Rondo, Smith ready for friendly rivalry

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Rondo, Smith ready for friendly rivalry

Rajon Rondos friendship with former teammate Kendrick Perkins is well publicized. But before Rondo and Perkins met on the Boston Celtics, Rondo had already developed another close relationship with a player in the NBA, one he will face in the first round of the playoffs.

Rondo and Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith played high school basketball together at Oak Hill Academy. Rondo ran the point while Smith ran the floor, wowing spectators with his athletic moves.

Josh got a lot of attention here because he was a high-profile recruit, Oak Hill Academy head coach Steve Smith told CSNNE.com earlier this season in a telephone interview. He was supposedly going to go straight to the NBA right from high school, which he ended up doing.

Back then the pro scouts could go to the McDonalds games, they could come to our practices, they could come to our games because they could take kids out of high school, that was the last year. And I remember all almost all those guys telling me, Rajon Rondo is your best pro prospect. I was telling them that before they would come in. Then they would come in -- and I think the world of Josh Smith, hes a great player and talent -- I just thought Rajon was that good, too.

During Rondos time at Oak Hill, the team went to Spain to play basketball. Smith recalled a game in which Rondo scored 55 points and drew the attention of scouts, many of whom were there to watch Smith.

He got in foul trouble, Rondo told CSNNE.com. That was a game we needed to win. I had to step up. Our best player went down.

Smith entered the NBA straight from high school in 2004 and was drafted with the 17th overall pick by the Hawks. Rondo went on to the University of Kentucky, where he played two seasons. The Phoenix Suns drafted him with the 21st pick in 2006, and the Celtics traded for him that same night.

Rondo and Smith have battled in the playoffs before. Both were starters in the seven-game 2008 first round battle between the Celtics and the Hawks. Four seasons later, they are meeting again.

Rondo is now a three-time NBA All-Star who led the NBA in assists this season (11.7 apg). Smith is still an athletic threat, averaging 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.7 blocks, and 1.4 steals per game.

Were still the best of friends, Rondo told CSNNE.com. We just go at each other.

During the NBA lockout, Rondo invited Smith to participate in his charity basketball game at Harvard University. After a regular season game in Boston, Smith stopped in the Celtics locker room looking for Rondo.

So what is 6-foot-1 Rondos plan of attack against his 6--foot-9 friend?

Im going to try to block a couple of his shots.

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.