THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MEMPHIS, Tenn. _ Jeff Green has helped Memphis win seven of eight games since joining the team two weeks ago.
The team got Green in a three-team trade from Boston on Jan. 12 in the hope the forward can push the Grizzlies deep into the post-season. Inserting one player, even with Green’s talents, means a transition for all, so the Grizzlies are busy redefining roles to find the best combinations.
The changes are working so far. Memphis has been winning and Green has reached double figures in six games, including 21 points on the road at Orlando and 18 last weekend in a home victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
He is averaging 13.6 points and 4.3 rebounds since joining Memphis.
“We’re going to get it right,” forward Zach Randolph said. “It’s a good thing, trying to figure out the chemistry with Jeff.”
Memphis improved to 33-12 after a 109-90 win at Dallas on Tuesday night, good for second in the Western Conference. Green, a 6-foot-9 player in his seventh season out of Georgetown, gives the Grizzlies a much-needed scorer as they try to reach the Western Finals for the second time in three years.
Green can slash to the basket and provide another alternative to the front-line bulk of Randolph and centre Marc Gasol, an All-Star starter. Green can shoot from outside, helping ease the pressure on guards Mike Conley and Courtney Lee.
Memphis coach Dave Joerger said there’s a lack of practice time to implement plays designed for Green, so the Grizzlies are bringing back some plays they used when Rudy Gay played small forward.
“He’s just trying find himself on when he can attack,” Joerger said of Green. “And we’re trying to create lanes for him to attack where he knows there’s not going to be a big in front of him.”
But adding a new player in the middle of the season means changes for players and reserves who helped the Grizzlies turn in the best start in franchise history. Green has played at least 26 minutes and up to 32 minutes so far.
Defensive stalwart Tony Allen, who is dealing with an ankle injury, missed a start as did Lee, who scored in double figures in five straight games before Green replaced him in the starting lineup Jan. 21. That left reserve forward Jon Leuer out of the rotation temporarily, but his minutes have increased in recent games.
Green said he’s still is adapting, but remains confident he’ll blend with the team as one of several offensive options for the Grizzlies. That’s a switch from his tenure in Boston, where he was a primary focus of defences.
“You get comfortable with repetition and time,” Green said. “It’s been great having Marc and Zach looking for me on cuts. The lane has been there for me, I’ve just got to be aggressive.”
The Grizzlies have 27 games left in the regular season, starting Thursday night when Denver visits Memphis, to figure out the best combinations.
“You want to find something that everybody is comfortable with,” Conley said. “We’re going to experiment and see what works. We’ll see as the games go on, and hopefully we’ll figure it out sooner than later.”