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NBA Saturday: Jeff Green’s Only Concern is Winning

As Jeff Green continues acclimating to his new team, he says his main concern is winning … Russell Westbrook caps off a historic month with another triple-double … DeAndre Jordan emerging in the absence of Blake Griffin

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The Memphis Grizzlies have been one of the best teams in the NBA for the last few years, qualifying for the postseason four seasons in a row, and advancing as far as the Western Conference Finals in the 2012-13 season. However, last season the Grizzlies were eliminated in the first round by the Oklahoma City Thunder in seven games. Like many teams, the Grizzlies were good, but not good enough to make it out of the perpetually stacked Western Conference.

This season, the Western Conference is arguably even deeper, with three teams fighting over the eighth seed and at least eight teams that have a reasonable chance of making it out of the first round. With so much competition, the Grizzlies wanted to upgrade at small forward (arguably their weakest position), and did so by acquiring Jeff Green from the Boston Celtics in January.

Earlier this week, Basketball Insiders caught up with Green to see how he is fitting in with his new team.

“I think it’s been great,” said Green. “We’ve been winning, doing good. Chemistry has been (good), so I think it’s going well.

“I haven’t been on (this team) for a full season, but so far I think it’s been great.”

Throughout his career, Green has played both at small forward and power forward. With the Grizzlies, Green is being asked to play mostly at small forward in order to spread the court with his shooting, and attack the basket off the dribble when he has the opportunity to do so. When asked if Green prefers playing at small forward, and what has changed on the court from his days with the Boston Celtics, Green made it clear all he cares about is doing whatever it takes to help his team win.

“Nothing has changed,” said Green. “I’m doing the same thing, out there trying to play hard and just trying do what it takes to win for my team.

“I’m just comfortable out there playing, just being on the floor.”

Since acquiring Green, the Grizzlies have won 15 of their last 20 games. Over those 20 games, Green is averaging 11.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 28.8 minutes per game. Green’s numbers are slightly down across the board, but that may be due to the adjustment that comes with a new role, learning a new system and playing with new teammates. In Boston, Green was the go-to-guy. In Memphis, Green is just one of several talented veterans. When asked how he has adapted to this change, Green said he is just focused on making things easier for his new teammates.

“I don’t have to adapt,” said Green. “They just want me to go out there and be myself. Be aggressive, because if I’m aggressive that’s going to take a lot of pressure off of other guys, so we’re out there sharing the ball, just playing team basketball.

“My mindset is just be aggressive. Since I’ve been here, that’s what Marc wanted me to do, Zbo, just be myself and that’s what I’ve been doing. I think when I’m aggressive it opens up the floor. And I think as you play in this league enough I think you know that as a player no matter what rank people got you, as an All-Star not as an All-Star, if you’re aggressive you’re going to open up the floor, so that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Green has proven that he can score in bunches on any given night, which is why his opponents usually stick close to him on the perimeter. However, he does have a tendency to disappear on some nights, and his three-point shooting has always been average at best. With the Grizzlies this season, Green is connecting on 31.1 percent of his three-point attempts, which is below his 33.9 career average from beyond-the-arc. In addition, it should be noted that the Grizzlies are outscoring opponents by 0.5 per 100 possessions when Green is on the court, and 8.7 points per 100 possessions when he is off the court, per nba.com.

These numbers show that there is still room for improvement for Green and the Grizzlies. It is rare for a player to play at his full potential with just 20 games of experience with a new team, and Green is no exception. The good news for the Grizzlies is that Green is buying into the team’s philosophy, he is playing in a way that he thinks helps his teammates and is filling any role head coach Dave Joerger asks him to.

“I’ve been having to do that my whole career,” said Green. “Ask any coach that I’ve been with. I mean they never have one role for me, it’s always been multiple. I always have multiple effort on the court. I’m just doing what I’ve been doing and that’s just going out there and doing whatever coach tells me to do.”

If he can refine his role over the 25 remaining regular season games, the Grizzlies could hit another gear by the time playoffs roll around, which is a scary thought for the other Western Conference playoff teams. With the second best defense and eleventh best offense (per Nylon Calculus), the Memphis Grizzlies are a true contender this season. The Grizzlies are currently 41-16 and are ranked second in the West, just four and a half games behind the Golden State Warriors, who have been the darlings of the NBA this season. It’s odd that a team has been playing at an elite level all season seems to rarely be discussed as being among the league’s elite, but the lack of attention doesn’t concern Green.

“We don’t care, we don’t need [the media] to talk about us,” said Green. “That’s not going to determine our record. We go out there and just play games. When it’s all said and done, we just want to win.

“For me I’m all about winning. Winning is everything to me. If I’m winning, if the team is winning, everybody gets recognized.”

Green hasn’t hit his full stride yet with the Grizzlies, but he deserves credit for adopting a team-first mentality and taking on whatever role his team needs to win at a high level.

Russell Westbrook Caps off Historic Month With Another Triple-Double

Last night, Russell Westbrook contributed 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in a 115-112 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. It was his third triple-double a row, which capped off what has been a historic month for Westbrook. Here’s a quick recap.

  • Westbrook became the first player to put together three triple-doubles in a row since LeBron James in March of 2009.
  • Westbrook’s triple-double against the Trail Blazers was the first 40-point triple-double since LeBron James’ on February 18, 2010.
  • Westbrook is just the fourth player in the last twenty years to put together three triple-doubles in a row. The other three players to do so are LeBron James, Jason Kidd and Grant Hill.
  • Westbrook became just the second player in NBA history to average at least 30 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists over at least ten games in a calendar month (31.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 10.3 asg). The only other player to achieve this was Oscar Robertson, who did so eight times
  • Westbrook tied Gary Payton’s franchise record of six consecutive games with at least 20 points and 10  assists.

Unfortunately, Westbrook was kneed in the head by teammate Andre Roberson on the last possession of last night’s game, which appears to have created a dent to the side of his head. After the game, Westbrook underwent tests to evaluate the injury, but the extent of the injury and his status remain unclear at this time.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are now 32-27 on the season, and hold just a half game lead over the New Orleans Pelicans and a one game lead over the Phoenix Suns for the eighth and final playoff seed in the West.

DeAndre Jordan Continues Strong Play

On February 8, Blake Griffin was diagnosed with a staph infection in his elbow. Griffin underwent surgery to remove the infection and remains sidelined for likely another few weeks. In Griffin’s absence, teammate DeAndre Jordan has emerged as a force under the basket.

Since February 8, Jordan is averaging 17.1 points, 18.5 rebounds, two blocks, 1.1 assists, and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 67.1 percent from the field. In comparison, Jordan’s averages for the season are 11.2 points, 14 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 0.6 assists, and one steal per game on 72 percent shooting from the field.

The Clippers have won five of their eight games without Griffin, knocking off teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies in the process. Jordan has been a force on both ends of the floor, actively protecting the rim while fighting for loose balls and put-back opportunities on offense. Were it not for Russell Westbrook’s historic month, Jordan would be in a great position to earn Western Conference player of the month for the month of February.

One thing that has not changed for Jordan over this hot stretch, however, is his free throw shooting. Jordan is shooting 43.9 percent from the line over the last eight games, and has routinely been fouled by other teams in an attempt to slow down the Clippers’ offense. To his credit, Jordan has hit enough free throws that the tactic has not hurt the Clippers significantly thus far. However, it is still a possibility that Jordan’s free throw shooting could cost the Clippers a crucial game in the postseason.

It will be interesting to see if Jordan is able to keep up his elevated play when Griffin returns to the lineup. Whether he can or not, Jordan is working his way towards a max contract after this season, when he is set to become an unrestricted free agent.

 

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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