Celtics finding consistency with depth

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Celtics finding consistency with depth

The Celtics three leading scorers in last night's win over Phoenix were all reserves. While only one starter (Kevin Garnett) had a plusminus in the positive range, five bench players joined him in the club. Jared Sullinger led everyone at 24, Jason Terry was 19, Jeff Green was 16 and Courtney Lee was 12.

Basically, last night was a glimpse into the reserve unit that everyone envisioned coming into this season. Only without Darko. Sweet, sweet Darko.

Anyway, after the game, Kevin Garnett was asked about the bench's performance, and stopped short of dropping too much praise. At the very least, he wasn't ready to deem them a finished product.

I dont know, you know," he said. "But theyre definitely starting to make some noise."

But it's what he said next that I found most telling: "I think Docs starting to understand the rotation hes going with, and I think the rotation we are going with," KG said. "Hes confident in it, and everybody kind of knows their niche right now.

And there it is. For the last month or so we've begged for this team to find some consistency. For Doc to finally figure out his rotations and put this roster in the best position to succeed. Until recently, it wasn't easy. In large part, due to Avery Bradley's injury, but also because the new additions like Terry, Green and Lee were so consistently out of sorts. But now, with Bradley back, and Brandon Bass in the starting line-up, everything is falling into place. Is it that Doc finally figured it out? Or that the team just finally woke up?

It's probably a combination. But either way, the result is fantastic for the Celtics. In the NBA, you need every players to be confidentcomfortable with his own identity before you can achieve anything on the team level. And if nothing else, this roster starters and reserves have started to figure out who they are as individuals, and as a result, they're coming together as one. In the words of KG: "They're definitely starting to make some noise."

Just in time for Danny to pull off a trade? Yeah, maybe. But for now, at least the weeks andor months until he pulls the trigger will be a lot more productive.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

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.