Rivers Gives Celtics First Day Off

MILAN – When you work and play in the NBA, you know that you’ll be in for some pretty late nights of travel from city to city. Last night was one of the later nights for the Boston Celtics.

Their 9 p.m. local time tip off in Istanbul, Turkey, led to a late-night finish that pushed midnight. The team took a lengthy bus ride to the airport after speaking to the media and then headed out for the two-and-a-half-hour flight to Milan, Italy, for the second leg of its journey.

By the time the Celtics landed in Milan, it was already 3:45 a.m. local time. It took another 45 minutes to get to the hotel, which meant players and coaches didn’t get into their rooms until about 5 a.m. at the earliest. And then they had to wait for their bags to arrive at their rooms in order to change out of the clothes they had worn on the flight.

It was a late night of travel, to say the least. It was so late that Doc Rivers put it in a very rare category.

“That was one of the later ones, yeah,” Rivers confessed when asked if it was one of the later nights of travel he had experienced in his tenure as Celtics coach. “We’ve had a couple like that. You usually have one a year.”

Well, at least the team got that out of the way quickly, right?

Rivers had already been leaning toward giving his players the day off on Saturday before the late night of travel. The fact that many of his players and coaches went to bed after the sun had already began to rise – Rivers told reporters he went to bed at 8:30 a.m. – confirmed to him that he needed to give his guys some rest.

This will be the first day the team has had off since it convened for media day on Friday, Sept. 28. Boston had strung together six consecutive days of practice and then last night’s game in Istanbul. That’s a lot of basketball, and not a lot of time to recover.

“They haven’t had a day off yet,” Rivers said prior to Friday night’s contest against Fenerbahce Ulker. “So it’s probably time to give them a day off.”

With that, Boston’s players have been blessed with a free day in one of Italy’s greatest cities. Milan is known for its fashion and trendiness, and that’s sure to cater to several players on this team.

As we all know by now, Rajon Rondo participated in an internship with GQ this summer and he prides himself on his clothing attire. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and several other teammates like to think they’re pretty fashionable, too. So if you happen to be roaming the streets of Milan today, keep an eye out for a few tall guys strolling around the city and checking out what it has to offer.

NOTES:

· Doc Rivers was encouraged by what he saw out of Darko Milicic last night. Rivers believes that this could be a great situation for Milicic to flourish and prove all of the naysayers wrong.

“I like him a lot,” Rivers said. “I think the kid – I don’t even know if you call him a kid still – he just needs a chance. He just needs a team that just wants him to do his job. We’re not asking him to be the No. 2 pick in the draft. We’re just asking him to be part of a group and part of a team.”

· One night after Jeff Green shined in his first game since heart surgery, Rivers told reporters a shocking statement that a doctor has previously told him.

“One of the doctors said, ‘If you had the choice between having a heart injury and a knee injury, you would take a heart injury every time,’ “ said Rivers. “Which I thought was a strange thing, but once you fix the heart it’s 100 percent. Once you fix the knee you have a year rehabilitation. Jeff doesn’t need that.”

· Jared Sullinger is winning Rivers over, and quickly. Sullinger tied for the team-high in scoring last night with 16 points and also led the ream in rebounding with eight boards. He played at a great pace, never seeking those points out, and fit in seamlessly with both the starters and the reserves.

Sullinger’s opening-game performance may be an indication of what’s to come.

“Each player, no matter if they’re a rookie or a new player on our team or a veteran, they just have to earn it, really; earn their time, earn the trust of their teammates,” Rivers said. “We have a couple of guys, Jared Sullinger in particular, who is on his way to doing that. We drafted him thinking that he would play, and it’s only one game, but after the first preseason game I thought he was our best performer.”