Blakely: Appreciating the Celtics Way

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Blakely: Appreciating the Celtics Way

BOSTON The storied history and tradition that is the Boston Celtics is among the many alluring qualities that players embrace once they're here.

But in the NBA, history means little without an attractive present and an optimistic future -- the latter two very much in the air with the Celtics.

They are coming off an unexpected run to the Eastern Conference finals where they were eliminated in seven games by the Miami Heat.

With only four players currently under contract for next season and a pair of first-round picks in the June 28th NBA draft, the Celtics have a number of holes to fill, obviously.

Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, told CSNNE.com that he plans to include Celtic free-agents-to-be in the pool of talent he'll look to add from via free agency this offseason.

Those guys get it. They understand what being a Celtic is about.

And while others may have heard about it, some of the Celtic newbies this year learned first-hand that it's so much more than what they were told.

"There really is such a thing as the Celtic way," Boston guard Keyon Dooling told CSNNE.com recently. "Accountability, respect for the game, and expectations that are always high, higher than most, that's part of it."

Added Brandon Bass: "You're part of something bigger here than you find other places. Some might see it as 'Boston, they just another team.' Nah. It's not like that. This is a special organization, man, it really is."

Now if only the C's could convince other free agents of that.

For years, the Celtics have not been viewed as a free-agent hotbed, with players often citing the high cost of living and cold weather as reasons to stay away.

In addition, having Rajon Rondo and the Big Three around for five years left little room for a player hoping to develop into an immediate impact player.

And when you throw in the the fact that the Celtics have had so much salary cap space tied up between Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo, making significant changes to the roster has been challenging, to say the least.

We saw that play out during the offseason when the Celtics tried to trade Rondo to New Orleans for Chris Paul who ultimately got his wish and wound up being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. Boston tried to work out a multi-team deal to land David West, but he too spurned the C's and ultimately signed with the Indiana Pacers. Celtics coach Doc Rivers recently revealed that Boston was close on a deal involving rebounding-magnet Reggie Evans, but that fell apart and Evans eventually signed with the Clippers.

Any of those players would have fit in well here in Boston.

But as important as it may be to have players who are willing to embrace the past, Ainge knows his priority has to be the same every year -- add talented players.

And with that talent, Ainge wants the right fit for Doc Rivers' system in addition to being able to play off of the talents of the C's core group which now consists of Pierce and Rondo.

There will be plenty of time to figure out what it takes to be a Celtic, something that's not fully understood until well after the ink on a new deal is dry.

Ray Allen has a stealth-like confidence about him that's been around since, well, forever. That confidence stems from a long and lengthy track record of success wherever he has played.

But when he was part of a draft-night trade to Boston in 2007, whatever achievements and accomplishments he had prior, meant little around these parts.

He was joining what is arguably the most tradition-rich franchise in the NBA, where expectations are high and mediocrity isn't acceptable.

"It's always been somewhat intimidating," Allen said. "You walk into a building every day and you see the banners and the retired jerseys in the building," Allen said. "It just always makes you work a little bit harder. When (John) Havlicek is in the building, when (Bob) Cousy is around. Tommy (Heinsohn) is watching us every day. Bill Russell is at the games. Those are like our big brothers."

There are few franchises -- not just the NBA, but professional sports as a whole -- that have the kind of longstanding track record of greatness that the C's have.

For someone like Allen who appreciates the journey that is NBA basketball, playing for the Celtics is something that's unique compared to other teams he suited up for.

And to do so with a pair of fellow future Hall-of-Famers in Pierce and Garnett has made his time in Boston even more special.

"Five years has gone quickly," Allen said. "But it seems like it has lasted forever. We've played in a lot of big games. We won a championship together. It's been a privilege. I can definitely say that."

The '86 Celtics Interviews podcast (Ep.8): Dan Shaughnessy

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The '86 Celtics Interviews podcast (Ep.8): Dan Shaughnessy

Boston Globe columnist, and former Celtics beat writer, Dan Shaughnessy sits down with CSN for an extended discussion on "The '86 Celtics Interviews" podcast. Shaughnessy talks about the greatness of that team and the players' surprising reaction when they found out he was moving from the Celtics to the Red Sox beat.

Starter, bench or DNP: Zeller ready for any role with Celtics

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Starter, bench or DNP: Zeller ready for any role with Celtics

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Tyler Zeller. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON – The NBA is a league full of highs and lows for players.

There are few who understand this as well as Tyler Zeller, a player who has gone from starting to being a backup to not playing at all – at times in the same week.

And through it all, you never heard him gripe about it publicly or privately to teammates.

It’s among the many reasons you constantly hear his teammates talk about how much they respect the way he has handled some extremely difficult situations.

This past season was especially tough for him considering he was heading into free agency and looking to do all he could to not just win, but showcase what he could do as player.

There were many nights when Zeller didn’t have that opportunity, but he understood.

The Celtics have been and will continue to be a team that’s about finding ways to win and on many nights coach Brad Stevens decided to go in a direction that didn’t include Zeller playing.

As the summer dragged on and the Celtics’ joined the handful of teams that came up short in landing Kevin Durant, Zeller’s return became more likely.

And Zeller’s patience was rewarded with a two-year, $16 million contract with the second year of the deal being a team option.

Now that he’s back in the fold, what’s next?

The ceiling for Zeller: Part-time starter

It may not happen on opening night and it may not happen in the first week, or even first month, of the season.

But at some point, Tyler Zeller will be in the Celtics’ starting lineup.

And when he’s there, he’ll do a lot of good things that he has proven he’s capable of doing.

When it comes to running the floor in transition, Zeller has distinguished himself as one of the Celtics best big men.

The Celtics are big on playing with space and pace and there are few 7-footers who can run the floor as well as Zeller.

In fact, his PACE (number of possessions per 48 minutes) last season was 101.93 which was tops among all Celtics frontcourt players and second overall to guard Marcus Smart (102.46).

It’ll get the Celtics a few easy buckets here and there, but it won’t score enough points with the coaching staff to keep a starting job, which would then relegate him back to being one of the team’s frontcourt reserves.

Still, Zeller is a luxury that few teams have: a player who won’t get (overly) bent out of shape even if his minutes resemble this.

The floor for Zeller: On the roster

Zeller has spent the bulk of his NBA career as a back-to-the-basket center, but showed more desire to score more from the perimeter last season, which is one of the reasons why he shot a career-low 47.6 percent from the field.

He’s trying to expand his game because of the direction that the NBA is going with big men who need to be able to score further away from the basket in addition to providing a presence around the rim.

While Zeller has decent mechanics on his perimeter shot, it’s clear that he’s not yet totally comfortable being a “stretch big.”

According to NBA.com/stats, Zeller shot 30.9 percent from the field last season on wide open shot attempts from at least 10 feet away.

With the addition of Al Horford and the return of Amir Johnson as well as Kelly Olynyk, Boston has a nice group of stretch centers they can put on the floor. And let’s not forget about Jonas Jerebko, who closed out the playoffs as a starter for Boston.

Minutes will once again be hard to come by for Zeller with any kind of consistency.

In fact, there’s a very good chance that he will have some games in which he doesn’t play (coaches decision) at all.

And depending on injuries, he may have to be inactive at times just to ensure Boston has depth on the perimeter.

Whether he’s starting, coming off the bench or not suited up at all, Zeller is an important part of this Celtics squad. Above all else, he provides depth, which continues to be one of the hallmarks for this franchise under Stevens.