Celtics Enjoying New Summer League Format

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Boston Celtics will tip off their Orlando Pro Summer League schedule at 11 a.m. on Saturday when they take on the Miami Heat. Boston is participating in the league for the fifth consecutive offseason, excluding the lockout year of 2011, but this visit to the Sunshine State will be much different than the previous four.

Orlando’s league had essentially operated under the same schedule for the first 12 years of its existence. The league would operate from Monday through Friday and each participating team would play either four or five games.

That cramped schedule led to an issue that coaches despised: lack of practice time. The only option teams had was to fly to Orlando early, rent a gym for practice and pay for transportation to and from that gym. The Celtics typically flew down to Orlando a few days early and practiced at Rollins College.

Players also took issue with the format. Five consecutive game days is draining in its own right. Toss in the fact that the majority of these summer league players are fighting for jobs and you have an extremely challenging week for them, to say the least.

The Magic, who host the event each year, are doing their best to alleviate these issues in 2014. They have drastically altered the format of the league, and the feedback is already positive.

This year’s league will run from Saturday, July 5 through Friday, July 11. That’s seven days instead of the typical five. Each team will play five games, with two off days scattered over the first six days of the schedule.

The Celtics have already taken advantage of the new schedule by practicing three days in a row at their own practice facility in Waltham, Mass. They will fly on Friday to Orlando.

“I like it a lot,” Celtics summer league head coach Jay Larranaga said of the league’s new format. “It’s nice. It’s a little more comfortable. It’s less travel time between each practice for the players so they’re able to get off their feet quicker. There’s just a comfort level, I think, for everybody. So it’s been very positive so far.”

Rest and recovery aren’t the only reasons why practicing in Boston is a benefit. All of the team’s young players have the opportunity each day to pick the brains of Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge and any Celtics veterans who make their way through the practice facility. They can also soak in the culture of the organization. Those options simply don’t exist every day while the team is on the road in Orlando.

“That’s big time, especially for someone like Marcus (Smart) and James (Young),” said Jared Sullinger, who is one of the veterans who’s been around the team this week. “You get to see your practice facility for the next so-and-so years. On top of that, looking at all of these banners, looking at the history, it’s always helpful.”

Sullinger also noted that having two off-days in Orlando will be a huge positive for all of the players involved in the league. That fact is particularly important for players who intend to play in the Las Vegas Summer League as well. Their bodies will be much fresher than they would have been after five consecutive game days.

Players won’t complain about that, and coaches won’t complain about practicing in their own gym leading up to summer league. The new format is certainly conducive to the goals of everyone involved.