Time Management is Key for C’s in Hectic Stretch

INDIANAPOLIS – Rest is hard to come by these days for the Boston Celtics. In fact, the term may no longer belong in the team’s vocabulary.

When the C’s face off against the Indiana Pacers Monday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, it will mark their sixth game over a nine-day stretch. By the end of this week, the team will have played nine games, traveled to six different cities, and played three back-to-backs, all within a 14-day span.

Fortunately, Boston will not have to tackle another stretch that is even close to this demanding for the rest of the season. But for now, it must continue to grind away at its absurdly hectic slate of games, while the entire team – players and basketball operations staff, alike –tries to find the right balance of rest and preparation.

Last week represented the busiest seven-day stretch of the season, as the Celtics played five games from Dec. 10 through Dec. 16. The most challenging aspect about it was the fact that the C’s had to prepare for four teams that they were facing for the first time.

“When you’re playing four teams you haven’t played before, that’s quite a turnaround in that small of a stretch from a staff standpoint,” coach Brad Stevens said Monday morning ahead of Celtics shootaround. “The guys that are working around the clock are video room (employees); they can’t code enough games and have enough games prepared, so they probably need the rest more than anybody. But we try to do the best job we can with simplifying it as much as possible, moving game to game, focusing on what we can control, maximizing our guys minutes and giving them rest on off days and being ready to play.”

Simplifying this stretch is especially important for Boston’s rookies who are still adjusting to the NBA schedule. Their typical NCAA regular season would consist of 29 to 31 games and would span over a five-month span. The Celtics are covering roughly a third of that game total during these two weeks alone.

“It’s tough, the traveling, and playing back-to-backs,” said rookie Jayson Tatum, who, in two and a half months, has played more NBA games (32) than he did during his entire college career (29 games) at Duke. “It’s still an adjustment. I’m still trying to get used to it. I’m just trying to rest as much as possible.”

And Stevens is trying his best to make that possible. The coach has not held any practices yet this month, as he continues to preach the importance of rest during this frenzied, 16-game month of December.

With that being said, “There’s probably not a day I’m looking forward to more than Dec. 30 when we practice (next),” admitted Stevens, who has not held an organized practice since Nov. 29.

“But, we have to find our rhythm and find our groove through playing,” added the coach. “We have to do it through these shootarounds. We’re going to be on the court for 40 minutes max (during shootaround), but it needs to be a good 40 minutes.”

While the limited rest and lack practice does not seem ideal, Stevens noted that there are advantages to Boston’s chaotic month of December.

“The good news I will say about this is that we’re going to have a lot of information by the time January rolls around,” said Stevens. “(We’re learning) who we are, what we’re capable of, what we need to tweak, and what we need to change. And sometimes it’s probably better to have that information before you make those changes on a hunch.”

Having such intel should benefit the Celtics heading into the second half of the season, as should the fact they will have a more forgiving schedule that should allow for a better balance of rest and preparation.