Rooks are Preparing for Opening-Night Fireworks

WALTHAM, Mass. – Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and the rest of Boston’s veterans know exactly what to expect when they take the court for the season opener Tuesday night in Cleveland.

The team’s rookies? Not so much.

The older Celtics have tried to pass along as much of their wisdom as possible to the young guns to prepare them for the upcoming Opening-Night extravaganza.

“Basically that the regular season and the preseason is night and day,” No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum said of the message from his vets, “and we know it’s going to be a totally different ballgame.”

That’s because each squad’s top players will be on the court, barring injury, and all of them will play big-time minutes. It’s because neither coach will be experimenting with lineup combos just to see how they look.

This game is for real. It will be a statement win for one team, and an unmistakable blemish for the other.

“I don’t know if there’s anything that will prepare you for it until you’re in it,” said Brad Stevens.

That being said, it’s Stevens’ job to do his best to prepare the youngsters for what they’ll face inside Quicken Loans Arena: the best player in the world, a bunch of other great players, and a very intense atmosphere.

Stevens is attempting to create tunnel vision for his rookies, a vision that does not take the circumstances outlined above into consideration.

“Our deal is to try to prepare for what we want to accomplish on both ends of the floor,” he said. “How do we want to play on both ends of the floor? What are our responsibilities on both ends of the floor?

“Try to build those into habits, so that when those lights come on, it’s something you’re doing almost unconsciously.”

That message is seemingly sinking in for the rooks. Guerschon Yabusele, who played professionally last season in China for the Shanghai Sharks, echoed his head coach’s comments.

“Tuesday, the thing is not to think about it,” Yabusele said Saturday afternoon. “We just have to go on the court and do what we do every day on the practice court – working, doing the same things – and everything is going to go through (fine). We’ve just got to be focused, try to make as little mistakes as possible, and compete.”

Speaking for himself, Yabusele told that he believes he has made progress in those areas since the team’s first preseason game back on Oct. 2.

“I really think I got better every game, and the confidence is better, too,” he said. “I’m just trying to get back on my level and try to help the team and just try to give my best every time I step on the court and give everything I have.”

Progress is good, and the Celtics need more of it from all of their rookies as they approach Tuesday night. That’s because the jitters of Opening Night are beginning to creep in.

As the 19-year-old Tatum stated, “I’m getting anxious.”


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