Celtics

Celtics

WALTHAM - Hopefully Tyler Zeller isn't experiencing a bit of déjà vu from his second season in Cleveland.

Zeller had an impressive rookie campaign in Cleveland, averaging 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game over 26.4 minutes. He made 55 starts his rookie year, too. The following season he fell out of favor there. His minutes were cut down to 15.0 per game and he averaged 5.7 points and 4.0 rebounds, making just nine starts over 70 games.

He was traded to Boston the following offseason.

And that's where Zeller found his game again. He averaged a career high 10.2 points and grabbed 5.7 rebounds over 21.1 minutes per game. He played in every single game and made 59 starts.

By all accounts, Danny Ainge made a great trade in acquiring Zeller for essentially nothing (the C's had a trade exception they needed to use, helping clear Cleveland's roster so they could acquire LeBron James).

But through three games this season, Zeller hasn't been the same. Maybe it was the lingering contract negotiations that he couldn't shake. If that's the case, there's no reason to think about it anymore - Zeller did not sign an extension before the deadline and will become a free agent at the end of the season.

Chances are though, it wasn't that. It's got more to do with a new starting lineup that he's trying to get used to - along with some tough defensive matchups out of the gates against 76ers rookie Jahlil Okafor and perennial All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, now with the Spurs.

In both of those games, Zeller found himself on the bench way more often than not. In fact, he's averaging just 11.3 minutes through his first three games, and got just six minutes against the Spurs despite the fact he started the game.

So what hasn't gone right?

"Just trying to figure it out," Zeller said before Tuesday's practice. "We have a couple new guys we are trying to put in. Just trying to get everyone in the right places at the right times. I had a pretty good preseason, so that’s encouraging. It’s not like the last month has been tough for me – the last week has been, but it’s something you have to work through. I have to work my way out of it and get back to playing well."

Zeller may have been happy with his preseason, but against two European teams, the Nets twice, the Knicks twice, and the Sixers, the competition wasn't exactly fierce.

Nobody is giving up on Zeller - that would be crazy just three games into the season - but if Stevens sees a matchup that isn't working, it's clear that he's going to be quick to make a change.

The question is whether or not that change will come before the ball is tipped off in the first quarter. Stevens isn't sounding any alarms just yet.

"I’m going to spend a lot less time being committed to a plan that was preconceived and a lot more time evaluating what’s going on," Stevens said. "Who is playing well, how they best complement each other, and everything else. If we can find some consistency in that, that’d be helpful. The one thing I don’t want to overreact to: We got beat by two good teams. We got beat by two good teams. Now, I wish we would have played better in both of those games, but we got beat by two good teams. And we’ll have to continue to figure our best self out, but I think we’re doing a lot of good things, too."