C’s Prepare Mind & Body for Most Grueling Stretch of Season

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics enjoyed these last three days away from game action while it lasted, because it was the last substantial break that they will receive for quite some time.

Beginning Wednesday, Boston will embark on the most grueling part of its 2018-19 schedule, playing at least once every other day all the way through Jan. 23. The C’s will squeeze 19 games into a 36-day span, before finally getting their next set of consecutive days off on Jan. 24 and 25.

From a player’s standpoint, a strenuous stretch like this must be approached intelligently. Their bodies will be tested to their limits as they pack nearly a quarter of a season’s worth of games into a five-week span, so they must be willing to pay extra attention to their physical recovery.

“You just do everything you can,” Kyrie Irving said following practice in Brighton Tuesday afternoon. “You want to prepare yourself the best way you know how, and that includes doing extra stuff if need be.

“It’s more or less about maintenance and survival at this point. There’s a lot of games in a short amount of time – I’m glad that most of our games (12 out of 19) are home, so it’s great to recover here – but it’s just survival.”

As a someone who has played deep into June during three of the last four seasons, Irving knows all about what it takes to survive the grueling NBA grind. Each year, he has continued to develop and enhance his off-day habits to best prepare himself for all that that the season entails.

“My off days – even if I don’t come into the gym – they’re dedicated to about five or six hours a day of just strictly recovery work and doing everything I can,” said Irving. “I have a great team around me, as well as the training staff here, so anything I can do to get that edge, to make sure that I’m fresh, (I do it).”

It’s challenging to maintain that edge throughout an exhausting stretch like the ones the C’s are about to face, but it is certainly still possible, as long as a player approaches it with the right mindset. To Irving, it’s of utmost importance not to let that mindset waiver no matter how tough the schedule gets.

“All I’m thinking about in the back of my head is, ‘I don’t want to be the guy that people are looking at, if you run down six or seven times, that he gets tired,’” explained Irving. “That sixth or seventh time, most guys don’t want to get back on defense, they don’t want to set that screen, they don’t want to do the little things again. And for me, I just try to put that in the back of my mind when I’m working out, like this is what I’m pushing for when I’m in the game and obviously working toward at the end of the season.”

Those long-term goals are in the back of coach Brad Stevens’ mind, as well. The few off days that the Celtics will have during this upcoming stretch will likely consist of light practices, such as the one he held Tuesday afternoon ahead of their home matchup against the Phoenix Suns Wednesday night.

“It’s quite an intense schedule that we have to be prepared for, so we did not go super hard today,” said the coach. “They did individual (workouts) and stuff yesterday. They just need to be ready from a rest standpoint for the whole entire schedule, and certainly tomorrow night.”

Starting Wednesday night, the C’s will play four consecutive home games over a seven-day stretch. They’ll only have to fly out of Boston three times over the next five weeks, but that period of time will be extremely strenuous, nonetheless, because of the nature of their schedule.

With that being said, their minds and bodies are ready for what’s to come, and they’re excited to tackle the test that lies ahead.


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