By A. Sherrod Blakely
NEW YORK The Boston Celtics have been a team that thrives off emotion.
Some teams wear it on their sleeve.
For the Celtics, it's more like a body cast.
So when someone comes along who doesn't seem to quite fit in, emotionally speaking, well, it's noticeable.
That's why the play of Jeff Green, maybe more than any of the new guys, has come under such scrutiny.
He has had games in which he played well.
He has had others when he struggled.
And yet when you watch him on the court or listen to him afterward, you'd hardly know the difference.
The fact that the Celtics' second unit has struggled in the playoffs hasn't helped matters.
However, it's clear that Green is improving as the C's continue their march toward Banner 18.
They can officially clear the first hurdle on Sunday as they try to sweep the New York Knicks out of the playoffs.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers has heard the many questions and concerns about Green and whether he's fitting in well with the Celtics since they acquired him and Nenad Krstic from Oklahoma City for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson, on Feb. 24.
While all would agree it hasn't been a smooth transition, there are signs that Green is starting to get a better handle on his role as a backup compared to being a starter for the Thunder.
"I think it's hard for him (Green) because he's never not started," Rivers said. "I also think it's a little more difficult because it's the first time since college when he comes on the floor at times, he is the go-to guy. He's been in the NBA playing with those other two guys (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook) a lot. So, it'll change. It'll be better."
After scoring four points in Game 1, he was up to six in Game 2 and had nine in Game 3.
Defensively, he's starting to figure out how to better compete with Carmelo Anthony.
That could come in handy when you consider the Celtics, if they do eliminate the Knicks, are likely to face the Miami Heat and LeBron James in the next round.
"He's coming," Rivers said of Green. "You can see it. He's playing with a different level of energy."
Rivers is basing that on his play, not his personality.
"Jeff is a poker face guy," Rivers said. "You can never read into that. I think people are reading way too much into that stuff. Jeff may hit the game-winner in Game 7 of the NBA championship, and walk off the floor. But inside, he's probably having a party. You just may not see it."
While it's true that Green isn't an overly emotional guy, even he admits that he has to play with more fire.
More than anything else, Green is learning on the fly what it's like to be part of a team where competing for a championship isn't just a goal - it's practically a mandate for this team.
"Every practice, everything we do is championship level," Green said in a recent interview. "It took some getting used to, because I haven't been there and I haven't experienced it. That's where I want to be. I just have to find a way to get to that point. By me not experiencing that, I have to find a way to get there."
And the Celtics have no doubt that he'll make it - even if you don't see it on his face a la Kevin Garnett.
"I'm not Kevin who is expressive," Green said. "I just have to find it within myself to get my motor revved. It's just something I have to do, something I have to focus on, no matter how many minutes I play. I have to get it done."