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What we saw isn't what we'll get with Green

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What we saw isn't what we'll get with Green

MIAMI For weeks, we have been told by both our ears and eyes that Jeff Green was a changed man.

The sometimes timid, unsure and mostly unpredictable -- but ridiculously talented -- swing man was no longer in the building.

It almost had the feel of a campaign spiel, hearing Green remind us all that he would assert himself on a nightly basis and deliver the kind of high impact play that anyone who has seen him play knows he's capable of delivering.

Then the Boston Celtics played a game that mattered on Tuesday night.

Unfortunately for Green and the C's, the new Jeff Green looked a lot like the old one in Boston's 120-107 loss at Miami in the season opener for both teams.

It's too soon to beat up Green too much. After all, it's just the first game and, for Green, it was his first game in more than a year.

Afterwards, Green talked about how the emotions of having had such a long layoff from the game played a role in his struggles early on against the Heat.

"I had to deal with it a lot the first couple of minutes," Green said. "Just the adrenaline kicked in, got tired quickly. That's not an excuse. I have to do a way better job."

That was the general sentiment heard from most of Green's teammates following the loss.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Paul Pierce said afterward. "We're going to continue to grow."

That includes Green, who is just 26 years old and, by NBA standards, still has a couple of years before his game should peak.

A big part of his growth is simply becoming more consistent, not just in terms of his play but also his demeanor.

Green is a likable guy, well-regarded by his teammates, fans and the media.

But good guys are trumped by great talent in this market.

And when you talk about Green, it is temperament -- not talent -- that has been the issue.

Simply put, he has to morph himself, and all those skills that he possesses, into a difference-maker in order for the Celtics to have the kind of season they envision.

Most nights, Green is a mismatch waiting to be exploited by the Celtics.

And part of the blame has to be placed on the C's, who from time to time, tend to go away from or ignore some of the many options that favor them.

But ultimately, Green's play comes back to his level of aggression.

And fair or unfair, Tuesday's performance gave those who are still skeptical even more reason to doubt he'll be as big an X-factor as many believe.

But here's the thing.

Prior to him missing last season, one could legitimately question his toughness and temperament. It fluctuated in just about every part of his play.

But this Jeff Green is a different player than the one Boston acquired via trade from Oklahoma City.

The one blessing of his heart surgery is that it allowed him to sit back and see the game from a perspective that so few young NBA players ever get an opportunity to do.

Green saw first-hand how the best players in the league, at his position, played with an edge most nights and that edge was a big factor in their success.

It wasn't anything Green hadn't heard before.

But to see guys like Pierce and LeBron James and Kevin Durant and a host of elite wings go so hard so consistently -- and not have an opportunity to compete himself at the time -- has brought about a renewed focus to bring that kind of aggressive play to the floor.

True, it was nowhere to be found on Tuesday.

But that doesn't mean it's not in him.

He made a point during the preseason to dispel his critics with a bevy of dunks, highlight-worthy blocked shots and an overall game that actually made him stand out on a second unit that already includes a pair of Sixth Man of the Year (Leandro Barbosa and Jason Terry) award winners.

But dominating Emporio Armani isn't quite the same as dealing with elite teams in the NBA like the defending NBA champion Miami Heat.

The C's are doing the right thing in not putting too much stock into what truly was just one of 82 regular-season games.

Green will get his chance -- plenty of them, actually -- to make amends for his lackluster return to the floor on Tuesday.

Having gone through all that he has this past year, it's only a matter of time before the changes that we've heard about and seen glimpses of, will be in plain sight for all to see.

Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

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Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – While it’s still early in the careers of all the young Bruins rookies making their way this season, it sure looks like 22-year-old Danton Heinen is among the B’s youngsters that are here to stay. The former University of Denver standout didn’t make the cut at the end of training camp this season and he failed early last year when it was clear he wasn’t ready during an eight-game audition with the big club.

But Heinen continued to look ready while scoring a pair of goals and three points in the three games on a pivotal road trip through California last week, and is now tied for fifth on the Bruins in points despite missing four games in the AHL. In all, Heinen has four goals and 10 points along with a plus-4 rating in 15 games this season, and is on pace for a really strong 21 goals and 52 points in his first full year.

This has been a really nice step forward for Heinen after being a point-per-game player for Providence during their playoff run last spring.

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“Last year’s playoff did a lot for him. When I saw him playing there, he was a different player than when he’d left [Boston],” said Bruce Cassidy. “There was a willingness to stay in the battle and his growth when it comes to winning pucks…you’ve seen it here. A lot of the things he’s down well are his second and third efforts on the puck where last year I thought he was pushed off the puck pretty easily [at the NHL level].”

There could be a period when his offense slows down or some other part of his game drags his minutes down, but right now he looks like he’s well on his way to establishing himself in a key role with the Black and Gold. The difference has been Heinen increasing his speed and also adding a little more tenacity to the skill and offense package that he was always bringing to the table.  

“I don’t want to say that because when we get our guys healthy then we’ll see where we’re at,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if Heinen was a keeper at the NHL level at this point. “But I think he’s certainly shown he’s a much more consistent player than he was last year. He’s probably a bit ahead of the other younger guys because he has gone through a bit of it [at the pro level]. The fact that he’s been able to play in a lot of different situations, play left or right wing, and moved up in the lineup while being very effective with [Sean] Kuraly and [Tim] Schaller down in the lineup, as a coach it’s to have a guy like that who can move around and fit in a lot of different places.

“So he’s certainly helped himself [to stay in the NHL]. I think it’s too early to say if he’s here for good, but I don’t envision him leaving [Boston] anytime soon with the way that he’s played.”

Only time and consistently good play will allow the playmaking Heinen to truly lock up his spot on the NHL roster, but it’s increasingly difficult to envision any scenario where the fifth-round pick isn’t playing an increasingly important role for the Bruins. 

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Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

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Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

The first came in the second quarter, when Brandin Cooks turned on afterburners to beat a Raiders double team and glide underneath a Tom Brady heave for 52 yards. The second came in the third quarter, on the third play from scrimmage of the second half, when Cooks faked an out-route, jetted past rookie corner Obi Melifonwu, and sped into the end zone to make the score 24-0. 

Both deep completions in New England's 33-8 win over Oakland just added to cumulative effect that Cooks has had on the Patriots offense since arriving before the season to become their top deep threat. 

Paired with Brady, Cooks has actually become the most productive deep threat in the NFL. 

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According to Pro Football Focus, Cooks leads all receivers with 431 yards on deep passes (throws that travel 20 yards or more down the field). In second place is Houston's DeAndre Hopkins with 313 yards. 

And Brady, who has long been more effective in the short-to-intermediate range than he has been deep, is now among the league leaders in creating explosive plays from the quarterback position. The Patriots are third in the NFL with 41 pass plays of 20 yards or more, and they are tied for second with nine plays of 40 yards or more. 

"You're always trying to work on that," Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show of his team's deep passing game. "It's not one particular year [you work on it]. I think that's been a concerted effort by our entire offense, trying to make more explosive plays in the pass game. 

"Sometimes your offense is built differently. We actually have some guys now that can really get down the field so that becomes more of a point of emphasis. The way Brandin runs, the way that Chris Hogan runs, the way that Phillip Dorsett runs, they're very fast. You need to be able to take advantage of their skill set . . . 

"When we had David Patten we were throwing it deep. I mean, but David Patten didn't run a lot of short routes. I would say Brandin Cooks, in general, he doesn't run a lot of short routes. Everyone has a different role. If we can get by you, I think that's a good place to throw the ball. if we can't, we gotta figure out ways to throw it underneath and different weeks are going to call for different things based on the strengths of the defenses we're playing, too."

A week before beating the Raiders, against the Broncos and their talented corners, the Patriots had less luck pushing the ball down the field -- though they tried to hit Cooks deep multiple times. In Mexico City, Cooks matched up with a weaker secondary, and he wasn't at all slowed by the altitude, catching six passes in all for 149 yards and a score. 

Per PFF, Cooks has seen almost one third of his targets (30 percent) come on deep passes, which is the ninth-highest rate in the league. He's caught all 11 of his catchable deep passes, three of them accounting for scores.

"Obviously when you're throwing the ball 50-60 yards down the field," Brady said, "your chances of completion go down, but if you hit it, it ends up being a very explosive plays and you can change a lot of field position and get a defense really on their heels if they have to defend every blade of grass on the field." 

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