On the 25th of January 2013 that all changed. On that day the Celtics were playing the Atlanta Hawks in Atlanta. It would be the final game of the season for all-star point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo tore his ACL late in an overtime period.
The Celtics' championship window that was perceived to be slightly ajar had been slammed shut.
At least, that's how it was perceived. Instead of having that door slammed shut, the Celtics' bit-part players, led by Green amongst one or two others, prised it open for one final run with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
Rondo's injury coincided with Green's comfort level rising. Not only had he played through three months of basketball to earn that trust back in his physical ability to play the game, without Rondo the Celtics reverted to a more orthodox offensive approach that required less thinking and more performing from Green. His first post-Rondo display saw him set his season high in minutes with 42 against the Miami Heat. Green didn't have his best game, but he was heavily involved which was a sign of things to come.
Green went from playing anywhere from 14 to 32 minutes before Rondo's injury, to 21 through 42 post-injury. Over the 12 games that Green played after that trip to Atlanta, Green averaged 31.5 minutes per game as part of his 25 minutes per game for the season. He is only averaging 10.9 points per game this year, but 15.8 points per game post-Rondo. He has also averaged over four rebounds per game post-Rondo, compared to just three prior.
Statistically, Green has become a greater overall piece of the puzzle. However, it is his play on the court that has really been notable. No longer is he hesitant when taking on lesser match-ups No longer does he pass of the responsibility of putting the ball in the basket to other players or wait for his opportunities to pick off scraps from the work of others. Instead, Green is now at the forefront of the team's offensive approach, including clearout plays to put him in space using his physical advantages over defenders. His all-around game is flourishing, as he is not a defensive liability, and it culminated in a game against the Phoenix Suns recently.
A season-high 31 points was complemented by seven rebounds, four assists, five blocks, two steals and just one turnover in 39 minutes of play. Shooting over 78% for the game and 60% from behind the arc highlighted just how difficult Green is to defend on any given day. While it may have only been one game against the lowly Suns, it was a game played without Kevin Garnett and his first start of the season. Green didn't just prove that he can still play at this level, he proved that he can excel with added responsibility on his shoulders.
As much as Celtics fans have learned to doubt Green because of his inconsistencies and short-comings adjusting to life in Boston, nobody can claim that he has ever shied away from taking on the challenges and responsibilities that come with being a professional basketball player. This Celtics team is living on resiliency post-Rondo, Green is epitomizing everything that is currently good about this team.
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