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Friday, October 16, 2009
Celtics' open practice a success

By Chris Forsberg

LOWELL, Mass. -- It wasn't exactly Midnight Madness. Maybe more like Seven O'Clock Sanity.

The Celtics held an open practice for season-ticket holders Friday night at Tsongas Arena, where approximately 3,000 green-clad supporters -- half of the venue's capacity -- shuffled in for a glimpse of the 2009-10 squad as it engaged in a sometimes-spirited, 40-minute session.

The Celtics and the fans did their best to make it an event -- at least one worthy of the $10 parking fee. Rookie Lester Hudson served as pre-practice emcee (Glen "Big Baby" Davis his hype man) and introduced the team over the familiar 50 Cent beats that accompany regular-season introductions at the Garden.

But what may have been the biggest noise of the night was reserved for a hard charge Paul Pierce drew on Hudson during 5-on-5 work. The goal of emerging healthy achieved, Pierce picked himself up and pumped his fist as coach Doc Rivers signaled the offensive infraction.

At the end of the festivities, Pierce simply couldn't bring himself to compare the evening to Midnight Madness, the traditional opening of college basketball practice sessions.

"Not at Kansas," said Pierce, a former Jayhawk. "Maybe at one of these other guys' schools. We do it big."

To be sure, there were no player-choreographed dance routines or fans with ThunderStix, as Kansas has showcased in recent years.

But fans oohed for every Kevin Garnett dunk and ahhhed for every Ray Allen 3-pointer. And Rivers deemed the night a success for the progress his team was able to make before fans even entered the building.

"Before [the fans] came in, we actually put in two plays for Paul; nothing yet for Ray besides some random stuff, but we'll do that tomorrow and we'll keep working," Rivers said.

"We got a lot of good stuff in. This turned out to be a good practice for us."

Besides an open session held on the final day of training camp in Newport, R.I., where Salve Regina students and friends got a glimpse of the Green, this is the only session open to fans this preseason.

The team will practice Saturday in Waltham before departing for Toronto in advance of Sunday's game with the Raptors, the first of three road games in four days that close out the exhibition schedule.

Asked what the team is looking to accomplish leading up to the season opener Oct. 27 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Rivers admitted a big part is avoiding injuries.

"It's tough, three games all on the road," said Rivers. "Besides health? Just continuity. We pretty much know what we need to do on both ends. We've just got to keep working."

On the injury front, Rivers deemed Rasheed Wallace fine and said Tony Allen is day-to-day with an ankle injury that kept him out of the last three games. Allen shot around at the end of the session, despite sitting out the real action alongside Bill Walker (who is out six to eight weeks after right knee surgery).

The other 13 Celtics on the active roster engaged in the entire session, as did camp invitee Michael Sweetney.

Rivers said he expects his starters to play both Sunday and Tuesday (vs. the Knicks at Madison Square Garden), but few will see minutes Wednesday against the Cavaliers in Columbus, Ohio. Especially considering the teams meet again in the opener less than a week later.

"When we made our preseason schedule, no one knew that we'd open up against them [six] days later," said Rivers. "That's just how it works out."