Opening Night of the 2013-14 NBA season is Wednesday for the Boston Celtics. A play has yet to be run, a basket has yet to be scored, and a win or loss has yet to be recorded.
But most fans and prognosticators alike are already viewing this as a lost season for the Celtics, who open at the Toronto Raptors. The hope of Green Teamers everywhere is that a Celtics squad — in Year One of a full-fledged rebuild — will lose-rinse-repeat until ultimately securing a top-three (at worst) pick in next June's NBA Draft.
Jeff Green isn't paying attention to all of that noise.
For the uber-talented 27-year-old Celtics forward, 2013-14 is his chance to validate the expectations and promise that followed him into the NBA from Georgetown University.
“I'm excited about it. This is a great opportunity for myself to take my game to the next level,” said Green at the team's Media Day before the start of training camp.
For the first time since the 2006-07 season, the Celtics are not remotely in the conversation as an NBA title contender. Truthfully, they couldn't be further from the conversation. First-year, 37-year-old head coach Brad Stevens comes to Boston from the far-different world of Butler University, and has a jumbled roster that lacks star power.
There's no getting around the fact that victories won't often come easy for the Celtics this season. The degree of how difficult things are for Boston will rest largely on how well Green plays. The 6-foot-9, 235-pounder has a vast set of skills and Stevens will undoubtedly put a lot on his plate.
“Whatever (Stevens) serves me up, I'm going to take,” said Green. “I play hard. I go out there and leave it all on the floor. It's just focus on what (Stevens) wants me to bring each game, because I know it's going to be different each game.
“This is just more under a microscope for me. My last couple of years, whether it was here or in Oklahoma City, I've always had a dominant role on what to expect from the team. With the subtraction of Kevin (Garnett) and Paul (Pierce), and even Doc (Rivers), and with (Rajon) Rondo being out, I'll have more of a focus. I couldn't care less. I know what I have to do. Just go out there and play basketball and play my game.”
Pierce, who spent 15 seasons in Boston, and fellow future Hall of Famer Garnett were dealt to the Brooklyn Nets in a summer blockbuster deal aimed to create a younger C's roster.
Former head coach Rivers was very much willingly traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for greener pastures. That trio guided Boston an NBA title in 2008 and a trip to the Finals in 2010.
Rondo is sidelined with a torn ACL, suffered last Jan. 25. The Celtics are hoping their All-Star point guard is back sooner rather than later.
“I'll be returning in the 2013-2014 season. I'm feeling great, working out every day,” said Rondo after last Wednesday's preseason finale against the Nets. “I'm able to do more as far as compound workouts versus me just doing one workout a day. So I'm doing more on my leg and I'm handling it. So, I'm getting better. It's getting stronger each day. I got fitted for my first brace, so I don't think contact will be too far from now. So I'm just waiting to get cleared from my doctors ... I can give you about as far as my leg percentage — I'm probably at about 87 percent, give or take, depending on how my day goes.
“We've got a lot of guys in the room that are up for the challenge and I'm sure I'll do well.”
Green was the fifth overall pick in the 2007 draft by the Celtics, but was subsequently traded to Seattle for Ray Allen. A fantastic finisher around the rim with proven 3-point range, Green is a potential 20-plus scorer on a nightly basis.
His career averages of 13.6 points and 5.2 rebounds are solid, but unquestionably too low for his talent level. He was traded to Boston from Oklahoma City in 2011 in exchange for fan-favorite center Kendrick Perkins, but complacency and inconsistency plagued Green as he took a backseat to Pierce and Garnett.
He was forced to sit out the entire 2011-12 season to recover from heart surgery.
Green returned strongly last year, averaging 12.8 points on 46.7 percent shooting in 81 regular season games. He had a 43-point night last March against the champion Miami Heat, and averaged 20.3 points in a first-round playoff series against the New York Knicks. Green said playing with Garnett helped push him to become the player he was at the end of last season, adding more focus and determination. He wants to attempt upwards of eight free throws per game this season.
“I feel good. This has been the first summer where I didn't have to rehab, I didn't have other obligations, as far as school where I had to be or report to,” said Green. “My conditioning is there, my game is there, I'm just getting ready for the opportunity ahead.”
The Celtics lack a proven true center and their rebounding woes have been well-documented over the past few seasons. They do have very serviceable players throughout the roster such as forwards Gerald Wallace, Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries, and guard Avery Bradley.
Last week, Stevens acknowledged it will indeed be a work in progress.
“I still think we've got a lot to work on. But, more positive than negative. And we can move forward,” he said.