Training Camp Euroblog
Celtics.com's Peter Stringer is rolling with the Celtics in Europe. Despite slow internet connections, foreign languages and a few timezone differences, he'll be keeping a diary of the team's voyage to Rome and London. As always, opinions are those of the author exclusively and do not necessarily reflect those of the Boston Celtics. You can send him .
Back in Boston - Thursday, 7:39 a.m.
The team arrived at HealthPoint in Waltham around 5 a.m. this morning, and suffice it to say, everyone is pretty wiped out. While it was certainly a successful trip with bonding galore and a few Ws as take-home souvenirs, it was a long time to be away for everyone involved. So it's good to be back home.
The latest update is that the Celtics will rest today and return to practice on Friday. We're done blogging for now, but look for an update after Friday's session here on Celtics.com.
Final Score: 92-81 Celtics
Ray Allen finished with 28 points on 11-14 shooting. Not too shabby. Internet connection issues here at the O2 means you probably wont see this last batch of posts until Thursday morning.
Ray Allen spent most of the third quarter chasing Ricky Davis around the court, and was largely successful in cooling him off. Offensively, Allen showed how diverse his game truly is. While casual observers know Allen is a jumpshooter, he takes it to the hole much better than you may realize unless you watch a lot of NBA League Pass. He dropped 14 more in the third quarter alone.
Kevin Garnett got rung up on quite a few traveling calls. Not sure if it's a point of emphasis this season, but the refs sure seem to be taking quite a look at post footwork tonight.
Great spirit on the bench early on in the game, with James Posey and Scal the most vocal from the sidelines.
The starters got the fourth quarter off as Gabe Pruitt, Glen Davis and Esteban Batista got extended looks in the final period. Tony Allen also played much of the fourth, and while his timing is missing, similar to how it was when he came back from the right knee injury last year, he's already showing signs of regaining his form.
Old friend Ricky Davis was on fire in the first quarter, dropping 16 points in 12 minutes on an very efficient 6-8 shooting show, including 4-5 from three-point land. But the Celtics outscored the Wolves 27-21 in the second quarter to build a seven-point halftime lead. Ray Allen appears to be shaking off his cold performance in Rome; he scored 14 points in the first half to lead the Celtics.
Ball movement seemed to be a key to the Celtics 53% field goal shooting in the half. The ball moved around quickly, getting Allen and Brian Scalabrine open looks from the perimeter.
No changes in the Boston starting lineup. The T-Wolves are starting Sebastian Telfair, Ricky Davis, Theo Ratliff, Ryan Gomes, Juwon Howard.
Pollard Update - 1:27 p.m.
A bit of basketball news for you that we neglected to pass on the other day. Here's the word on Scot Pollard's ankle MRI: Pollard has a bone bruise and soft-tissue inflammation, and he will be re-evaluated by team physician Brian McKeon on Friday after the team returns to Waltham.
Wednesday Morning - Last Night on Earth (or London)
This is it. Last day of the trip, and the boys just left for the gameday shootaround a few minutes ago. In the meantime, the team and staff need to pack up, exchange their left-over pounds for dollars (although I hear that Rajon Rondo likes to keep money from every country he visits) and be ready to fly out right after the game and its associated media obligations are complete.
Stay tuned for a game preview on the site in a few hours, which is a fair deal for all of you Boston folks who probably don't read Celtics.com at 5 a.m. anyway. The storylines are pretty obvious, but I can tell you that my moles in Minnesota say that the team is dealing with a rash of sprained ankles, and also that old friend Sebastian Telfair had a nice exhibition game for them earlier this week. And obviously, Big Al's double-double trend continued; he grabbed 17 rebounds so it's good to see he's up to his old tricks.
As for our guys (and that's why you're reading, right?), after tonight's game, they probably won't practice again until Saturday. Sure, we "gain" five hours on the way back home, but we're due to arrive at Logan around 5 a.m. EST Thursday, so that day is out, and likely Friday is out as well. This could change but that's what it's sounding like right now.
Quick note: Happy birthday to Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce, who both have birthdays on Saturday, October 13. Paul is turning 30, while Coach Rivers noted on the bus the other day in Rome that when you get to his age (which he didn't share), you stop having birthday celebrations. His words, not mine!
We also hope to start sifting through the blog feedback and post some of it in this space as well.
Look for one more courtside update before tonight's game later this morning/afternoon, as well as that game preview.
London is pretty gloomy today, and while I've heard it's like this all the time, the contrast between here and Rome is stark. It was beautiful every day in Italy until the rains came on gameday. So maybe tomorrow it will clear up here. A man can dream, no?
Good practice this morning. The staff put in a few new offensive sets, and mostly ran half court stuff.
After the practice, the team had their annual meeting with referees, which delayed the media access period for a quite a while, leaving reporters killing time by taking a few jumpers of their own on the court. Let's just say at that point, the only place it was raining was outside the O2 Arena. I think I hit like 37% (unofficially, and unguarded for that matter), which is just enough to remind me that my future in the Celtics organization remains strictly off the court.
Leon Powe almost left without his numbered practice jersey, which somehow ended up on the floor in the end zone seats. The thing was absolutely drenched in sweat, and I have to be honest, I really didn't want to pick the thing up. But I took one for the team, picked it up and tracked him down on the way to the bus. After busting him for having an extremely soaked jersey, Powe responded, "Your shirt would be soaked too if you were trying to guard KG all day." My retort? "That thing smells you dropped a triple-double..."
Tonight the guys are headed for another team dinner in downtown London; one more bonding opportunity before tomorrow night's game.
Monday Practice - Family Reunion
Timberwolves swingman Gerald Green shares a word with his former coach Doc Rivers between practices at the O2 arena in London Monday.
Peter Stringer / Boston Celtics
Both teams practiced at the O2 Arena Monday, with the Timberwolves taking the early session while the Celtics followed. With today's media access period extending from the end of Minnesota's practice into the beginning of Boston's session, reporters were on hand to catch the reunion of several former teams, some of whom were seeing each other for the first time since the offseason blockbuster that sent five players to the Timberwolves in exchange for Kevin Garnett.
Kendrick Perkins and Al Jefferson were tight when they played together in Boston, and they made plans to catch up with each other later today.
One thing everyone seems to agree on is that it's strange to see their former teammates in blue instead of green.
"It's weird walking around the lobby [of the hotel] and seeing Big Al in a Timberwolves jersey," Paul Pierce said. "Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, these guys spent a few years with us, but you've got to understand that's the business, these guys are going to have great careers with Minnesota. They're a great young crew."
Pierce Thinking 'D'
In years past, Pierce has been commanding the bulk of attention from the media, but with Garnett and Allen in the fold, The Truth is catching something of a breather. The media requests have slowed down a little bit, which is probably a nice development for him. But just as the attention off the court has loosened up, so will the pressure on the court. And now that he won't have to carry the load on offense every night, Pierce plans to pout more effort into his defense.
"I put so much energy into scoring and rebounding in past years that I just did have the energy to be the type of defender that I know I can be," said Pierce. "That's going to be my focus this year, to show people I can defend on a high level against anyone in the NBA."
As for the team bonding aspect of the Celtics' EuroTrip, Pierce says it's coming together quite nicely, quipping that it "seems like we've been teammates forever the way we've been jelling off the court. I haven't been on a team this close in a while."
Here's a quick quote we found interesting. Kevin Garnett on Rajon Rondo: "Rondo is exceptional. He has a high IQ for basketball. I look forward to watching him being the best point guard in the league someday. That kid works hard. I like his work ethic. I see great things for him in the future."
Monday Morning - 10:40 a.m.
After running around for a week, everyone needed an off-day yesterday to catch up on sleep. So more than a few people slept in pretty late Sunday, and thanks to the magic of Slingbox, various players and staffers were able to catch the Patriots and Red Sox games in the team meal room. And since the T-Wolves are also staying in the same hotel, several former teammates were able to catch up with each other as well. Ryan Gomes stopped in for a while to talk with some staffers and catch some of the game, and while we haven't personally seen Big Al just yet, we're looking forward to seeing him this week.
Those Celtics who weren't taking in the Pats/Sox games spent some time taking in the city of London.
In the former Celtics department, seen around the team hotel: Kevin McHale, Sebastian Telfair, Jerry Sichting and I think I caught a glimpse of Ed Pickney (all from the Minnesota staff/roster) and legendary center Bill Russell was also spotted in the lobby.
Today the team practices at 1 p.m. at the O2 Arena, which is much closer to the team hotel than was Palafonte to our Rome headquarters, which means (hopefully) a very brief bus ride. And as much as we'll miss whipping around cobblestone streets with the police escort, we've honestly had enough Bourne Identity chase scene re-enactments for one trip.
Media availability starts off the practice today, so we'll have more insight on the Raptors game and other things later this afternoon.
Postgame Thoughts from London - Salmon and Mashed Potatoes - 6:44 a.m.
After a two-hour flight and another 90 minutes on the bus, we've arrived at the team hotel, which is (thankfully!) just minutes from the O2 Arena here in London. Here's a quick update before we catch up on some sleep.
I guess this Garnett guy is pretty good.
I mean, not only does he thank the city of Rome and give shoutouts to Celtics staffers in his postgame remarks, but he also went out and dropped 19 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Pretty solid for a debut, exhibition game or not. But it should be noted that it was not your average exhibition game Saturday night in Rome. The crowd was electric, and there was intensity that seemed to start with KG and trickle down to the rest of the team. The Celtics played as if the game was a regular season tilt, and it showed.
While Ray Allen struggled shooting the ball, Paul Pierce led all scorers with 21 and had a strong game, highlighted by a pair of baseline fade-aways midway through the third quarter.
But despite the excitement of Garnett and Ray Allen's debut, the most exciting moment of the night had to be early in the fourth quarter when Tony Allen took his man off the dribble, exploded to the rim and threw down a nasty dunk.
"It felt good man. That was the first time I exploded like that," Allen said of the dunk. TA admitted that he felt a little pain when he landed but was back in the game after the dunk, and for him, the dunk was a pretty significant moment.
"You saw me working out all summer to get back," Allen said of his offseason rehab work in Waltham. "We'll see how it feels tomorrow."
Allen's teammates were happy to see his dunk, and when he came back to the huddle after the play, he was greeted by high fives and pats on the back from the boys. It was especially impressive to teammates who were here last year to see the injury last season. We caught up with Brian Scalabrine, who drove TA to the hospital the night of his injury, to get his reaction.
"It means a lot. Just think about where he was. A lot of credit goes to our training staff, but for him, 95% of it is mental. If he can do something like that, he can be the old TA that we need," said Scalabrine, who corroborated our assertion that Allen had not yet dunked on anyone in training camp. "I haven't seen him do that, especially in traffic. That was impressive."
The Celtics have their first day off from practice of camp on Sunday.
Approaching Tip Off
Ordering at an Italian concession stand is confusing. First you wait in line to order, then you pay, hold your receipt and wait in another line to get your food. Doesn't seem efficient, and you can automatically tell who's American. We're the ones with the dumbfounded looks on our faces while everybody else gets their food.
B-Doo just snapped a picture of me at my courtside perch. Not exactly "high above courtside"; more like 20 feet from the floor at a slightly elevated table. Not a bad view.
We'll provide periodic updates tonight but since we're leaving immediately after the game, I won't have any postgame wrap in the blog. Check the homepage for box score and game wrap-up links.
Mike Gorman and Donny Marshall are shooting their intro. The Celtics Dancers are a huge hit here, as well. Just thought you should know...And the Italian crowd reacts to a garden variety layup-line dunk like...well, like they've never seen a dunk before.
Bargnani Mania - 7:23 p.m.
How could I forget that this game features Andrea Bargnani?
Sometimes you get so wrapped up in the Celtics that you forget we actually have opponents with very salient storylines of their own. With that in mind, I'm going to make an educated guess that Bargnani gets the start in the front court alongside Chris Bosh tonight.
Also, here's the link for the NBA.com Live Scoreboard.
Saturday Evening - Slow Internet, Rain and Game Preview
After a week of gorgeous weather, the rains came this afternoon. That won't stop us from posting a quick game preview, but the slower-than-molasses Internet connection at the team hotel tried it's best. Somehow, we slogged through it. Our starting lineup probably won't change, but the Raptors starters are a mystery at this point, apparently even to our coaching staff, so we took our best guess. Besides, it's just the Celtics.com projection. By no means should it ever be considered official for either team.
It's about time to head to the area. We'll have an update for you from courtside before the game starts, but since we are flying out for London right after the game you probably won't see an update from me until tomorrow morning. The NBA will update our site tonight, however, with the game recap and box scores. Right, Secaucus? ;)
Saturday Afternoon - "Are you not entertained?"
We caused quite a stir this afternoon when the team stopped by the Colosseum for a team photo and guided tour among the masses. Many tourists seemed more impressed by KG than the ancient stadium itself. But the team was clearly blown away by the experience at the Colosseum. Garnett even quipped, "We should play a game in there!" upon leaving.
Once again, photos are soon to follow.
Saturday Morning - Shootaround - 10:30 a.m.
Celtics.com is live here at shootaround where the Celtics are doing their walkthrough to prepare for the Toronto Raptors. Basically, the second unit runs some of the Raptors basic sets as the first unit prepares how it will defend against these plays and Toronto's personnel. They just wrapped up the session.
Later today, the Celtics Dancers will have court rehearsal for their performance at the game tonight. Jaclyn is keeping a diary of her own to chronicle the Dancers' experience here in Europe. This morning she sends along her European travel tips, which is a must read for any fans who will be joining us in London.
Friday - Bald is Still Beautiful, But Who's Best?
So by the looks of Paul Pierce's requested Celtics.com poll, the fans want the boys to stay bald. 65% of fans said like the look. So now we have another question: Which one of the starting five looks best bald?
Head back to our Celtics.com homepage to cast your vote.
Pollard Heads Home
Scot Pollard is on his way back to Boston today (he may already be there by the time you are reading this...Pollard is due for an MRI back home in the states, according to Jeff Twiss.
My question is, how the heck will we ever know when practice is officially over? Pollard had been yelling "Let's Ride" at the top of his lungs when it was time to catch the bus.
Friday evening, 6:29 p.m. - Meeting the Mayor and Out in the Community
Practice Friday morning was a little bit different. It was the final day at Palafonte, so I'll try not to get too emotional.
Okay. I'm over it. It's time to play a real game, exhibition or not. Turn on the lights, it's time to play ball.
For Friday's session, the Celtics opened the first 30 minutes to the media, doing some drills and strength and conditioning work for the press. Shortly after the media left, the team played a 24-minute scrimmage, using the green team and white team squad against the gray team. To finish the sessions, the coaching staff showed about 20 minutes of video from previous practices to drive home some instructional points.
After a lunch at Palafonte, the players were off to various events. Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce spent the afternoon with the Mayor of Rome, who we're told is a hoops junky. Meanwhile, other players were visiting a local school and a local hospital, while Kendrick Perkins made his way on a bus with Jason Kapono and T.J. Ford to an inner-city school to do a basketball court refurbishment and hold a clinic for the local kids.
Again, there's plenty of photos...we're downloading now so we'll have visuals for you later tonight. In the meantime, shootaround tomorrow is at PalaLottomattica where we'll be facing the Raptors.
Thursday evening, 6 p.m. - Players Tour the City
I know, I know...where's the blog? We're back after a long day of practice and sight-seeing with the team. My brother Gregory, the greatest Rome tour guide in the known universe (just ask his Boston booking agent) gave myself and some of the team a walking tour of the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. Brian Scalabrine, Leon Powe, Scot Pollard and Esteban Batista was the original roster, along with our PR team and a crews from Comcast and NBA Entertainment. But much like the Romans expanded their empire, Gregory's tour grew in size when we ran into Ray Allen along the way (he'd rented a scooter and dropped in on us), then later Danny Ainge, Mike Crotty, Walter Norton and Bryan Doo at the Pantheon.
Of all the guys who enjoyed the tour, Scal definitely soaked it up the most. He's already planning to take a trip back in the offseason. "Sometime after June..." says Frosty Stairs.
Along the way, we got some fantastic photos. They're up in the Rome Photo Gallery.
I'd give you all of the history knowledge Gregory dropped on us, but you can take his tour and get that for yourself next time you're in Rome. Check in with Rome Walks (romewalks.com) and ask for Gregory to do your tour. End of shameless plug.
Paul Pierce is still talking about the Celtics.com poll, so we decided we'd take it a step further and ask which guy looks the best bald, and give you the pictures so you can decide for yourself. Coming later today. Lots of pictures to download.
As for practice, another good session at Palafonte this morning, the last portion of which was spent on EOGs, or End of Game situations.
Thursday morning, 10:28 a.m.
We'll have an update from this mornings' practice around 4 p.m. or so, or 10 a.m. EST for the faithful back in Boston.
More Chatter from Practice - Wednesday, 4:20 p.m.
With such a young team last year, Rivers talked a lot about trying to see separation, and that many times he wasn't seeing it between many of the young guys. But things have changed a bit this year.
"It's completely different. It is separation because you can clearly see who can play and who plays well together. Sometimes, individuals can play well but it's not playing well for the team and it doesn't help the team win, so that doesn't do a lot for you as a coach. To me, it's about what guys are doing to help their team win," Rivers said. "You can see that pretty easily [with a veteran team]. With the young guys, it takes a lot of time, if it ever develops."
We said earlier that Rivers called Wednesday Tony Allen's best practice and noted that TA didn't quite agree. Here's more from Tony...
"I did some things great, but I did a lot of bad things as well. I just feel like I picked today as a day to get better, and that's how I am going to take each and every practice."
Regarding his chemistry with Eddie House on the second unit, Allen thinks that's coming along nicely. "Some days he wants it, some days I want it. We're both out there trying to get better," Allen said.
As for the white team beating out the green team and going 2-0 in scrimmages for the afternoon, Allen didn't think there was much significance. "I just think when you step between the white lines you've got to be ready to play. We took advantage of that today and got the victories. Hopefully we'll come back tomorrow with the same intensity."
Seated next to Allen while I interviewed him was Brian Scalabrine, and Scal weighed in on the second unit as well. "We had good chemistry today. Eddie knows I can go left wing, I can go reverse, I can go to the post, and now he has options. I think he felt limited at first, but once we started getting into the offense, [House] is a big time threat and [Tony] Allen coming through on the post, it gives us more options. As good as the Green team is, we need to have options to win, and that's what we had today."
Yesterday I talked to KG, Pierce and Garnett about the new guys learning the Celtics system, but what might be even more important in the long haul is how quickly the guys learn each other, the stuff that Scalabrine characterized as "unteachable." Scal thinks it takes about a month for guys to learn each other's tendencies and preferences.
"To learn, 'Yo Kevin, if I do this, then you do that,' and then BOOM! When they start getting [to the point where] when Kevin goes into his move and he knows where Ray Allen is, and he hits him, BOOM, shot. That stuff takes like a month to happen. We're putting stuff in right now. People in the NBA who know how to score, they look at a system and say, 'OK, I got a chance to score right here.' We were running the same plays last year with different guys who could shoot it. Al [Jefferson] could score in the post, but Kevin Garnett can pass and score out of the post. So it's a big time difference."
Bald and the Beautiful? - Wednesday, 3:04 p.m.
Who cares about practice? The big story today: Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins all shaved their heads, matching Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the dome department. But follicles weren't the only thing that challenged the starters today; they dropped two scrimmage games, one to the white team and one to the gray team, while team white (second unit) won both of its scrimmages. Maybe hair isn't so bad after all.
Pierce won't say if he'll be staying bald just for training camp or if he'll go the entire season. "Maybe we should have a poll on Celtics.com," Pierce told reporters.
Would we ever deny The Truth? Ask and ye shall receive, Paul. Look for the poll on the homepage shortly and pictures are hopefully coming soon in this blog as well.
"I love that stuff. I think it's good when guys do that. But at the end of the day you've still got to play basketball. Nobody cares how we look," Rivers said.
According to Doc Rivers, Tony Allen had his best practice of the camp. TA didn't quite see it that way, and says he's still limited by the knee, but he did seem to be developing chemistry with Eddie House as two primary scoring options in the second unit. And he called James Posey "the glue" of the second unit. "He's saying the right things, telling them to do the right things. It's amazing to have veterans on your bench." Rivers has also been calling Tony and Leon Powe "bulldogs" most of the week.
We talked to TA, Doc, Scal, Posey and Paul today, so we'll have more from them later in the blog. Also of note, Gabe Pruitt returned to practice after missing yesterday with an ankle sprain and shot the ball well; Pollard did not participate but worked out with B-Doo and Nort.
Kevin Garnett throws it down as the guys worked on their post-up moves during Tuesday night's practice at PalaLottomattica.
Tuesday Evening - 12:25 a.m. - Tomorrow's Schedule
Time to tap out for the night here in Rome. The Celtics will be back at it tomorrow morning for a 10 a.m. practice at Palafonte. After a quick lunch they'll be headed to the Vatican for a team-only private, after-hours tour to be followed by a private team dinner.
Also, I meant to mention that between practice sessions, the team all hit the weights with Walt and B-Doo. So Tuesday was definitely the most exhausting day of camp thus far. We'll see if it takes a toll on the morning practice. And given the amount of walking that's involved in a Vatican tour, the boys should be pretty spent by tomorrow night.
Oh yeah...spent a few hours in Photoshop tonight and updated the Rome Photo Gallery with about 20 new shots from myself, PR gal Heather Walker and our friends at NBA Photos. Worth a look-see. Also, Strength and Conditioning Coach Bryan Doo has been snapping away when he's not busy working out the guys; he's been promising to share some pictures as well so I'll post those when they come in from B-Doo.
Tuesday Evening Practice - 9:38 p.m.
The Celtics returned to practice Tuesday night for more drills, a few more offensive offensive walkthroughs, and some individual skill development before calling it a day. The night session took place at PalaLottomattica, a brightly-lit arena where Saturday's game will be staged. And heck, I even caught the bus this time.
NBA Entertainment was also on the scene to mic up Doc for the practice, so you can look forward to seeing some of that footage in the not-to-distant future on NBA TV, and maybe even on Celtics.com as well. And since the arena was so bright, we even decided to snap a few action shots as well. Look for a photo gallery update in the next few hours with stuff from me and NBA shutterbug Jesse Garrabant. If you're wondering whose shots are whose, his stuff is the top drawer stuff. He's the real deal; I just play a photographer on a website from time to time.
Once again, Scot Pollard and Gabe Pruitt did not partake in the session and instead took treatment from Eddie Lacerte on their ankles. That said, just because he didn't practice doesn't mean Pollard isn't contributing. Since Sunday, he's taken it upon himself to let the team, staff, media and anyone else in the building when it's time to leave.
"Load up the bus! Time to roll!" or variations on that call have been heard every single day, in a loud, booming voice that would make Al Pacino proud. It's looking like a tradition at this point.
Tuesday - Morning Practice Wrap - 4:45 p.m.
When you haven't missed a Patriots game in about 10 years, it's hard to not want to think about staying up until 5 a.m. to watch the game. The problem becomes, where in the heck do you find somewhere open at such an hour that's showing the game?
Opting instead for sleep and praying for a replay at a sports bar tonight (and please, don't e-mail me the score) seemed like the move, but somehow I managed to oversleep and miss the team bus, awaking to the familiar buzz of the BlackBerry email alert. So apparently my body hasn't really adjusted to the six-hour differential, and obviously team busses don't wait - nor should they - for "intrepid" website reporters.
Well, after taking a taxi to the training facility, I now take back everything I said about our police escort a few days ago. Italian police escorts rule, and if you have the means, I highly recommend them.
As for the team, they ran through many of the same drills from the last few days (so maybe I didn't miss much anyway!), as well as walking through some offensive and defensive sets.
"The energy has been off the charts, but the execution is way behind right now," said Coach Doc Rivers. "We'll get that together. The effort is great so I'll live with that."
My questions for today were pretty basic and obvious, but most of the time, sportswriting isn't exactly rocket science. So, with so many new guys, how long does it take for people to pick up the stuff and execute correctly? Has Doc changed the offense at all to fit in the new players -- especially Allen and Garnett -- at this point?
"We haven't really put in things to isolate them yet," Rivers said. "It's more of our early offense, a flow offense. I like it early, because they're trying to figure out how to get each other involved without having the play dictate it."
That said, there's always going to be a learning curve for new players adapting to a new system, right?
"Yeah, it's tough. San Antonio came in [to their camp] this year and said, 'run the three-down play', their whole team knows it. If I say that, Paul knows it, Rajon might know it and Perk may know it. And that's about it. So that's the difference," Rivers said. "But we knew that coming in, it's not a surprise for us. We're just going to try to keep it as simple as possible and put in things slowly."
With that in mind, Rivers thinks that the team's defense has come along quicker than it's offense, something he chalked up to having veteran players as opposed to a younger team.
"It depends on the team, right now I would say the defense might be a little bit ahead. When you look at the eight minute [scrimmage] games, there's not a lot of scoring."
Then again, you get a different perspective when you ask players about learning a new system. Ray Allen said it takes about one day for a veteran to pick up a new system.
"The only thing that's different is terminology. All you can run is pick and rolls, pin-downs, post-ups and isos," Allen said. "The game isn't that complicated, but you have to know how to play it and utilize your teammates to the best of their abilities and know what their abilities are. That's what training camp is for."
According to Allen, adaptation is the key to success in camp for veterans who may find that their role changes from year to year.
"You just have to be willing to do what the team needs from you that particular year. I think most people go into training camp with a preconceived idea of what they're to do based on what they did last year. I know what I can do, but with this team, I have to figure out what they need me to do now."
Pierce said that picking up offense is easy, but defense is the toughest thing to learn in the NBA. "Only the great teams are the top teams in defense, and those are the teams that win championships. That's what were focusing on," Pierce said. "We know we've got great offensive weapons, but if we can get our defense to be just as talented as our offense, and everybody has the will to want to do that, the sky's the limit for us."
Pierce has obviously played in Rivers' system for a few years now, so he isn't seeing much new stuff, but he does see the difference in how having veteran teammates helps the team pick up concepts quicker, whereas in recent years, his young teammates weren't as quick on the uptake given their lack of NBA experience.
Garnett is a perfect example of this. He said that he recognized many of Rivers' offensive concepts simply from having game-planned against him in years past, whether it was games against the Orlando Magic or Boston Celtics. And since he's had several different coaches in Minnesota for the last few years, Garnett's gotten pretty good at adapting as well.
"I've been through so many walk-throughs against Doc, I've been able to just follow and understand what it is. It's just the terminology that I'm trying to pick up now, rip vs. back pick and stuff like that. But it's working out," Garnett said. "Defense is just defense, it's all about communicating and helping, but offense has terminology and different schemes, [I'm trying to] learn Rondo and what he likes to do on pick and rolls."
Point of Emphasis
While Rajon Rondo has all but been officially anointed as the starting point guard by official decree, the backup situation is still sorting itself out, and was further complicated Monday when Pruitt hurt his ankle at the end of practice. Pruitt didn't practice today (mild right ankle sprain), so in the meantime, Eddie House, Tony Allen and Ray Allen were all in the mix for backup point responsibilities.
"With Gabe being out, it just shows how thin we are at that position. Rajon is going to be fine, but what happens when he gets in foul trouble, or one of the other guys can't go?" Rivers asked rhetorically. He clarified that he's comfortable with the situation but he still realizes that any long-term injury could complicate things. "Tony and Eddie are getting better at it, but on purpose today we told Rajon to pick up whoever the point guard is, that way that guy would see pressure, and it affected them, no doubt about it. And that's what some teams are going to do [against us]."
Rivers on Esteban Batista: "He's been playing well, but he's more offensive-minded than defensive minded, and he's going to have to reverse that. We need him to be a rebounder and defender. I'm not worried about our offense a whole lot."...The team will indeed have a second practice (closed to media) tonight, taking the floor for the first time at the PalaLottomattica arena at 6 p.m....Pruitt, as noted before, and Scot Pollard are both considered day-to-day with their ankle sprains, according to "Twister", PR chief Jeff Twiss. Neither participated in today's practice but they did work out with strength and conditioning coaches Walter Norton Jr. and Bryan Doo.
Just got a note under my hotel room door. Tonight's practice, which was closed anyway (no media), was cancelled. Given that the morning session went three-hours plus, no surprise here. I'll guess that tomorrow will remain a double-session.
Soccer practice? - 4:23 p.m. Monday
Italian soccer star Alessandro Del Piero from Juventus lunched with KG on Monday after practice.
The C's practiced for over three hours at Palafonte this morning, and by all accounts it was a great session. Doc Rivers said that while the guys were indeed a bit sluggish on Sunday, he felt today's energy was much better. Paul Pierce said at the team lunch that "the team went really hard today." The guys worked more on defensive responsibilities, ran some three-on-three drills, and then scrimmaged for over an hour to finish the practice.
My list of guys who stood out today: Ray Allen, who seemingly couldn't miss during the scrimmage; Tony Allen, who was attacking the hole when the opportunity showed itself, and once again, Esteban Batista, who appears more polished than advertised, at least to these eyes, anyway. Captain Paul Pierce also had a strong day. I'm probably leaving a few guys out, and the coaching staff's opinion is the only one that matters anyway, but about two hours later, those are the guys who stuck in my head.
One other note: I ended up pinch hitting as a videographer for the scrimmages to help the basketball ops staff, and the one thing I noticed right away while following the action with a video camera is how quickly Rajon Rondo gets the ball up the floor. You can't sleep at the wheel when he's running the offense in transition, or you'll lose him off the edge of the frame before you know what happened.
Pierce, who along with several teammates hung out at the Spanish Steps last night, definitely seems to be enjoying the experience here in Rome. Having been here before, he knows how to find a good restaurant and where to see the sights. And while he's been the subject of hundreds of photos by the ever-growing media contingent, he also came armed with his own digital camera and has been snapping pictures of teammates and staff periodically.
Practice ended today on a sour note, as Gabe Pruitt appeared to sprain his ankle on the final play of a scrimmage game between the second and third unit teams. Pruitt elevated trying to block Eddie House's midrange jumper, and appeared to be in quite a bit of pain when he hit the floor clutching his ankle. We hope to have an official update on his status before tomorrow's practice.
But the mood brightened considerably when Italian soccer legend Alessandro Del Piero dropped by for a visit after practice concluded. Del Piero is a huge NBA fan, and although he did concede that he grew up watching Magic Johnson and is hence a Lakers fan originally, he was especially excited to meet Kevin Garnett. Garnett, who's something of a soccer fan himself, was also thrilled to meet the Del Piero, and joked with the Italian media that if he were a soccer player, he'd definitely play goalie. With that wingspan, he'd probably be pretty effective, too.
Del Piero then came back to the team hotel to present Doc Rivers and Garnett with soccer jerseys, and he then joined Garnett and company for lunch.
Pollard Day-to-Day - 8:20 a.m. Monday
One note we meant to pass along yesterday; Scot Pollard sprained his left ankle a while back during informal workouts, and he did not participate in Sunday's opening practice, nor was he expected to go today. We'll update you when there's more news on his condition.
I did talk to Scot briefly on Saturday in Waltham before we left for the trip about his time with the Cavaliers last season; he noted that the Cavs weren't quite as good as he thought they were heading into the Finals when they ran into San Antonio. He also said that the team spent so much energy in the series against Detroit that they really didn't have much anything left for the Spurs. Either way, good to have a guy who has a sense of what it takes to get to the Finals on this team.
Time for a quick breakfast before the 9:15 bus to practice. More updates after today's first session.
Impromptu Team Dinner - 10:30 p.m.
Paul and Doc have stated in several interviews that they were looking forward to the Rome trip from a team bonding perspective, and Sunday night had plenty of team bonding. While guys spent most of their evening getting settled after a long practice or catching some NFL action in one of the neighborhood establishments, by the time 10 p.m. rolled around, the only thing on their mind was food. So after a little negotiation with the hotel staff, which had closed the kitchen on their outdoor restaurant, Pierce and Garnett convinced them to re-open so about 10 players could dine al fresco.
Two-a-days start tomorrow; the first session is at 10 a.m. and the team will reconvene for another go at 6 p.m. In the meantime, check out this photo gallery from the first day in Rome.
Practice Wrap Up - 6:45 p.m.
One thing I've learned about practice covering the team for the last two years is that it always seems to go longer than expected. The word around the campfire today was "hour and a half", but today's session went two bills. And while I figured the guys would be somewhat sluggish, the intensity on the floor was very high, especially at the end of the session after the white team (reserves) beat the green team (Garnett, Pierce, Ray Allen, Perkins and Rondo) in a quick scrimmage game.
Despite getting just two hours of sleep, KG was clearly the most vocal -- after practice Paul Pierce said he's the most intense guy he's played with, placing him a notch above Gary Payton and Antoine Walker. And James Posey probably came in second for intensity Sunday. As for Garnett, he later told reporters that he gets his intensity from his mother. "The white team beat us, and I don't like to get beat. That's just what it is."
Posey had some nice finishes around the basket in traffic that impressed, and training camp invitee Esteban Batista also displayed nice touch and footwork in the paint as well.
The Phoenix Suns did the NBA Europe Live tour last year, and a few of them reportedly felt that the trip was a contributing factor in their 0-5 start. But Ray Allen told reporters after his first official practice with the Celtics that he doesn't think the trip will have any sort of impact on how they come out of the gate in November.
"However we start, we're going to still be learning each other. It's like driving. Once you get your license, you're still learning to drive that six months afterward. We're still feeling each other out."
That said, Allen is still getting used to his new surroundings. Despite working out for a few weeks with his new teammates and doing several photo shoots, he said the reality of his offseason trade was still sinking in.
"I noticed it for the first time when we walked into the hotel and I saw that sign that says Boston Celtics Team Room," Allen said. "I looked at Kevin and said, 'Wow, I'm a Boston Celtic.' That name carries a lot of weight. It has for a long time, and I'm definitely in great company."
Pierce, who reported getting barely any sleep between the flight and the time between arrival and the bus to practice, said it felt good to break a sweat but that fatigue was still a factor.
With nine new guys on the team, there'll be plenty of system review in the next few days. The opening minutes of today's session went through responsibilities during a free throw attempt and how the team executes getting into one of it's basic offensive sets. Tomorrow, the team is slated to begin the first of two days of two-a-days.
Getting Settled...10:07 a.m. Sunday
The journey begins at Logan around 6 p.m. EST.
While most road trip diaries fall into the trap of telling you about all of their travel complications, we'll avoid that in this space for two reasons; (a) that's boring, and (b) there were really none of which to write. Team travel is always top drawer, and this trip appears to be no exception. Apparently we went through customs with a wink and a nod, or more likely, some pre-arranged VIP status. Our biggest hurdle? One of the slowest police escorts I've ever seen lead us from the airport to our hotel. As miniature cars whipped by us on the left, you had to wonder if our bus would have been better off sans police. My knowledge of police escorts is limited to Doug Mirabelli's infamous ride from Logan to Fenway; I'd never been involved with one until today but always assumed they'd be faster.
Despite one player (who shall remain nameless) locking himself out of his car at the practice facility, departure from Boston went smoothly and before we knew it the team was over the Atlantic Ocean on the eight hour flight to Rome, which landed just after 8 am local time, and getting us to the hotel just after 9 am. But even with the private jet accommodations, it didn't seem like many folks got much shut-eye on the plane. So the coaching staff can't be expecting much out of this afternoon's practice (Well, that's just my opinion...). There's a team brunch kicking off right about now, and the bus leaves for practice in about four hours, leaving just enough time for an extended power nap. Hopefully that will calibrate our internal clocks for Rome time.
Here's something of note...my brother is a tour guide here in Rome, speaks the language fluently, and will probably end up doing some translation services for this blog. Anyway, one of his first contributions? Last season he told me that the translation of "Scalabrine" works out to something that roughly means "frosty stairs". When I shared that with Scal after we landed in Rome, he wasn't quite sure what to make of it.
I'll send along the next update after today's practice...
About this blog
Peter Stringer covers the team for Celtics.com and will follow the team throughout training camp in Rome, London and scenic Waltham, MA.