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As the Nets got to crunch time Monday night, entering the fourth quarter trailing the Heat by a point, Steve Nash turned to Jeff Green to step into the stretch 5 position.
The steady veteran never came out the rest of the game, which turned into a 13-point win.
It was the latest case of Green serving as spackle for the Nets, filling whatever holes they need while they figure out their new team on the fly with plenty of moving pieces around him.
“He’s sort of just the glue guy,” Joe Harris said Tuesday before the Nets flew to Atlanta for Wednesday’s game against the Hawks. “He does a little bit of everything for us and really just sort of steadies the ship. Whether it’s his voice, leadership and then just him being a utility-type player. Being able to plug any role that is asked of him and doing it at a high level. He’s filled a bunch of different voids for us and he’s done it differently almost every game that we’ve played.
“But he’s been really consistent, especially shooting the ball. I think that’s just him being a great veteran player, seeing a lot and also just not having this huge ego where he needs to do X, Y and Z. He’s just trying to do stuff to help out the team and help the team win.”
Monday, that meant playing the five when it mattered most.
While the Nets’ search for depth at center behind starter DeAndre Jordan continues, in the wake of trading away Jarrett Allen as part of the James Harden blockbuster, they have leaned on Green to help bridge the gap.
The 6-foot-8, 235-pound Green came through in Monday’s 98-85 win. Playing the whole fourth quarter, he helped keep the Heat’s 6-9, 255-pound big man, Bam Adebayo, to just four points over the final 12 minutes after he had scored 22 points through the first three quarters.
“Versatility,” Nash said when asked what he liked about Green in that role. “He did a good job down the stretch on Bam, who’s a tough cover. We can switch a lot with him as well. Also, offensively, he can play-make and shoot. So he’s smart and his ability to catch it against the zone and find people or to make a play and he’s shooting the ball well from 3. So I think that versatility at both ends of the floor is an asset for us.”
Green, a natural stretch 4 who had success last season as a small-ball stretch 5 for the Rockets and current Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni, has also provided a spark with his shot. Despite an 0-for-4 night from beyond the arc Monday, Green is shooting 56.1 percent from the floor and 48.2 percent from 3 in 24.7 minutes per game.
In seven games since the Harden trade, Green has reached double-digit scoring every time, averaging 12.1 points and 4.7 rebounds in 32.9 minutes per game.
“We’re lucky to have him,” Durant said.
While all eyes are on Durant, Harden and Kyrie Irving, Green knows the importance of being ready to shoot when the ball does come his way.
“It helps when you get Kevin and Kyrie and James on your team,” Green said Monday night. “A lot of attention is going to be on those guys, so I want to do my part in being ready to shoot. It just comes with repetition, the work that I’m putting in to make sure I’m prepared for those times where they are swinging the ball my way and I’m able to shoot. Tonight they didn’t fall, but I found other ways where I could impact the game.”