefits of being older now is that Green sees the big picture of things better now, which is why he isn’t trying to rush back to the floor too quickly.

As a veteran, it’s a long season,” Green said. “You’re not trying to do too much to make it worst. Training camp is important, but being healthy at the beginning of the season is even more important.”

RUN, YOUNGSTERS, RUN

Near the end of Thursday’s practice, the Celtics had a full court game of 3-on-3 involving some of the team’s rookies and end-of-the-bench training camp invitees like Jalen Jones of Texas A&M. The 6-7 undrafted rookie had a dunk over Jordan Mickey, a 3-pointer and another strong, uncontested flush at the rim in a matter of minutes. He’s likely to wind up with Boston’s Developmental League team, the Maine Red Claws.

With Thursday morning’s session being the team’s fifth practice this season, head coach Brad Stevens thought it was a good idea to get some of the team’s younger players on the court.

“It was good to play some 3-on-3,” said Stevens who added that it was good for their conditioning since a lot of the running at this point involves trying to get the starters and the likely rotation players as acclimated and familiar with one another as possible. “We try to do that occasionally even through the season just to get everybody up and down.”

TURNOVERS? WHAT TURNOVERS?

Five practices in the books and there’s only one thing that really has stood out to the eyes of Isaiah Thomas.

It’s turnovers.

Apparently the Celtics haven’t committed too many thus far.

“We haven’t turned the ball over as much as teams usually do the first couple of days,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to learn the system, trying to get everybody familiar with what we do. But we’ve been playing well together. Guys are playing hard. Guys have gotten better, worked on their game.”

Ball-handling will be one of the areas to watch during the preseason as the Celtics look to find a replacement for Evan Turner (Portland) who has been one of the team’s best ball-handlers the past couple of seasons.

The Celtics were middle-of-the-pack last season with 13.5 turnovers per game which ranked 14th in the NBA.

Low turnovers often serve as a common trait among playoff teams. Just last season, eight of the top-nine teams in fewest turnovers committed, were in the playoffs.