BOSTON – Getting back to the playoffs for the third straight year is among the goals for the Boston Celtics this season, and their play of late has certainly looked the part of a postseason club.
But there’s something different about this team of late that speaks to the win-now mentality that’s steadily creeping into their everyday way of doing things.
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While Boston is still intent on developing its young players, getting wins is of greater importance which is in part why the team’s youngsters spent most of Tuesday’s 113-103 win over Memphis watching while the team’s veterans handled their business against a seasoned Grizzlies squad.
The most noticeable change has to do with 30-year-old Gerald Green who is in the rotation now, ahead of second-year guard Terry Rozier.
Green proved coach Brad Stevens made the right decision by scoring a season-high 19 points against Memphis, and doing so in less than 19 minutes of court time.
Grizzlies coach David Fizdale was an assistant in Miami last season when Green played for the Heat. Fizdale wasn’t the least bit surprised to see his team get lit up by the veteran wing.
“That’s Gerald; Gerald can get it going at any time,” Fizdale said when I asked him about Green. “I know what Gerald is capable of. He’s definitely a guy that we had labeled on the scouting report as a ‘hot guy,’ a guy that can really get it rolling. He did, what he does. Gerald is a confident player. He can shoot it. He can put it on the floor. He’s one of my favorite guys.”
His Celtics teammates feel the same way about him, even Rozier whose minutes have been gobbled up by Green.
In the last two games, Green has averaged 13.5 points in just 15.5 minutes per game, shooting 62.5 percent (10-for-16) from the field.
This season, Green has appeared in 15 games while averaging 5.0 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 11 minutes per game.
Prior to appearing in the last three games, Green did not play in 13 of the Celtics’ previous 15 games with all but two being coaches decisions (he was inactive for two games due to an injury).
To his credit, Green waited patiently for his turn to play and has made the most of his opportunity.
“It definitely came and he was ready for it. That’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “That just … I can do the same thing. It’s probably harder for him because he played in the league longer. For him to stay positive and him being one of the loudest on the bench when he wasn’t playing and keeping everybody encouraged, he finally gets his time on Christmas and steps up. That’s just big to see that. He’s a great locker room guy. It’s something I want to take note of and stay positive.”
Rozier isn’t the only young Celtic whose playing time has taken a dip lately.
Jaylen Brown, drafted by the Celtics with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, has also seen less time on the court recently.
He averages just over 13 minutes played per game this season.
But during Boston’s current run of six wins in seven games, Brown’s playing time has been 13 minutes or less in six of the seven games.
His dip in minutes is due to a healthy Jae Crowder who will log most of the minutes at small forward. And while Brown has shown he can play some power forward as well, the Celtics have been inclined to go with a power forward rotation of starters Al Horford, Amir Johnson, and Crowder playing some power forward, with Jonas Jerebko seeing time some spot duty at the four-spot off the bench.
However, considering Green’s emergence the last couple of games and how seemingly every year there’s a certain ebb and flow to guys being in and out of Stevens’ rotation, Rozier understands that eventually he’ll get a chance to play his way back into getting regular minutes.
And the second-year guard is intent on being ready for his opportunity.
While Rozier has played with a chip on his shoulder since like, forever, he doesn’t see his slide out of the rotation adding to that added motivation that he plays with on a nightly basis.
“I’m just going to be ready to play when I get in there,” he said. “I’m just going to come out aggressive and just play my game and do what I can do to help this team win."
Rozier added with a grin, “I won’t say it’s any more fuel to the fire.”