addByline("Marc D'Amico", "Celtics.com", "Marc_DAmico");
MEXICO CITY – Wednesday was travel day for the Boston Celtics. This one, however, was a bit unique.
The Celtics traveled to Mexico City for the first time in franchise history for their showdown with Rajon Rondo and the Sacramento Kings Thursday night. The game will be played at 9 p.m. local time in Mexico City Arena, which opened on Feb. 25, 2012.
Following their arrival at Mexico City International Airport, the team quickly passed through customs and boarded two chartered buses. A police escort then assisted the team through a 45-minute ride over to the arena for practice.
Upon arrival at the arena, it didn’t take long to understand the enormity of this game from a global perspective. A group of media members that must have approached 50 surrounded Brad Stevens once he stepped onto the court. Similar attention was then paid to Avery Bradley, Tyler Zeller and Jonas Jerebko.
All four of the Celtics relayed how excited they are to take part in another NBA Global Games event.
“We’re thrilled to be here. We’re thrilled to participate in this game here,” Steens said. “As much as we’re focused on this task and focused on the game itself, I think we recognize how blessed we are to get a chance to play all around the world, and certainly here in Mexico City tomorrow night.”
Bradley later added, “I think it’s a great opportunity, not only for our team, but for the NBA. I’m just happy that we’re the team that gets the chance to play here. It’s going to be exciting to see how many fans will be out here.”
Bradley and the Celtics will most likely play in front of the largest crowd they’ve ever seen during an NBA game. The contest is apparently nearing a sellout, and the arena lists its seating capacity at 22,300. To put that into perspective, TD Garden hosts a maximum of 18.624 fans for Celtics games and no NBA arena surpasses a maximum capacity of 21,165, according to Wikipedia.org.
A Mexican reporter notified Bradley that he and his teammates should expect most of the sizable crowd to be wearing green as opposed to purple. Bradley smiled and responded, “I hope so. It’s just exciting for us. I think it’s cool that we have fans all over the world. Usually everywhere we go we see green.”
Excitement is certainly in the air, but Boston will be faced with multiple challenges heading into this game.
First and foremost, traffic is known to be a nightmare in Mexico City, which is the country’s most populated city. It will take the team nearly an hour of travel, or potentially more, for every leg it takes on its chartered buses. That fact will essentially shorten Wednesday and Thursday for the Celtics. They’ll be forced to leave for the arena much earlier than normal on Thursday in order to make it to the game at the necessary time.
Traffic issues will also throw another major kink into Boston’s game day routine. The C’s typically head to their game venue at 10:30 a.m. each game day for their morning shootaround. Doing so in Mexico City would likely lead to a three-hour round trip – two hours each way plus an hour for media availability and the practice itself. As such, Stevens has decided to not hold a shootaround and instead opted for a team meeting and video session at the hotel.
Game day will also differ greatly from the norm due to this game’s scheduled tip-off time. The C’s and Kings will not take the court for the opening jump until 9 p.m. local time. The latest start time any team will experience during the regular season is 8:30 p.m. local time, and the majority of Boston’s games this season will tip off at 7:30 p.m. local time.
The late tip-off will result in a brutal travel night for the Celtics on Thursday, when they will leave Mexico City after the game and head to San Antonio. They are likely to take off after 1 a.m. and may not arrive at their hotel in San Antonio until after 4 a.m.
No one would argue that these are ideal circumstances for the Celtics to play regular season games. However, they come with the territory of being the most historic franchise in the game.
The NBA wants to showcase the Boston Celtics and its 17 championships to the rest of the world, and the C’s are happy to oblige.
Sure, there are obstacles standing between the Celtics and a win over the Kings Thursday night, but they’re excited to take on the challenge in Mexico City nonetheless.