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NBA Beat: Jeff Green gives Memphis Grizzlies flexibility

Memphis Grizzlies forward Jeff Green, center, drives to the basket against the Hornets’ Omer Asik, left, and Anthony Davis during Saturday’s game in New Orleans. Green’s drop in scoring is a function of how the Grizzlies play, not an indication that he’s any less aggressive.
Memphis Grizzlies forward Jeff Green, center, drives to the basket against the Hornets’ Omer Asik, left, and Anthony Davis during Saturday’s game in New Orleans. Green’s drop in scoring is a function of how the Grizzlies play, not an indication that he’s any less aggressive. The Associated Press

To find success with the Memphis Grizzlies, small forward Jeff Green had to think like a dog.

Well, more like a Hoya, a Georgetown Hoya.

“My years at Georgetown really instilled in my mind about team basketball,” Green said. “Just playing basketball, reading each other and making basketball plays and not forcing anything.”

The Grizzlies have benefited from Green’s thinking, going 18-6 entering Saturday since acquiring the small forward from Boston in a three-team trade Jan. 12.

The Grizzlies are 15-5 with Green in the starting lineup and have emerged as the most serious threat to Golden State in the Western Conference.

Green was averaging 17.6 points for Boston but is down to 11.9 with the Grizzlies. But the threat of a player who is capable of scoring 20-plus on any night has given Memphis a needed option to go with its inside tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

“He’s a guy who can get out on the break and get us some easy baskets in transition,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said. “A guy who can play in pick-and-roll as a ball handler and we can move Mike Conley off the ball. He’s also able to post up when spacing allows him to post up. He’s a very versatile player for us who gives us some flexibility.”

Green’s drop in scoring is a function of how the Grizzlies play, not an indication that he’s any less aggressive.

He was the top option in Boston but was also on a losing team. Green said it was “easy” to adapt to the Grizzlies.

Playing team ball has allowed Green to understand where to find his offense while not compromising the spacing needed for Gasol and Randolph to operate.

“Just be myself,” Green said. “When I first got here, that’s what they told me: Don’t try to fit, just be yourself, be aggressive and look for your shot. I think when they told me that it instilled that confidence that I needed coming into the situation that I didn’t want to step on anybody’s toes. When they told me that, it just let me play basketball.”

Green said it also helped that he knew several new teammates before the trade.

Joerger said the Grizzlies knew they had the ideal fit for the team before the deal.

“He’s a high-character guy, high-IQ guy who picks up things quickly, and he’s a good teammate so we didn’t have any reservations at all,” Joerger said.

Green came from Boston, which still could make the playoffs in the East but is not close to being the contender Memphis is.

Green cherishes accepting a new role with the Grizzlies after being the best player for the Celtics.

“It’s definitely a blessing to be in this position,” he said. “Not everyone has the chance to say they can play for a championship, especially in the Western Conference. So I’m blessed to be in this position to do whatever it takes to get to that point.”

Trending up

The Atlanta Hawks have already clinched a playoff berth and, after stumbling a bit last month, have won six in a row.

Atlanta took down Cleveland on Friday, forcing LeBron James into nine turnovers and holding the Cavaliers to 42 percent shooting.

Once the playoffs begin, many will still consider the Cavaliers the favorites to win the Eastern Conference, but it looks as if any team looking to claim the East will eventually have to deal with the Hawks.

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The team that uses the slogan “We The North” needs to act to keep its season from heading south.

The Toronto Raptors have dropped seven of their last 10. It once looked as if the Raptors were set to be the second seed in the Eastern Conference behind Atlanta but risk falling as low as fifth and surrendering homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Kyle Lowry returned to the lineup Friday in a loss to Charlotte after being given three games off to rest physically and mentally.

The Raptors need Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and the rest of the team rested and ready to go soon. Now is not the time to play their worst basketball of the season.

Last words

“Cool. I didn’t know that. That’s what’s up.”

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside when told his jersey was on sale at the Miami Heat Store at Miami International Airport.

Whiteside has gone from a Kings castaway in 2013 to a big reason the Heat could make the playoffs. Not bad for a player who was playing in the D-League and overseas the last couple of years.

Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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