Rivers Opens Gym Doors for Open Practice

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Boston Celtics held their second open practice of the season at 11 a.m. Tuesday morning at their practice facility in Waltham, Mass. Members of the media and USI, a Celtics corporate partner, were allowed to watch the entire practice.

Most coaches don’t enjoy open practices because they provide distractions and prevent the team from concentrating as it would without a crowd in the gym. The Celtics, however, have been able to get their work done despite the extra eyes watching them.

Jason Terry

Doc Rivers opened up the practice doors to about 50 outsiders Tuesday morning, but his C's still got their work in.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

“Today was just a practice,” Rivers answered after being asked if he likes what he’s gotten out of the two open practices. “It’s easier here (in Waltham), because you’re in your natural surroundings. That was a good practice.”

It was actually a lengthy one, too. The C’s went at it for more than an hour and a half despite the anticipation that practice would wrap up at about noon. Rivers broke that time up with the following blocks of practice:

~14 minutes: The first 14 or so minutes of practice were used to run through defensive rotations in the half court. The offensive team would initiate its offense and pass the ball into the corner before skipping it across the court to a teammate. The defense, meanwhile, was working on its corner traps and the ensuing rotation that needed to take place after the cross-court skip pass. The key point coaches stressed to the defense during this session was, “Deny and extend.”

~8 minutes: Strength and Conditioning coach Bryan Doo took over for the next eight minutes as he walked players through stretches and drills to loosen up their muscles, tendons and ligaments. It started with pure stretching and then moved into core exercises before wrapping up with quick-movement drills to get the players' muscles firing.

~8 minutes: The next portion of practice was devoted to the “touch drill.” This drill consists of three players running a pick-and-roll and spacing the floor before deciding on the best shot. One player drives to the wing and drops a pass off to a guard before a big man comes to run the pick-and-roll. The player who initially had the ball then fans out to the corner and waits in anticipation for a possible pass back to him. The drill then broke down into a straight two-man pick-and-roll with the third player spotting up on the opposite wing or corner.

~30 minutes: Players moved into full-court scrimmaging for the next half hour, but it was not full-scale scrimmaging. This scrimmage was broken up into single possessions and worked on transition offense and defense before moving into plays that Rivers drew up. Between each possession, coaches chirped out orders, direction and critiques to the players. Both the first and second team looked strong on offense during this portion, prompting Rivers to yell out, “That’s how you need to move the ball. That’s easy offense with extra passes.” All of the coaches stressed ball movement and spacing for the majority of this block.

~30 minutes: Rivers told his players, “The last 15 minutes, we’re going hard.” That 15 minutes turned out to be closer to a half hour, but they sure went hard. This portion of practice was essentially a full-fledged scrimmage, with coaches rarely blowing the whistle to critique plays. Most of the teaching points were relayed as the ball changed possession from one team to the other. The offenses began to suffer a bit toward the end of practice, with Rivers pointing out that he could see the teams defaulting to 1-on-1 play. He instructed the team to focus on team play and moving the ball, and the players responded well.

Although the Celtics went through all of these drills and situations in front of a live crowd, Jason Terry said that the quality of the practice was not affected.

“We’re used to playing in front of 20-, 30-thousand people all the time, so it doesn’t really matter,” he said before giving Boston fans some love. “But what it does show is that the people of Boston care, which I already knew, but it just reconfirms the fact that we’ve got the best fans in America.”

Many of those fans have been afforded the opportunity to witness a legitimate NBA practice first-hand this season. The Celtics haven’t stripped things down for these open sessions because to them, practice is practice no matter who is in the gym.