n interviews with four NBA scouts, a consensus on the Rajon Rondo-less Celtics emerged. If enigmatic small forward Jeff Green doesn’t live up to his 4-year, $35-million contract, Boston doesn’t stand a chance against the deeper Knicks, who are bigger and shoot the 3-pointer better.

“[Green] has to step up,’’ an Atlantic Division scout said. “In the second half, Green started to become the player that signed a $35-million contract. But he’s been back and forth between a disappearing act and a guy who you say ‘Wow he’s terrific!’ They need his emergence and to play up to his potential.’’

Green needs to be the second option after Paul Pierce that J.R. Smith has been to Carmelo Anthony. Green (12.8 ppg, 46.7 percent shooting) had a poor first half of the season before coming on late.

“He is an X-factor,’’ a Central Division scout said of Green. “He had a pretty good finish and is a tough matchup for the Knicks, with his young legs. You know what you’re going to get out of Pierce. You don’t know what you’re going to get out of Green.’’


The Knicks haven’t won a playoff series since 2000 and were swept by Boston two years ago. But that was when point guard Rajon Rondo routinely befuddled the Knicks as a triple-double threat. Now, they get replacement Avery Bradley, who struggles to put the ball into Boston Harbor. Raymond Felton can have a siesta on defense.

“He’s a legitimate defender at the guard spot,’’ a Southeast Division scout said of Bradley. “That’s few and far between. He can guard the 1s and the 2s, has that lateral quickness and a lot of it is effort. You can’t say that about a lot of guys. But his point-guard skills, he isn’t even a point guard. Just barely. Not a great decision-maker or ballhandler. And he hasn’t even been making his open 3s.’’

But if this battle turns into a defensive struggle, Bradley can make it tough. Said the Central Division scout, “He’s their best defender and Rondo was only a good defender. Hey, you can even put him on J.R. Smith.’’