Rivers Relishes Training Camp Euro Trip
WALTHAM - In his first season as Head Coach in 2004, Doc Rivers took his team to Burlington, Vermont for training camp to get away from Boston and do some bonding with his new team. Three years later, Rivers and the Celtics are headed overseas as part of the NBA Europe Live tour and will stage training camp in the shadows of the Colosseum in Rome.
While some coaches would object to the trip as being a distraction because of travel and logistics, Rivers, who's never been to Rome, doesn't see it that way.
"We actually get an extra week of preparation," Rivers said. "Any disruption as far as travel, we make up in being able to practice four or five days extra. I don't see this as a disruption at all, going over to Rome and London, it's not that bad of a flight. I like it, I'm really looking forward to it."
With a brand new team and plenty of new expectations since an offseason roster overhaul that brought in nine new faces, including most notably Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, Rivers knows that building chemistry early in October will be key to hitting the ground running when the season starts in November. To Rivers, isolating the team from some of the distractions of home is probably an advantage when it comes to building camaraderie.
"I like that we're away. We did it the first year when I was here and we had a lot of success that season," Rivers said. "I've always been a fan of getting a group away, especially if it's a group where there's a lot of changes involved. The experience when you've finished practice, instead of going home and being with your friends and family, you end up in a forced situation to go out to dinner with teammates. Before you can start playing together, you've got to know each other a little bit. This gives us a chance to do that."
After an early media day on Friday, September 28, the team is set to leave Boston the following day. Training starts officially in Rome, Italy on October 1, leading up to the team's first exhibition game against the Toronto Raptors. Rivers may change his mind later, but he told reporters on a Wednesday morning conference call that he expects to play his stars together more minutes than usual during the exhibition games to help them get a feel for each other.
Several reporters asked Rivers about the heightened expectations of having three All-Stars, but Rivers says he welcomes the pressure that comes with such a roster, noting that he'll be doing less teaching of fundamentals to young players and more coaching and motivating of experienced veterans. And when it comes to team leadership, he's not worried about who will take the reigns because he's got three perfectly qualified candidates who've all tasted individual success but are thirsty for team success.
"Our energy leader will be Garnett, it's just who he is. Paul has been one of the leaders here and I don't think that will change at all. I think all three will lead at some point during the season. Who will be the leader? There could be a case where there isn't [just one]. Instead of us trying to guess, I think we just have to wait to figure that out."
After the Roman leg of the trip, the team moves on to London, where they'll have something of a family reunion when they play the new-look Timberwolves, a team that features seven former Celtics including the five players dealt in the Garnett trade. Rivers says he's looking forward to seeing his old players and noted that the blockbuster trade was tough on him personally.
"It'll be nice to see them. Al [Jefferson] and I still talk. Obviously I'm not coaching them anymore, Ryan [Gomes], Gerald [Green], Sebastian [Telfair], all those guys," Rivers said. "People don't understand, not only do we coach them, but we have relationships with them. In a lot of ways they become part of your family. When you trade guys or lose them for whatever reason, even free agency, it takes a bit out of you. So it will be nice to see them and spend some time. But when the game starts, all bets are off."