"Remember me and smile, for it's better to forget than to remember me and cry."
- Dr. Seuss
You don't know me, and I certainly wouldn't expect you to. I'm just a guy who writes for a blog about the Memphis Grizzlies and tweets too much. We all have our things, right? I am sure you have some interest that is deemed a bit...excessive.
For me, that's the Grizzlies, because I love Memphis and the Grizzlies solidified that love for me.
And when the Memphis Grizzlies acquired you via trade, I truly thought you would be the guy. I wrote about it here. The "Answer." The "Fourth Grizzly King." The wing to complete a group known as the "Core Four." Rudy Gay couldn't do it. Tayshaun Prince did for a while, but it wasn't really because of him as much as it was because of Rudy being gone. We thought maybe Quincy Pondexter could do it for a little while, but that fell apart with injury and issues with coaches.
And then, there you were. An athletic specimen capable of phenomenal feats of high-flying basketball acrobatics and electrifying the masses.
Those are just a few recent examples of what you showed you were capable of in Memphis. Looking at your history, it is similar to what you were able to accomplish in Boston, in Seattle and in Oklahoma City. Flashes of brilliance, random explosions of offense. It is this Jeff Green that I believed in. I believed in the Jeff Green who took his life experiences with health problems, with heart surgery, and turned it in to helping others. Young kids with similar issues, being a role model for them, for what they can still be. Your strength to go through what you went through and come back and play in the NBA at all is an inspiration. Your willingness to be a good teammate, to come off the bench to help the team when times were tough. You seem to be a man of character, who your Head Coach believed in a good bit.
Perhaps all of that was why I liked you so much. I am not ashamed to admit that that blinded me some, though. Perhaps it wasn't being blinded- I just did not wish to see what so many folks pointed out. You throughout your career were not what so many thought you were. You were not this "answer" that I and others saw you as- you put up numbers on bad teams. Or you played alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Your defense was borderline abysmal most of the time, you seemed lost in scheme and you did some boneheaded things...here is just one recent example.
Is all of this your fault? Of course not, Jeff! Your defensive effort was called out by many, then eventually by me, and then eventually by your teammates and your head coach. It seemed you tried to rectify that, at least the effort side of things, before you left. That play above against Portland? You're the only guy under the rim trying to make a play. Why is that? Where is the outrage that no one else was there to secure the rebound?
That was what was so frustrating about your tenure, Jeff. You struggled, sure, but damn it, so did everyone else! And those struggles this season were not entirely your fault, but you got so much of the blame. Why don't more people acknowledge how dreadful Marc Gasol was overall this season before his injury? Even the most believing Jeff Green supporters knew you weren't supposed to be the first, or second or even third best player on this team. There were times this season you were all of those and more. That is a problem that has little to do with you.
What about the overall successes of your time in Memphis? The Memphis Grizzlies, in 98 regular season games the team played with you on the roster, went 61-37. That is a 62.2% win percentage. That, by any definition, is successful, a percentage that translates to 51 wins in an 82-win season. How much did you really damage? However, the playoffs were a struggle, to be sure, and most critiques of you are fair...again, you were not the answer I and others thought you were.
But you also weren't the problem. Now that your time in Memphis has finished, we can compare what you did here with what you have done over your entire career. The numbers (from basketball-reference.com) are surprising...or at least when you consider how down so many were on you at the end of your Grizzly tenure.
|Jeff Green Comparison||Grizzlies Career (98 Games)||Overall Career (610 Games)|
|Win Shares Per 48 Minutes||.091||.076|
Several areas where you outperformed your career averages. In fact, your offensive rating and win shares per 48 minutes in Memphis were better than they were in Seattle/Oklahoma City or Boston. Numbers don't lie- you did some good while you were here.
But...at the same time, numbers (and for the most part, eyes) don't lie...you are an average at best, bad at worst, net-negative in reality basketball player. You're a player who shows flashes of brilliance along with spurts of utter perceived disinterest. You're a defensive liability within an offensive conundrum. This just drives home the point of why your time with the Grizzlies became so contentious. A first round pick was given up for you. A piece of the future, gone, for you. That's an investment in a key part of an organization's machine, an important section of your future. It comes with expectation, it comes with the thought that you are going to be that guy, someone to move the needle, worthy of hurting the future for the here and now. But hindsight is 20/20...you were never going to be that guy.
Some saw it early. Others a little later on. I saw it late, but I was still able to eventually appreciate you for what you were- a good teammate who appeared to learn from a mistake. An athlete good for a glimpse of what might have been, and a frame of a basketball god who cannot live up to that ideal.
An imperfect player. In a place like Memphis, where imperfect players come and thrive, perhaps in some alternative universe it may have worked. Not in this one, though. Your flaws were not the right kind of flaws. Your mistakes were of the unforgivable persuasion to many. Like Rudy Gay before you, you just didn't fit.
It was, and is, time to move on.
Getting a first round pick back for you helps. Lance Stephenson, whatever he is the next two or so months, is likely gone, much like you would have been, once the season ends. The acquisition of a future asset makes losing the original one sting a bit less. Maybe over time, once the dust settles and the new pick is used on a promising rookie or as a part of a trade this Summer or beyond for a player more to the liking of Grizz Nation, folks can step away from their biases and frustrations and look at your time here with a more gentle eye. I hope that day comes.
Until then, Jeff, I wish you the best. When the Grizzlies play the Clippers, I will of course be hoping for a Memphis win. However, every other night I will be looking to see how you did in L.A. Being with Doc again, playing alongside a Hall-of-Famer like Chris Paul, will hopefully help you achieve a level suitable of your potential. History is not on your side, but that is why they play the games.
When you're wrong, you're wrong. I was wrong about you. You weren't Memphis' answer. But you were a worthwhile attempt at breaking the code of getting the Grizzlies to the NBA Championship and a player who represented himself well for the most part while playing some good stretches of basketball, at least in the eyes of this blogger. Your departure changes nothing as far as my fandom- I loved the city of Memphis and their Grizzlies before you were acquired, and I will love them now that you have departed.
You likely won't be remembered fondly by most Memphians, at least not initially. You may not look back on this time as the best of your career. If nothing else, you helped one person feel more passionate about and connected to one of his favorite teams through writing and being a fan of both the Grizzlies and you. Even when folks were mad, and even when people disagreed passionately with me, it helped make me feel close to a team and city that I was sad to physically leave behind.
That experience of being a fan, the debates and the Vines, the live-tweets of your successes and the blog/message board/Twitter analysis of your failures, are a part of a season's journey. You brought out the best, and the worst, of it in all of us as supporters of the Grizzlies, and especially in me. And for that, believe it or not, I thank you.
Good Luck, Jeff, and bon voyage.