Green ready to prove his game is priceless

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Green ready to prove his game is priceless

WALTHAM He wears No. 8, but the only numbers associated with Jeff Green as of late are four and 36 million.
Green signed a four-year, 36-million deal with the Celtics prior to this season, a move that raised plenty of eyebrows around these parts.
Why the skepticism? Well, Green didn't show much in his 26 games with the Celtics. He was looked at as being soft, and immediately known as "the player the Celtics traded Kendrick Perkins for". Perk's toughness was well documented, and Green was no Perk. The Celtics fell apart shortly after, which certainly didn't help matters.
But that was then, and this is now. Now, there's more hope for Green, who stood out above every other Celtics player during preseason. Green is moving past the "then."
"You have to," Green said. "I mean, I came in a situation where the team was already solid. They had been together for five years. So it was tough to come in and try to pick my spot where I'm supposed to be and know my role. It takes time to do that when you're coming into an organization like this with players like Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo. So it took time and I had to sit out a year. It allowed me to sit back and watch and pinpoint where I could be with this team. Now I'm able to play again and I'm using things that I saw and putting them together on the floor."
The NBA seems to be getting away from the traditional positions its used to trotting out. Heck, the All-Star ballot just eliminated the "center" position. Teams are going smaller. They're putting in players who are interchangeable.
Green is that player, and the Celtics are better off now than with Perkins because of it.
"There's a lot of teams playing small ball right now," Green said. "You got to be able to match up with them if you want to be able to win. We have the ability to do that and like I said we can match up with any team, if that's what they want to do we'll be prepared."
When the Celtics went all the way in 2007, they found success with James Posey in with the starters. Last season, the Heat went with their best five players as well, throwing positions out the window.
With that mentality, it's looking like Green will wind up as one of Boston's most-used players. Before he was traded to the Celtics, he was logging 37 minutes a game. He should be back up in the 30-minute range again this season, switching between the two forward positions, as Doc Rivers has been experimenting with all camp.
It also helps that he's now earned the trust in his coach and teammates.
"He's been great. Getting better every day," Rivers said. "Our guys' confidence in him skyrocketed from the beginning. They didn't know, like you guys, I didn't know when you asked me what to expect. So it's been good."
It's true, we didn't know. We went with what we saw, and clearly, we didn't see enough. The only person who did know was Green himself.
"I mean, I've been working hard, that's all I can say," Green said. "I put in the work, and the results came. I was ready to play. I was prepared, I prepare myself I had eight months to do that. This is the first time you guys have really seen me play, so I think that's why everybody is like, 'he's doing this, he's doing that'. But I'm just going out there and playing hard."
It certainly helps that he's on the court with a group of players that are just as talented in their own ways as he is. But when asked why he stuck around last year and really wanted to play for Boston, he told everybody to turn around and look at a player taking shots on the court.
"That guy, right there. Rajon. I wanted to play with him," Green said. "He's the best point guard in the league. I mean, who doesn't want to play with a good point guard? Then you got guys in the locker room like KG (Kevin Garnett), Paul Pierce, with the addition of JT (Jason Terry) and Brandon Bass coming back. And you got Courtney Lee."
The respect from Rondo is mutual, who should have plenty of fun running the floor with Green for the foreseeable future.
"Jeff's always had talent. He's always had a lot of expectations, high expectations, and it's no different this year for us," Rondo said. "He's been playing very good for us, he's buying into the system, buying into his role and he's working hard every day."
He's working hard for himself and for his teammates. He's working hard to show he's not the player we once thought he was. But most of all, he's working hard with the ultimate goal in mind.
"We have a hell of a team, man," Green said. "I mean who doesn't want to be a part of something special like this? We have a great opportunity to win the championship. I want to win, and this is a great chance for me to do that."

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

BOSTON -- While it’s debatable whether the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are rivals, there’s no question there has been a heightened level of animosity towards one another when they play.

When these two met on Jan. 11, the Celtics came away with a 117-108 win.

But the game itself featured plenty of back-and-forth trash talk, finger-pointing, cries of dirty play and NBA fines.

IN FACT . . . Washington plans to bury Boston

“It’ll be a physical game,” said Jae Crowder who was hit with a five-figure fine for his role in a post-game incident involving Washington’s John Wall. “We have to answer the bell; we’ll be ready.”

Crowder knows he and his teammates must balance being the more physical team, with not losing their cool because if tonight’s game is anything like previous ones, there will be trash talk … lots of trash talk.

“They talk a little bit more than other teams,” said Crowder who added that was a factor in the incident him and Wall which cost them $25,000 and $15,000, respectively.

Crowder said a flagrant-foul committed by Washington’s Bradley Beal against Marcus Smart was what really cranked the level of animosity that was already at a high level.

But Beal probably hasn’t fully put behind him an incident last season in which Smart broke his nose and put him in the league’s concussion protocol program on a Smart drive to the basket.

As far as the hard foul that Beal delivered to him earlier this month, Smart said, “you take exception to every hard foul.”

Smart added, “It’s the game of basketball. You play with your emotions and intensity and everything like that. It comes with the game.”

While Crowder understands the Celtics have to play a physical brand of basketball, he’s not looking to do anything that might result in him having to cut another $25,000 check which was the amount of his fine from the Jan. 11 game against the Wizards.

“I’m looking at it as another game we have to win,” Crowder said. “I’m not looking at it as a rivalry or anything like that. I’m not coming in talking; they might.”

For the Wizards, winners in four of their five games since losing to Boston, a major key to their success lies in the play of their backcourt.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the latest high-scoring backcourt tandem that the Celtics have to be worried about.

And making matters worse for Boston, the Celtics will have to try and make due without Avery Bradley who is still dealing with a right Achilles injury.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the 6-foot-2 Bradley was not going to be with the team in Washington and would most likely be out all this week.

That means Boston will lean heavily on Smart to not only help the offense run relatively smooth, but also provide some much-needed defense to help limit Wall and Beal who collectively rank among the higher-scoring starting backcourts in the NBA.

“We have to slow them down; by any means we have to slow them down,” Thomas said. “We know they go as far as those two take them. It’s going to be a tough game. They have a lot of momentum at home. It’ll be a tough game for us. But we’re ready for the opportunity.”

Wall and Beal are just the latest in a string of high-scoring backcourts that the Celtics have had to contend with recently.

In Saturday’s 127-123 overtime home loss to Portland, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to score 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting from the field.

“This stretch of backcourts is exceptionally difficult,” Stevens said. “They (Wall and Beal) both should be and certainly are in the discussion for the all-star team. It’s a real difficult challenge. Our guys are going to have to be really good on both ends of the floor.”

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.