Capitals

Jeff Green eager to show Celtics what he can do

Jeff Green eager to show Celtics what he can do

WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) The Celtics gave up plenty to bring Jeff Green to Boston, trading away Kendrick Perkins in a midseason deal that broke up the starting lineup from the 2008 NBA champions.

They've had little to show for it - until now.

``I just think he's more aggressive,'' coach Doc Rivers said after the Celtics played back-to-back exhibition games this weekend and Green was the leading scorer in both. ``He's comfortable in his game. He understands how to score, how he can score through our offense. The other part: He's happy, honestly. The guys like him; he likes them.

``He's comfortable here now,'' Rivers added. ``I think last year, even though he didn't play, it probably did a world of good for him just being around the guys, and they accepted him. I think all that helped him. And he's got a chance to be just terrific.''

Green struggled to fit in during his first half-season after coming to the Celtics in February, 2011, and he missed all of last year after an aortic aneurysm was discovered during a routine training camp physical. But now, with a full training camp and a healthy heart, Green is impressing his coaches and teammates.

``Jeff's always had talent. He's always had high expectations,'' point guard Rajon Rondo said after practice on Wednesday. ``It's no different this year with us.''

Green is the leading scorer on the Celtics so far this preseason, with 111 total points, an average of 13.9 per game. He is No. 2 on the team in rebounds to first-round draft choice Jared Sullinger and second to Rondo in minutes played; he also leads the Celtics in blocked shots in the preseason.

Rivers isn't putting a lot of stock in statistics during the exhibitions, but he said the likes what he sees.

``The guys have confidence in him,'' Rivers said.

And Green doesn't understand the fuss.

``This is the first time you guys even saw me play. That's why everyone's doing that,'' he said after practice on Wednesday. ``I came into the situation when the team was already solid. They'd been here five years; it was tough to pick my spots. It takes time when you come to an organization like this.''

Green was originally drafted by the Celtics with the No. 5 overall pick, but he was immediately shipped to Seattle for Ray Allen as part of the deal that helped Boston assemble the New Big Three. He averaged 13.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in his first four seasons with Seattle, which became Oklahoma City, and Boston.

Green was dominant in the Big East at Georgetown, and was easily one of the best players in the nation as a junior. In 2006-07, he led the Hoyas in scoring (14.3), and was second in rebounding (6.4) and assists (3.2).

The Celtics gave up Perkins, the starting center on their 2008 championship team, and Nate Robinson in a trade to acquire Green and center Nenad Krstic midway through the 2011 season. Green was expected to back up Paul Pierce at forward, and he averaged 9.8 points in 23.5 minutes for the rest of the year.

Boston brought him back as a free agent, but he failed his training camp physical when the aortic aneurysm was detected. The contract was voided, and the Celtics re-signed him this August to a deal that will reportedly pay him $36 million over four years.

Asked on Wednesday what made him want to come back, Green stood up and pointed past reporters to Rondo, who was still practicing long after the other starters had left the court.

``That guy right there,'' Green said. ``I wanted to play with him. He's the best point guard in the league.

``We've got a heck of a team. Who doesn't want to be a part of something special like that? I want to win.''

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MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

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MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

Will Todd Reirden replace Barry Trotz as head coach of the Washington Capitals?

Based on what GM Brian MacLellan said Monday, it certainly sounds like it’s Reirden’s job to lose.

“We’re going to start with Todd here,” MacLellan said. “I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach, whether for us or someone else.”

“We’ll see how the talk goes with him and we’ll make a decision based on that,” MacLellan added. “If it goes well, we’ll pursue Todd. And if it doesn’t, we’ll open it up a little bit.”

MacLellan said he isn’t sure exactly when the interview with Reirden will take place. The front office needs a few days to regroup. It’s also a busy stretch in hockey’s offseason. In the coming two weeks, MacLellan will direct the NHL draft in Dallas, monitor development camp in Arlington and then call the shots when free agency begins on July 1.  

“We need to take a breather here but I think Todd is a good candidate for it,” MacLellan said. “I’d like to sit down with Todd and have a normal interview, head coaching interview. I think most of our discussions are just casual. It’s about hockey in general. But I’d like to do a formal interview with him and just see if there’s differences or how we’re seeing things the same and if he’s a possibility for the head coach.”

Reirden, 46, spent the past four seasons on Trotz’s bench. He was elevated to associate coach prior to the 2016-17 season after coming up just short in his pursuit of the head coaching position in Calgary.

Reirden’s primary responsibility on Trotz’s staff was overseeing the defense and Washington’s perennially potent power play.

Prior to joining the Capitals in 2014, he was an assistant coach for four seasons with the Penguins. And before that, he spent a couple of seasons as the head coach of AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ top minor league affiliate.

A native of Deerfield, Ill., Reirden also had a lengthy professional career that included 183 NHL games with the Oilers, Blues, Thrashers and Coyotes.

Asked what he’s looking for in the Caps’ next head coach, MacLellan said he’s looking for a forward-thinker, a strong communicator and a players’ coach.

Reirden is all of those things.

“Someone that's up to date on the modern game,” MacLellan said. “Someone that's progressive, looking to try different things. Someone that has a good relationship with players. They communicate, can teach, make players better. It's becoming a developmental league where guys are coming in not fully developed products and we need a guy that can bring young players along because more and more we're going to use young players as the higher end guys make more money.”

One of the side benefits of elevating Reirden is the fact he already has a strong relationship with many of the current players, meaning there won’t be much upheaval as the Caps look to defend their championship.

“It could be a natural transition,” MacLellan said. “But once we sit down and talk face to face about all the little small details in the team, I'll have a better feel for it.”

MacLellan said a decision on the other assistant coaches—Lane Lambert, Blaine Forsythe, Scott Murray, Brett Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi—will be made after the next head coach is named.

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Brian MacLellan explains the reasoning behind not extending Trotz before the 2017-18 season

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Brian MacLellan explains the reasoning behind not extending Trotz before the 2017-18 season

As shocking as the news of Barry Trotz’s resignation on Monday felt, it probably shouldn’t have given that whether or not he would return to Washington after the 2017-18 season was a storyline all year long.

Trotz entered the 2017-18 season on the last year of his initial four-year deal leading to speculation over whether the team was dissatisfied with his results and ready to move on from the head coach when his contract expired. Teams typically do not allow a head coach to enter the final year of a contract so that they do not appear to the players to be a lame duck coach.

Ultimately, that turned out to not be a problem as Trotz led the organization to its first Stanley Cup in his contract year. While there was interest from both sides in an extension in the wake of winning the Cup, ultimately a new deal could not be agreed upon and now the defending champs are without a head coach.

This begs the question, could things have been different had the team worked out a new contract with Trotz before the 2017-18 season? The answer is almost certainly yes, so how did things get to the point where Trotz was allowed to go into 2017-18 without an extension?

During a press conference with the media on Monday, general manager Brian MacLellan explained the team’s reasoning in not extending Trotz in the summer of 2017.

“We were struggling at the time to get over the hump,” MacLellan said. “We couldn't get over the second round and Barry hadn't been able to coach out of the second round yet either.”

In 15 seasons with the Nashville Predators, Trotz was not able to coach his team past the second round in the playoffs. In his three seasons with Washington leading up to the 2017-18 campaign, he had led the Caps to two division titles and two Presidents’ Trophies, but again could not get past the second-round hump that had plagued both him and the team.

Based on MacLellan’s comments, another early playoff exit would have likely led to the team choosing to allow Trotz's contract to expire.

“I think from the organization's perspective, some changes would've had to be made if we lost in the second round again,” MacLellan said.

But what if instead the unthinkable happened? What if the Caps forced Trotz into a “prove it” contract year and he was able to lead the team to the Stanley Cup? Didn’t they risk losing him all along?

Yes and no.

MacLellan confirmed reports on Monday that Trotz’s contract included an automatic two-year extension “at an increased rate” if he won the Cup. So while both sides were negotiating an extension, technically Trotz was already under contract through the 2019-20 season.

In the summer of 2017, MacLellan had a choice to make. At the end of the two-year championship window, he could choose to extend a head coach who had not brought the team the type of postseason success he was hoping for, he could fire a coach who had just won two consecutive division titles, two Presidents’ Trophies and whose team was eliminated in the playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup champions, or he could ride out the final year of Trotz’s deal and, in the off chance the team won the Stanley Cup, still rest easy in the notion that Trotz would automatically remain under contract.

MacLellan went with option C. It almost worked.

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