Green adjusting to new role with Celtics

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Green adjusting to new role with Celtics

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

NEW YORK The Boston Celtics have been a team that thrives off emotion.

Some teams wear it on their sleeve.

For the Celtics, it's more like a body cast.

So when someone comes along who doesn't seem to quite fit in, emotionally speaking, well, it's noticeable.

That's why the play of Jeff Green, maybe more than any of the new guys, has come under such scrutiny.

He has had games in which he played well.

He has had others when he struggled.

And yet when you watch him on the court or listen to him afterward, you'd hardly know the difference.

The fact that the Celtics' second unit has struggled in the playoffs hasn't helped matters.

However, it's clear that Green is improving as the C's continue their march toward Banner 18.

They can officially clear the first hurdle on Sunday as they try to sweep the New York Knicks out of the playoffs.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has heard the many questions and concerns about Green and whether he's fitting in well with the Celtics since they acquired him and Nenad Krstic from Oklahoma City for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson, on Feb. 24.

While all would agree it hasn't been a smooth transition, there are signs that Green is starting to get a better handle on his role as a backup compared to being a starter for the Thunder.

"I think it's hard for him (Green) because he's never not started," Rivers said. "I also think it's a little more difficult because it's the first time since college when he comes on the floor at times, he is the go-to guy. He's been in the NBA playing with those other two guys (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook) a lot. So, it'll change. It'll be better."

After scoring four points in Game 1, he was up to six in Game 2 and had nine in Game 3.

Defensively, he's starting to figure out how to better compete with Carmelo Anthony.

That could come in handy when you consider the Celtics, if they do eliminate the Knicks, are likely to face the Miami Heat and LeBron James in the next round.

"He's coming," Rivers said of Green. "You can see it. He's playing with a different level of energy."

Rivers is basing that on his play, not his personality.

"Jeff is a poker face guy," Rivers said. "You can never read into that. I think people are reading way too much into that stuff. Jeff may hit the game-winner in Game 7 of the NBA championship, and walk off the floor. But inside, he's probably having a party. You just may not see it."

While it's true that Green isn't an overly emotional guy, even he admits that he has to play with more fire.

More than anything else, Green is learning on the fly what it's like to be part of a team where competing for a championship isn't just a goal - it's practically a mandate for this team.

"Every practice, everything we do is championship level," Green said in a recent interview. "It took some getting used to, because I haven't been there and I haven't experienced it. That's where I want to be. I just have to find a way to get to that point. By me not experiencing that, I have to find a way to get there."

And the Celtics have no doubt that he'll make it - even if you don't see it on his face a la Kevin Garnett.

"I'm not Kevin who is expressive," Green said. "I just have to find it within myself to get my motor revved. It's just something I have to do, something I have to focus on, no matter how many minutes I play. I have to get it done."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

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.