Off day: We talkin' about practice?
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Here's how you know it was a quiet off day for the Boston Celtics: One of the hottest topics as the team met with the media Saturday afternoon at HealthPoint might have been about how the team never actually practices.
And that theme continued Saturday. As Celtics coach Doc Rivers noted, "If it wasn't for (the league-mandated media session, the players) wouldn't have been in here at all." Then Rivers corrected himself by noting, "Most of them would have come in anyway, because half of them are in the training room with treatment."
The Celtics have practiced so infrequently this season that neither Rivers nor his players could quite remember when the last honest-to-goodness session was. Boston has kept its players off the court during the lone offday between most of its games this postseason. Watching film is often the most arduous chore for this veteran squad.
Asked when the last time he remembers practicing, point guard Rajon Rondo quipped, "Probably like nine months ago. I don't know, it's been a while." But he was quick to point out it hasn't hindered Boston in the least. "Obviously, we're in the conference finals, so it hasn't hurt us," said Rondo. "We'll be ready" for Game 4 versus the Heat on Sunday night.
Here are the grind-heavy facts about this year's schedule: The Celtics played game No. 82 (66 regular season, 16 playoffs) with Friday's Game 3 triumph over Miami at TD Garden. That's the normal length of an NBA season and Boston played that slate in a 160-day span starting on Christmas Day. The 2010-11 regular season was played in 170 days and, if you add Boston's nine playoff games, the team engaged in a total of 91 games in 198 days.
Clearly there's simply not as much room for rest this year.
"We're just too old. We're tired and old and banged up," admitted Rivers. "Honestly, If I have a choice between the legs and the brains, I'm going to take the legs every single time. We need those. I don't know what I could accomplish by bringing them in here today."
A handful of Celtics players -- mostly the youngsters like rookies JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore and Greg Stiemsma, a trio that combined for a total of 4:39 of floor time in Game 3 -- got up some shots. Veterans like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett looked like they were getting treatment, but Pierce explained the balance between rest and off-day activity.
"We practice every game day, honestly," said Pierce. "This is just the way the season is going, it's kinda been the theme, not only with us, but everyone across the league. We've been using game-day shootarounds to really go over game plans. When you're playing so many games in so many nights, you don't really have a chance to really go out and have a two- or three-hour practice with this type of schedule. We've kinda used shootaround and game days for that type of practice. (Sunday) will be that day."
Pierce said it's on individual players to push themselves when workouts are not scheduled.
"Guys still attempt to stay sharp on their own; you come in here in the gym today and pretty much everybody is going to come in here, get some shots up, work out, probably get on the treadmill and stay fresh. That's been key for us, knowing with this schedule -- every-other day (in the postseason) -- it's not like any other season we've had."
And the Celtics are not arguing with the results, sitting three wins away from the NBA Finals.
"We are an older team, very similar to how I think (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) does things in San Antonio, at least that's what we hear," said Garnett, who stressed that the team often uses off days from physical activity to prepare mentally for the next night's challenge. "Managing minutes, managing time. It's important to an older, veteran team. ... Rest is always good."
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