Catching up with Brian Scalabrine: Part 2

191544.jpg

Catching up with Brian Scalabrine: Part 2

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

Earlier this week, Brian Scalabrine looked back on his career with the Boston Celtics. In Part 2 of this exclusive series with CSNNE.com, he looks ahead to the upcoming season with the Chicago Bulls, including playing for Tom Thibodeau, fitting into a new system, and returning to the Garden as the opponent.

Brian Scalabrines time in Boston may have come to an end this summer, but the connections he made on the team were the start of a new beginning.

As Scalabrine hit the free-agent market, former Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau was stepping into the head coaching role for the Bulls.

Both Thibodeau and the Bulls organization were familiar with Scalabrine. Thibodeau had been on the Celtics coaching staff for the past three seasons and the Bulls' front office had seen Scalabrine play his entire career in the Eastern Conference.

"Tom, being our old assistant coach, really wanted me to come along," Scalabrine explained. "He saw me play for three years and he liked what I could do off the bench. He liked my locker-room presence. He knows whether I'm playing, not playing, I'm always going to be the same guy. He knows that he can count on me."

Scalabrine signed a one-year, non-guaranteed contract with the Bulls in September. He had kept an eye on them over the summer as they made moves to bolster their roster, including the acquisitions of Carlos Boozer and Ronnie Brewer. Scalabrine knew the direction Thibodeau wanted to take the Bulls, and was excited by their potential.

"Every guy that they signed, it was like, that's a good guy, he's a hard-nosed player," he said. "Carlos Boozer really fits in well with Derrick Rose. We've got shooters on the wing. I hear great things about Ronnie Brewer and his defensive energy. So when you start hearing this as it goes along, you start saying, 'I could see myself really fitting in here.' "

Even in a new uniform, Scalabrine sees himself playing a similar role on the Bulls as he did on the Celtics. He looks to spread the floor, add energy off the bench, and step in should a teammate go down. (Earlier this week, Boozer suffered a broken hand.)

When Scalabrine isn't playing, he says he can help with rotations and use his work ethic to serve as an example of professionalism on the team.

My role is not going to be, 'I'm starting for the Chicago Bulls,' " he said. "That's not my role. My role's going to be all of the above, those other things."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers believes "those other things" will benefit the Bulls.

"Scal is more important than people think," he told CSNNE.com. "When he's not playing, he's low maintenance. When he's playing, he does the right thing for your team. He's the guy you want at the end of your bench. It's a good pickup for them."

Scalabrine enjoyed playing under Rivers and now feels the same about playing under Rivers' former assistant. He believes that like Rivers, Thibodeau pays attention to the little things and puts a spin on the game that sets him apart from other coaches.

"He's a great teacher and a great communicator," Scalabrine said. "He did it well when we were in Boston, but him and Doc always played off each other. Tom would get us going in a drill and Doc would chime in, or Doc would get us going in an offensive drill and then Tom would come in - 'Screen and step. Open to the ball. Be strong with it.' Now, it's him teaching. I knew he was a good communicator and I knew he was a good teacher, he's just better than I even imagined then. He's very thorough in what he does."

This season, Scalabrine is dedicated playing for Thibodeau and to helping the Bulls succeed. He understands the reality of a non-guaranteed contract, but believes he has the skill set to play for the team. That would mean a return to the Garden against the Celtics on November 5.

Even though Scalabrine is open to coming back to Boston after his career is over to work in local television or for the Celtics organization, those days are in the future. Now he is focused on coming back to Boston to get a win.

"I don't want to play for anybody else but the Bulls," he said. "My focus is right here. My focus is on us winning an NBA Championship."

Spoken like true team player.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcamerato.

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

86pod-shaughnessy-dl.png

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

ceiling_to_floor-zeller.png

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.