EuroTrip: Bonding over basketball
October, 10, 2012
By Greg Payne | ESPNBoston.com
Twiter.com/RajonRondoThe Celtics prepared to depart for their European adventure.WALTHAM, Mass. -- The team chemistry benefits of the Celtics' weeklong excursion to Europe were always going to outweigh the basketball ones. As Rajon Rondo noted before the trip -- and reiterated after Wednesday's practice -- a basketball court is a basketball court, anywhere around the globe.
But the same can't be said for the bonds that can develop among players in different environments. By removing the comforts of home, the Celtics only had one another to rely on, and with that came the opportunity for teamwide growth. Now that they've had a couple of days to reflect on the trip, they're happy to proclaim that their mission, in that regard, was a success.
"I thought we bonded. Lot of good things came out of this trip," Kevin Garnett said. "Turkey and Milan, especially Milan, was a real good bonding trip for everybody. But overall, a success. It’s good to be back home, but overall, yeah, good trip."
Milan seemed to be the highlight for the players, who wouldn't shed light on any of the particulars. When asked what about Milan had been so enjoyable, Rondo quipped, "Just Milan. What happens in -- nah, I'm just playing."
Coach Doc Rivers also raved about Italy, though his taste buds may have been doing the talking.
"I think when I put that first piece of pasta in my mouth in Milan, that might have been my favorite moment," Rivers said. "That was terrific. The restaurant I went to was unbelievable. I actuality tried to get my coaches to go for lunch the next day and dinner the next day."
There were team hangouts -- with glances made available by the players through social media platforms like Twitter -- team meals and even some singing. Not long after the team as a whole serenaded newcomer Courtney Lee for his birthday, Boston's rookies took to the front of the room at a team dinner to introduce themselves and give a sample of their favorite songs.
"We had to introduce ourselves to the whole organization," Jared Sullinger explained. "Pretty much all we had to do was, when we went to dinner, they brought us up, they asked us where we were from, what school, all the little things like that, and then they said, 'What's your favorite song?' You had to tell them your favorite song and then you had to sing it ... Stuff like that is fun."
Sullinger said he went with Public Service Announcement by Jay-Z, off The Black Album. He and his fellow rookies didn't have to labor through any embarrassing first-year hazing, as the older C's kept things pretty straightforward. While some teams, even in other sports, exploit their rookies with embarrassing costumes and duties, the Celtics choose a more conservative route.
"Our rookie duties are pretty easy," Sullinger said. "They ask you to do something, you do it. That's it. It's nothing outrageous, nothing crazy. They won't put us in harm's way. It's just, 'Can you get me a bag of chips?' or something like that. It's easy. It's nothing hard."
Added Dionte Christmas: "For the most part, these dudes take care of us. They don't have us doing too much crazy stuff. They just expect us to get certain things like, in the morning, [Jason Terry] wants waters, we've got to get him some waters. Rondo makes us carry a bag or two for him, or KG makes us carry something for him. They don't really have us doing too much crazy stuff, which I like, and I respect that. They're cool, we take care of them, they take care of us, we've got a nice little thing going on."
When informed of other teams taking the rookie duties to the extreme, Christmas quickly shot back, "I hope you don't bring that up to [the veterans]. Because right now, we've got everything cool."
Even though off-the-court activities brought the most enjoyment, there was business to tend to on the court. The C's fell in their preseason opener in Istanbul, 97-91, to Fenerbahce Ulker, but rebounded nicely with a 105-75 dismantling of Armani Milano in Milan. Though playing time was scattered among most of the preseason roster, the one constant was the players' mutual support for each other -- something they made sure was packed for the long flight home.
"When I first came in, I didn't know these guys from nothing," Christmas said. "Now I feel like these dudes are my brothers. I feel like I can call Rondo, I feel like I can call even KG for anything, and they'll give it to me or they can help me out with it. And it's not even just with the players. It's with the coaches as well. I'm with the coaches a lot, too, so the bond we've got right now is crazy.
"One goes down, we all go down. That's how it is. Like I said, these dudes are like my brothers, I'll do anything for them."