Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images
Celtics coach Doc Rivers and his team will have plenty of practice time before the season opener next Tuesday in Miami.BOSTON -- After ripping through six exhibition games in nine nights, the Boston Celtics will take two days off before launching into what Celtics coach Doc Rivers described as a mini training camp while ramping up to the season opener next Tuesday night in Miami.
It might be more time in the practice gym than Boston had the duration of a lockout-shortened season last year.
"If we lose on opening night, [the long break is] an awful thing," Rivers quipped. "But, no, I think it’s always nice to have it. I think a lot of time you don’t have enough preparation time, especially going to Europe, and having your camp, in a lot of ways, being interrupted. We can make a case that we could have another training camp, a real one where we don’t have to travel and we get to practice. I like it. I’ve always liked having a week. We’re going to do that this year."
Rivers said the team had finalized its 15-man roster and the final batch of cuts (expected to be training camp bodies Micah Downs and Rob Kurz) will be announced soon in order to trim to the mandatory opening day capacity. That will also allow Rivers to give his veterans more reps leading up to the season opener.
But Rivers cautioned that, as important as opening night is given the rival opponent, his focus this week simply is getting his team ready for an 82-game grind.
"It’s not like football, where we’re getting ready for the Monday night game," Rivers said. "We’re getting ready for 82 games. ... Obviously, we have time to prepare for the first game, but we’ll be talking about the team we play the second game, the third and fourth game. You really tend to work on your stuff more than the other team’s stuff.”
The Celtics will take what they saw over an eight-game preseason slate -- which included games in Istanbul and Milan as part of their overseas trip -- and head back into the lab.
"We’ll work on every single thing that we do," Rivers said. "I’m not going into this week saying, ‘We’ve got to work on this one thing.’ It’ll be Basketball 101."
The Celtics were hoping newly acquired guard Leandro Barbosa would have his visa issues cleared on Monday, which would allow him to get right into the gym to start working with the coaching staff and trainers with the goal of accelerating his acclimation.
When practice resumes Wednesday, Rivers said he expected Darko Milicic (wrist) back on the floor, while Chris Wilcox (back) was hoping to be back on the practice floor in the near future. That would leave only Avery Bradley (shoulders) in recovery mode and, as long as they don't injure themselves this week, the Celtics should be relatively healthy for opening night.
Still, there's plenty to accomplish during the downtime.
"We've got a good week to prepare," captain Paul Pierce said. "We saw a lot of good things during the preseason that we can build upon, and we've got a good week of practice left before we start Game 1. So, I think, as far as being ready, we're going to continue to get better as the year goes on. We're not at where we want to be, but that's going to come as we play more games, as the year goes along, until we reach our peak."
Echoed Kevin Garnett: "I think the process of getting better is still just that, a process. I thought we did some good things in preseason. Now, as we say, the real stuff starts, and it starts in practice. So it's back to work, man. Getting ready for the first game, and not only that, but this year."
For some, such as Jeff Green, who sat out all of last season due to an aortic aneurysm and returned with a rock-solid preseason, this crawl to opening night will be a bit of torture.
"I'd rather just play. But I'm young," the 26-year-old Green said. "Anybody else would probably love this week. But I'm ready to start this season, and preseason felt super long. We had great trips in Turkey and Milan, and had some good preseason games. But I'm ready to get this season started."