By: Rich Levine
LOS ANGELES When the Celtics lost James Posey to free agency after the 2008 season, they lost a huge piece to their championship puzzle, and in the two and a half years since, have struggled to fill the void left by Posey's departure.
Essentially, a sizable swing man with range, versatility and a defensive pedigree. Tony Allen and Marquis Daniels both took their shots, but both ultimately failed.
And while the newly acquired Jeff Green is not Posey, Doc Rivers thinks that Green is the closest thing that the Celtics have had since, and that the 6-9 swingman will give the team a level of flexibility that theyve lacked in Poseys absence.
This gives us the ability to do what we did the year we won, Rivers said of the trade for the four-year vet, and that is we can go small with Green at four and Kevin at five, and then Paul and Ray. And it spreads the floor. Weve been trying to get that lineup since Posey left. I cant tell you how many times we did that in the playoffs. Every fourth quarter. Weve havent been able to duplicate that, and in some ways thats hurt Rondo.
Of course, the biggest issue when comparing Posey and Green is on the defensive end. Other than KG, Posey was the toughest and most versatile defender the Celtics had that season. Meanwhile, Green doesnt come to Boston with the greatest defensive reputation. But Rivers, whose son played a season with a Green at Georgetown, is familiar with the newest Celtics game, and feels optimistic about his ability to fill a Posey-like role.
To which the obvious question is: Can he hang with LeBron, Kobe, Carmelo and the other big scoring swing men the Cs will likely face on their path to another title?
Well, do you feel comfortable with anyone guarding Melo or Lebron? Rivers asked. Ive seen enough (of Green). In Oklahoma he switched on ones, twos and threes in pick and roll coverage. I know hell want to (cover those guys). With our defensive schemes were going to have to help him guard those guys. Everyone has to help.
Thats on the court, off the court, Rivers expects Green (and also Nenad Krstic) to be just as valuable.
Theyre really high character guys, he said. I talked to (Oklahoma City coach) Scot Brooks) for a while today, and that was basically his concern, losing two high character guys.
But Rivers admits that the two have big shoes to fill.
Although with Perk, he said, he might be the best character guy in the league. But you just dont know fit. You dont know guy until you coach guys. So well find that out."
He'll also find out if this new found potential to be more creative with his rotation will offset what was lost in the deal with Oklahoma City.
"I see a lot of line ups," Rivers said, "but you always see a lot of lineups until you start coaching them. But you see a huge lineup with Shaq, Kevin, Paul, Jeff Green and Rondo. You see one with Baby at the five and Jeff at the four, but you dont know until you try them out."
That try out comes Saturday night at Staples Center.