Rivers on Rondo: 'He's going to play'

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Rivers on Rondo: 'He's going to play'

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON As the media stepped on to the Boston Celtics' practice floor this morning, there was Rajon Rondo with the ball in hand, taking shots.

As the media moved in closer, the 6-foot-1 guard made an early exit to the trainer's room before any questions could be asked.

The fact that he was on the floor was one of the many indicators that the dislocated left elbow injury he suffered in the third quarter of Boston's 97-81 Game 3 win would not prevent him from playing tonight.

Moments ago, Celtics coach Doc Rivers confirmed that Rondo would in fact start in tonight's pivotal Game 4 matchup with the Heat.

"He's going to play, so we're good," Rivers said.

To the shock of many, Rondo returned to the floor in the Game 3 victory to give the C's their first win in the best-of-seven series that now stands at 2-1 in favor of the Heat.

Rondo had an MRI performed on Sunday, and team officials said the results were negative.

Because of that, the C's outlook heading into tonight's game is a bit more positive than it would have been if tonight's game featured a Rondo-less Celtics team.

"He's ready to go," said Boston guard Carlos Arroyo, who is on the active roster tonight. "He's a warrior. He demonstrated that last game. We were all surprised the fact that he came back after that injury. I know he's ready. He wants to play. He wants to win."

Rondo has been among the more reliable Celtics in recent years.

He is one of just three Celtics (Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are the others) to appear in all 71 of the C's postseason games over the last four seasons.

However, Boston has proven that even a Rondo-less Celtics team can be successful.

In his five seasons with the C's, Boston has a 17-9 record (65.4 percent) in regular season games that Rondo has missed. That's actually slightly better than the 241-143 record (62.8 percent) Boston has in games in which he played.

Still, there's no disputing that the Celtics are a better team with Rondo than without him.

If Rondo is limited, look for Delonte West (he's nursing a sore left shoulder injury) to see more minutes with Arroyo likely moving into the backup spot behind him. West has scored in double figures in each of the three playoff games against Miami.

"I'm always ready for the challenge," said Arroyo, who began this season as the starting point guard for the Miami Heat. "And obviously, playing my old team would be even more motivation for me."

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.