Rivers Experiments with Marathon Practice

WALTHAM, Mass. – Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo still aren’t 100 percent healthy, but that doesn’t mean the Boston Celtics aren’t holding practices at full throttle.

The Celtics convened for a practice session that began around 12 p.m. today at the practice facility in Waltham, Mass. That was typical, but the end time wasn’t. Doc Rivers didn’t blow the final whistle until about 4:15 p.m., meaning the team was gathered for approximately double the time it would be on an ordinary day.

The roster has been in flux since camp began on Friday, due to injuries and contractual issues, so Rivers has had to try new things. Today was his experiment with a four-hour practice session, and his players were his guinea pigs.

As most experiments go, the scientist, or doc in this case, doesn’t exactly know what the outcome will be. After the lengthy session wrapped up, Rivers was indecisive as to whether the team would ever use a similar practice schedule again.

“We went for about two hours, took a break for about 45 minutes and stretched them and watched film, and then we came back out and finished with a scrimmage instead of breaking it up into, ‘Go back home and then come back,’ and doing a two-a-day,” said Rivers. “Not sure if I actually liked it. I’ll get the input from the coaches and the players.“

Part of the reason Rivers didn’t love today’s practice might be that he was missing two of his All-Stars. Rondo, who’s nursing a sprained ankle, lightly participated in practice but did not do any running. Pierce did not practice at all as he continues to rest a sore right heel. Rivers expects his captain to return within a couple of days.

The absence of those two players is preventing the team from operating with a rotation mirroring that of an actual game. Other players need to fill those spots in the starting lineup, and that has a trickle down effect on what will eventually be Boston’s bench.

“Two of your starters [out] really hurts, more than the Jeff (Green) thing,” said Rivers, alluding to the fact that Green still hasn’t practice due to issues with his physical. “Now the bench can’t actually get together because two of the bench players are starting now. Keyon (Dooling) has yet to play with the second unit, except for the first day, and Marquis (Daniels) or Sasha (Pavloviv) are there with the first unit instead of playing with the second unit. It affects everybody.”

The Celtics’ first and second teams may not be whole just yet, but that isn’t preventing one of the team’s starters from standing out. Rivers was particularly happy with what he’s seeing out of his starting center, Jermaine O’Neal.

“The other guy that’s been phenomenal is J.O. He just looks great,” Rivers happily reported. “It’s amazing the difference watching him at this time last year in camp, just the fact that he knows stuff and he’s comfortable.”

Interestingly enough, O’Neal, who dealt with season-long knee injuries last season, is the player who stood out to Rivers during a four-hour practice session. Although he handled the practice well today, he might not need to do so again. According to Rivers, the jury is still out on his first-ever marathon practice.