Why Javonte Green's teammates are surprised chance in NBA didn't come sooner

Nick Friar
January 06, 2020 - 8:19 am
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Even though Tacko Fall gets more attention than over half the NBA — check the first round of league’s All-Star voting — a case could be made that someone else from the Celtics’ 2019 NBA Summer League roster has been a bigger success story. Javonte Green.

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But between Fall and Boston’s selections from the 2019 NBA Draft, it was hard to see Green as more than a high-flying sideshow during summer league. Even after he willed his way onto the Celtics’ NBA roster, he was still labeled as a dunker and not much else.

Fast-forward to Saturday’s game against the Bulls and Green is still throwing down dunks with reckless abandon — and he’s still wearing a Celtics uniform. He’s proven to be much more than a dunker, though that’s still how he draws everyone’s attention.

Like most of the Celtics reserves, Green’s minutes have fluctuated throughout the season. Sometimes he comes in at the end of blowouts. Other games, he’s eating up minutes in the second and third quarters. Then there are nights, like when Dallas visited Boston, where Green logs first and fourth quarter minutes.

Looking at where Green is now, it’s hard to imagine he’s the same player who had to do everything just right during summer league and training camp to get a spot on the NBA roster. He just seems like one of the guys now.

What’s even harder to fathom is the fact Green is a rookie. His teammates are in the same boat as everyone else. They can’t fully comprehend why it took so long for Green to get a shot in the NBA.

“Yes, very surprised. He’s a rare talent,” Jaylen Brown told WEEI.com “His athletic ability. Definitely belongs playing basketball at the highest level.”

Kemba Walker feels the same. So does Jayson Tatum, but he recognizes the process isn’t always simple.

“A little bit (surprised), but you know you never understand what guys got to go through to get to this point,” Tatum told WEEI.com. “He deserves to be here.”

It should come as no surprise the first thing Green’s teammates cite when discussing his game is his athleticism. But, again, “he’s more than just an athlete,” as Tatum said.

“His athleticism is crazy,” Walker told WEEI.com “His energy plus his athleticism mixed together. The way he gets downhill and the way he’s able to finish around the rim, it’s pretty impressive to me. Whenever he gets in the game, he gets to the basket going downhill. Every single time. It’s like clockwork. I think that’s what impresses me the most. He just picks up speed, it’s crazy.”

Green’s ability to attack the basket isn’t solely a product of his athleticism. Brown pointed out the other element to Green’s game that makes him so explosive.

“His aggressiveness, how confident he is,” Brown said. “He just looks like he belongs. He’s relentless in terms of getting to the basket, getting to the paint. And anybody can use that on their team.”

Now, fluctuating minutes is probably the best Green can expect this season. He’s seen increases when teammates get injured and should continue to do so under those circumstances, or when his teammates need to rest.

But Brad Stevens has made it clear minute distribution is largely based on the matchups when it comes to the reserves. So there could be games where the Celtics are at full strength — if that ever happens — and Green still logs important minutes.

At some point, he’s going to want more. It’s only natural. That probably won’t be the case this season, based on what he said to WEEI.com on the latest episode of 5 Out, but that day will come at some point.

If he wants to get more time and on a consistent basis — and maybe live up to Danny Ainge’s assessment — Walker has an idea of what Green needs to do.

“I think, make shots consistently from three. If he can become a great 3-and-D guy then he’ll really have a real solid chance at being a rotation guy every night,” Walker said. “But that’s going to come with his work, which he puts it in. I always see him here (at the Auerbach Center) early trying to work on his jump shot. But that’s his next step: consistently making the three and just making shots when he’s open.”

For more on Green’s story, listen to the latest BONUS SHORT on WEEI.com’s 5 Out. Green talked about what kept him working diligently even though he wasn’t getting a shot at the NBA, as well as what he’s found to be the most challenging part about the league. The show is also available on RADIO.COM, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify.

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