- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Boston Celtics officially opened the 2012-13 season with a near-three-hour practice on Saturday morning at the team's training center, but this was hardly their first time together in the gym.
Rookies had been in Boston for the better part of the past three months working out, while many of the veterans arrived in early September. Earlier this month, Rajon Rondo organized a field trip to Los Angeles for informal workouts in the backyard of fellow team leaders Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
All of which meant it probably didn't actually feel like the first day of camp, right?
"No, it felt like Day 1 of camp," quipped Rajon Rondo. "It felt like it."
Yes, even with all the informal workouts, it's going to take these Celtics some time to get in the sort of shape that coach Doc Rivers prefers.
"It’s a different conditioning," said Rondo. "You can run as much as you want on a treadmill, but once you get on the court, it's a lot of stop and go, a lot of contact. So everyone is not in tip-top shape, but that’s why we have training camp."
Even with strides to make, the Celtics are well ahead of where they stood when camp abruptly opened after the lockout lifted last year. Rivers said numerous times last season that Boston's lack of conditioning, which left it injury prone in the early going, likely contributed to the team's lackluster start (something it didn't emerge from until after the All-Star break).
This year there's an urgency, even as the team prepares for a marathon 82-game slate. The Celtics have a four-day jump on much of the league (camps are only open to those competing internationally this preseason), but Boston went hard in its first session.
"It was a good day," said Rivers. "We had a pretty good practice. Some guys are in great shape, some guys are in average shape. But overall, with all the numbers, I thought it was a good practice."
The Celtics will hold three days of practice stateside before trekking to Turkey and Italy for a pair of preseason games to kick off their exhibition slate. There's a continuity there from the summer sessions, but the team is eager to build off that.
"Well we have continuity," said Garnett. "Obviously, you've got to keep it continuous and stay consistent with it. But, for the most part, we're hanging out, we're being social. Turkey will probably amplify that, because we don't know anybody over there. Other than that, it's a lot of new guys and Doc's changing up the system a little bit, so it's a lot of new stuff, so I can't get a read on it. Give me a couple of days and I can give you a fair assessment. But right now, we're all trying to get this new system, we're all trying to figure each other out.
"I will say this, though. And this is totally off the record -- well, not off or on the record, but -- yesterday we had a [team] dinner that we were driving to and we've never followed each other, none of that. Obviously, the new guys learning the city and stuff. And the way we were driving in formation, this guy getting over, letting him in, blinkers -- it was all cohesive. So, I'm going to chalk that up, that's like solid chemistry for me being able to follow you or driving or anything like that. That was some good driving continuity, so I'm going to chalk that up as some team chemistry in there somewhere, you know? It's like gumbo. I'm throwing everything in there. I got driving, I got social, I got Turkey and Milan, so, yeah, we'll see how this tastes at the end of the day."
While Garnett leaned on his preferred cooking analogy, Pierce leaned on more of an eHarmony approach.
"Well, you can't know everybody in one week, so it's going to take time," said Pierce. "I mean, you get familiar with one another, then there's that stage where you understand everything that person does. So, it takes time, and that's what builds chemistry. It's like in a relationship. You don't know the girl after one week. You've got to get to know them, just like teammates when you develop that chemistry. That's going to be the good thing about going overseas. We're going to spend a lot of time with each other, we're going to hug, we're going to go on some dates, and get to know one another."