By Rich Levine
LOS ANGELES Heading into Saturdays game against the Clippers, Doc Rivers didnt set the bar very high for his two new acquisitions.
After all, Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic had barely been with the team for a day. That mornings hour-long shootaround had been their lone experience with the Celtics system and alongside their new Celtics teammates. There's so much they still need to learn, and wont understand for some time.
So when it came time for their debuts, Doc kept it real simple
"I told them both: Just play hard," he said before the game. "Play free. If you're open, shoot. Don't try to fit in, we'll fit in. Right now, we just have to win a couple games and get some practices under our belt to get them integrated more. So go for it, just go out and play."
And they did. And what they showed is about what everyone expected. They looked like two capable, but relatively out-of-place pros. But at the same time, they displayed enough skills and potential to leave coaches, teammates and themselves satisfied and ready to keep building towards the playoffs.
They were good, said Rivers after the win. I mean, they didnt know a lot of the stuff we were running but they both had some bright moments for us. You could see theyll be really good.
Green finished with 7 points in nearly 18 minutes of action, while Krstic played 21 minutes, scored 9 points and grabbed 6 rebounds amazingly, all on the offensive end.
After the fact, Krstic admitted to being very nervous leading up to tip-off.
I think thats normal, said Krstic. Especially for me, Ive never been traded before and never been in this situation. So I was nervous. Even yesterday and shootaround this morning. The whole new situation. Everything is new and I wasnt used to it.
If he was feeling jittery, Krstic, who got the start at center, didnt show it early as he grabbed two offensive rebounds and threw in a lay-up on Bostons first possession.
I always go or try to get offensive rebounds, he said, but maybe I was more aggressive today. When somebody gives you an opportunity to play, you really appreciate that and you play hard.
His six offensive rebounds were an individual high for a Celtics this season.
Green, on the other hand, did show some early nerves. He entered the game for Paul Pierce with two minutes left in the first quarter, and couldnt quite find his rhythm. He drew a foul with 27 seconds left, and then missed badly on his first free throw.
I had to get the first one out, he said, but after that I kind of relaxed, and got my rhythm and things started to go well for me.
It went well for both players, or at least as well as it could. There were times where they both looked especially lost on defense, but thats to be expected in a system as complex and precise as Boston's. Both lacked a certain rhythm on offense, but again, this was the first time, for the most part, theyd played with anyone else on the court.
I didnt expect anything, Krstic said, I dont even know all the offensive plays, and defensively I was a little bit confused.
Just the transition, Green cited as his biggest source of discomfort. Getting that lingo down; just the terms that they use. The plays were confusing, obviously but weve got great vets, and theyre going to lead the way for me, show me what to do. And Im a good learner, a fast learner and I think today went pretty well.
When it comes to Green, the learning curve bends both ways. While hes attempting to figure out the ebb and flow of the Celtics system, his coach will be trying to figure out the best way the versatile Green fits in.
You know, Im gonna have to figure out how to use Jeff, Rivers admitted. I have no idea yet. Thats gonna take some time.
Its all going to take time. For the coach to be comfortable. For the new players to feel comfortable. For the old players to feel comfortable. But for now, every one seems very confident that they will, in fact, all get comfortable, and that what Green and Krstic bring to the table will inevitably help the Cs get to a better place.
These arent rookies we brought in, said Delonte West. We picked off guys who know how to play this game, and its just about getting repetitions together and trust in one another.
We know what they can do, said Kevin Garnett. Its just about how they fit into our system. When and where they want the ball. Timing, you know, things of that such. Me and Krstic did a lot of talking today. A lot of communication about the small things. And I told them both, what ever they need to make this comfortable, let me know.
For now, all they need is a little more time to find their way. And then the real work can start to get done. And in the meantime, it wont hurt if the Cs can keep putting up victories.
Man, it felt good., Green said. First game out there with a new team, got the first win under our belt and hopefully theres many more to come."