Celts Delay Sleep in Favor of Practice Time

ISTANBUL, Turkey – It took 11 hours for the Boston Celtics to travel from Boston Logan International Airport to their final destination of Istanbul, Turkey.

It took far less time than that for them to settle into their hotel and then hustle onto a practice floor at nearby Besiktas Akatlar Arena.

The flight across the Atlantic and into the Asian side of Istanbul was a long one, and sleep most definitely was not plentiful. The time change is a full seven hours from the Eastern Standard Time zone back home.

When the plane landed in Turkey, most of its occupants were in a zombie-esque state. There was no roar of celebration, nor was there a deep exhale of relief, in reaction to the group finally arriving at its destination.

Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Kris Joseph

Exhausted Celtics players worked through a 45-minute practice just hours after touching down from an 11-hour trek to Istanbul.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

There was only pure silence.

That silence, like most factors that surround the Celtics at any given time, did not affect the thought process of Doc Rivers. The steady man at the head of Boston’s ship did not waver. He already had his plan and he wasn’t deviating from it. His players were going to practice just a few hours after landing, no matter how tired they were.

“You have to,” Rivers remarked about holding the practice. “Today was more to keep them up.”

Yeah, you read that correctly. Rivers’ goal was to keep NBA players up, as in awake. He didn’t want them crashing into a deep sleep in the late afternoon.

“That’s a rarity in the NBA, where you try to make sure that they don’t go to bed early,” the coach explained. “Usually it’s the exact opposite. But because of the time change and all of that, I thought if we went straight and let them do nothing they would fall asleep at 6 p.m. and sleep the rest of the night away.”

As rare as that decision might have been, Rivers’ players appreciated it. The players walked through a 45-minute practice that consisted of limited installation, shooting around and schematic teaching. That’s far less demanding on the body than a typical practice, but it accomplished the goal of keeping the players out of their beds.

“It’s good for us to really get up and get into the gym. Maybe if we would have slept (after arriving at the hotel) we probably would be up all night,” said captain Paul Pierce. “It’s good for us to get up, get into the gym, and after practice go and have some dinner. Just kind of be on a regular clock schedule.”

The players may be operating on a regular clock schedule, but everyone who made this trip understands that the players’ bodies are not feeling as if they’re on a regular schedule. They’re tired, and Rivers expects them to look that way for at least another 24 hours.

“Tomorrow we’re going to go hard. I don’t anticipate it being a great practice, honestly, but that’s not going to stop us from going our three hours,” said Rivers. “We’re still going to do it. And then hopefully by the next day they’re a little bit better.”

Rivers may, in fact, be setting the bar a little too low for his own players. Pierce acknowledged the fact that he and his teammates are a little loopy from the time change, but he expects to move on from it in short time and continue a strong training camp.

“I’m still a little jet-lagged, trying to catch up. All of us are, so we’re trying to figure it out,” he said. “But obviously, we have to get work done.”

The Celtics may be tired and they may be groggy, but they understand that this is a business trip. That mindset played into Rivers’ decision to throw his exhausted players onto the practice floor just hours after their plane touched down halfway around the world. We’ll see in the coming days if that decision works to Boston’s benefit.