Beyond the Arc: Kendrick Perkins

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Beyond the Arc: Kendrick Perkins

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

Kendrick Perkins had been itching to get back on the court for months, and he finally made his season debut Tuesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. As he edged closer and closer, his teammates anxiously awaited for his return from knee surgery. They shared with CSNNE.com what they have missed about their big man and what they most looked forward to playing alongside him.

Rajon Rondo has spent his entire career playing alongside Perkins. The close friends have developed their games together, and Rondo enjoys having the familiar face on the court with him.

I miss his communication on the pick-and-roll defense, really, Rondo told CSNNE.com. I think hes one of the best bigs, especially with pick-and-roll defense. When the guard comes off, Perk has a great wingspan and smothers the guards to get their shot off. I miss a lot of stuff about him, but thats kind of what sticks out to me.

Hes one of the best pick-setters as well. Like I said, just pick-and-roll D. The game is all pick and roll basically now, and when you have a big behind you like that, that makes your job a lot easier.

Shaquille ONeal was forced to enjoy Perkins return from the bench as he was sidelined with a sore right leg on Tuesday. The Celtics frontline has taken a bruising this season, between injuries to Perkins, Shaq, Jermaine ONeal, and Semih Erden, and ONeal is happy to have another big man in the paint.

I look forward to just having another physical body out there, he said. I know our frontline is going to be hard for teams to match up against, so were just looking forward to another big body to have out there, another veteran out there . . . I know hes a good guy. I know hes a hard worker. Coming from Texas, thats how they are.

Ray Allen doesnt mind when Perkins gets hard-headed. In fact, he is pleased to see his teammate be so steadfast about the fundamentals of basketball. And when hes on the court with an other intense Celtic, Allen is consistently taken aback by their chemistry.

Perk has a stubbornness about playing defense the right way, Allen said. Hes the one guy that hes so stubborn about locking his guy down that hes going in there and getting the job done. Hes going to get mad at you if you dont help him out defensively, if he goes and puts his hard work and somebody else gets a rebound or somebody else scores or somebodys matching his energy. You see guys in the league that get mad because somebody didnt pass him the ball; you see guys that get mad because somebody missed a shot. Perk gets mad on the defensive end and hes probably one of the few guys that gets that way.

He added, I know that with Kevin Garnett, those two guys they have such a rapport with each other defensively, they always know and they always have each others back. People talk about offense, but they havent seen chemistry like that with anybody defensively ever between big guys. You always know that were going get the rebound or were going to block out or were going to get a blocked shot.

Marquis Daniels is a defensive-minded player who appreciates when his teammates put forth the same effort. He is impressed by the little things Perkins does to help the Celtics get a win.

I like his intensity on the floor, defensively, and hearing him talking, Daniels said. An extra big body always helps . . . Its a good thing to have. He does a lot of the dirty work and doesnt mind doing it. On offense, he sets good solid screens and gets guys open.

Glen Davis, like Daniels, missed Perkins defensive tenacity this season. But it goes beyond that for Davis, who has been playing with Perkins since his rookie season.

He brings a lot as far as defense to our team, and thats what we need, Davis said. Just him as a person, in general, also. Hes an intelligent teammate, always looks out and tries to give you advice. When youve played with a guy for so long and you dont have him, you understand how much he means to your team. His personality, the way he approaches the game, he helps you. And thats what its about - helping, and thats what he does.

Luke Harangody is surrounded by veteran All-Stars and future Hall of Famers as a rookie on the Celtics. He watches this teammates intently during games, and has learned even more by watching Perkins work to get back into the action.

I can say hes taught me work ethic, said Harangody. Watching him come back from his injury is interesting to see how hard he works. Coming in late night, coming in during the day, its motivating. Its huge for me to see that because a season like this, Ive learned you could easily fall into a little lull, saying I dont need to get shots up today. I dont need to get in the weight room. But on this team, you do as much as possible because thats the way its been set for the last three years.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcameratonba

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.

With Celtics on the rise, so is Isaiah Thomas’ brand

With Celtics on the rise, so is Isaiah Thomas’ brand

READING, Mass. – As Isaiah Thomas stood before a media scrum in the middle of his first basketball camp in New England, it was hard not to notice the Citi corporate backdrop behind his 5-foot-9 frame. And as you walk around gym at Reading Memorial High school, another sign with Body Armor SuperDrink, Hard Rock Café, Wilson and Welch’s Fruit Snacks among other sponsors, adorn a nearby wall.

Thomas’ rags to riches story is impressive when you stick to what he has accomplished on the basketball court.

But when you factor in the growing number of sponsors that have jumped on the Thomas bandwagon since he arrived in Boston, it’s clear his reach extends far beyond being just another player in the NBA.

Thomas will be the first to acknowledge that the perception of Boston and the reality that he has experienced in increasing his brand and overall awareness, are not one and the same.

“Ever since I’ve been here, people here have shown me nothing but love,” Thomas told CSNNE.com recently. “I know I’m blessed to be in the position I’m in, and I’m thankful that Danny [Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations] went and got me. Coming here has really been the best thing to happen for me, both as a player and as a person.

Thomas added, “Being a Celtic is something special; something that I don’t take for granted.”

The evolution of Thomas from the last player selected in the 2011 NBA draft, to being a sought-after player for the most storied franchise in NBA history, is the kind of Hollywood script that would become the lining to some hot shot producer’s trash can because it’s just not believable.

And yet it is indeed the story of Isaiah Thomas’ life, one that has made him a player whose magnetic smile, upbeat demeanor and talent have elevated him to a level few would have envisioned.

For Thomas, he sees the increased interest he has generated being about one thing: winning.

Prior to his first game with the Celtics, they were 20-22.

Thomas’ arrival in the middle of the 2014-15 concluded with Boston getting to the playoffs by winning 20 of its final 30 regular-season, which was a win total that was the third-highest in the league in that span of time.

And last season, Thomas’ first full season in Boston, the Celtics (48-34) finished in a four-way tie for the third-best best record in the Eastern Conference.

“Everything has gone up since I became a Celtic, and that goes with winning,” Thomas told CSNNE.com. “When you win and you’re seen a lot more, things start to happen for you. That says a lot about this organization and where I stand.”

Thomas’ standing as both a favorite of fans and corporate America isn’t all that surprising to Celtics officials.

“What makes Boston different than a lot of markets is how fans embrace the players and not just from a talent perspective, but from their personalities and the intangibles that they bring,” Rich Gotham, president of the Celtics, told CSNNE.com. “That’s what endears players to the Boston market and why fans follow them so closely. It affords them opportunities. A guy like Isaiah Thomas is a great example; we knew fans would love the guy. We knew what a competitor he was. We knew with him being a smaller guy, he was going to be the underdog-personality that fans like.”

Added Thomas: “People liked me a little bit when I played for those other teams and back home as well. But ever since I got on the Celtics, it skyrocketed. Everywhere I go people notice me and that says a lot because I blend in with everybody; I’m short just like everybody.”

While Thomas is admittedly short in stature, he continues to grow into a giant pitch man ranging from the shoe contract he signed with Nike last fall, to Citi, Good Humor Ice cream and Slim Jim beef jerky, just to name a few.

“It’s a blessing,” Thomas said of the uptick in endorsement opportunities. “I dreamed of things like this; for people to come for me for things like this … it’s a surreal moment.”

Thomas adds [seemingly on cue], “I’m excited for Citi … and everybody who is trying to partner with me.”