Typically, when a team signs a free agent who has been in the league for almost a decade, they know exactly what sort of production they are going to get.
Unless it's Jeff Green.
This will be his ninth NBA season since his debut for the Seattle Supersonics back in 2007 and no-one really knows what to do with the guy. He has become a monument to both head-scratching inconsistency and the 'never quite put it together' clique of players who appear to fall well short of our expectations.
I, like many others, have been riding the Jeff Green roller-coaster for some time now, belatedly realizing I had subtly let some of my feelings show in my last article. I think it's time we all stopped talking ourselves into Jeff Green.
When Doc Rivers traded Lance Stephenson and a 1st round pick for Jeff Green last season, it seemed like a good fit for both player and team, with Charles Barkley ambitiously predicting that the player could go on to become a multiple All-Star in LA. However, despite a large, peculiarly Jeff Green shaped hole at small-forward, it didn't work out.
Green started only 10 of his 27 games for the Clips and struggled to click with both the team and his former coach Doc Rivers, who reverted back to 'The Prince' Luc Mbah a Moute as a starter. In the playoffs, Mbah a Moute completely justified Doc's decision with an impressive 9 points and 10 rebounds... in total. In five games.
This is the story of Jeff Green's career; there is simply no reason why, from a talent standpoint, he wasn't able to usurp the Prince of Cameroon (a man averaging 3 points and 2 rebounds a game) from the starting line-up. Beyond that, if Green can't perform consistently flanked by Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and Deandre Jordan, then I'm not sure he'll ever be able to. That was his best chance. Green had flown ass-backwards into a great situation with the Clippers, and could have started the new season as their fifth most important starter, focused on his defense and rebounding, and become a valuable glue guy on a contender.
Instead, he once again flattered to deceive, as he had done on the Memphis Grizzlies immediately prior.
In free agency this summer, Green joined the Orlando Magic for a 1 year, $15 million deal. Whilst some eyebrows were raised, this is essentially a smart move for Orlando, who are renting Green for a year before likely using that money to pursue a better free agent next summer. Green must realize he is now in the same situation as Rajon Rondo last year, with one contract to prove he isn't a complete lost cause and restore his market value.
After all, Green will be 30 by the end of the month and must realize few teams will be clamoring to sign him on a long-term deal.
This is a 'prove yourself' contract, not just for the Magic, but for the league, and I hope Jeff Green realizes that.
I'm sure he does. Green is an extremely likeable man who we are still lucky to have on the court following the heart problems he suffered back in 2012. He even used his time recovering from surgery to finish graduating from Georgetown with a degree in English. Whilst watching his first press conference as a Magic player I couldn't help but notice Green's understated demeanor; he wore a plain purple t-shirt and a thin gold cross around his neck, and spoke enthusiastically of being a role-model for the younger players and working with a coach he had long admired.
At the close of the interview, Green said something which I hadn't considered. This was the first time he had chosen a team in free agency, the first time he wasn't being traded away for another player or for a first round pick, that this time he feels wanted and that this is a fresh start. This is Green's fourth team in two years and sixth team in almost a decade in the league and as a player who has bounced around the league as much as he has, who's health issues were the cause of heated dispute between the Celtics and Thunder after his trade, feeling wanted , and not only that, feeling wanted as a leader, must mean a hell of a lot.
Oh god. It's happening. I've talked myself into him again.