Celtics set for their overseas adventure

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Celtics set for their overseas adventure

WALTHAM Their bags are packed, the Celtics are ready to take their show . . . overseas.

No, David Stern hasn't created an NBA team in Europe yet. The C's will leave their practice facility Monday evening and hop on their plane where they'll start a seven-day European training camp taking them through Istanbul and Milan, which includes two preseason games.

It's not the first time the C's organization has gone overseas. They went to Rome prior to their 2007-08 season, and the bond created on that trip played a big hand in their winning a championship that season.

If they take home another championship this season, well, European camps may just become required.

But Boston knows that winning a championship takes far more work than going on a field trip. The goal of the trip is to come together, and go from there.

Obviously we want to work on team chemistry," Kevin Garnett said. "Obviously we want to get better every time we step on the floor. From a basketball standpoint obviously were still getting to know each other. But its bigger than that. I think the trip to Turkey will be more social. The trip to Milan will be more for the chemistry."

When The C's traded for Garnett and Ray Allen five seasons ago, Doc Rivers needed to get his team out of the fray. They had just become the hottest thing in sports. There's less hype this time around, and Rivers isn't as high on this upcoming trip (breaking up camp to travel isn't what he wanted) but with a lot of new faces, a little team-building certainly won't hurt.

"We scheduled the Rome trip in response to all the moves we made," Rivers said. "We really wanted that trip to happen. I don't know if this one I could say I wanted it, but it's something now with all the moves I'm looking forward to it."

And you can bet the players are especially the young guys. Last year at this time, Fab Melo was in class (OK, maybe not) at Syracuse. Now, he's experiencing everything that comes with being an NBA player. Doc Rivers had bit of advice to the young guys.

"Just make sure they carry all their luggage," he joked. "Other than that, I think it's great for them because it gives them a little bit of a taste of what a long road trip would be even though we only play two games. I think everything for them is new, and this will give them when we do finally go on the road for real I think this will be a pretty good lesson for them."

But touching down in Istanbul is a lot different than touching down in any American city. Being in a foreign country far away from friends and family the team will be inclined to talk more off the court. That's one thing Rivers remembers from the last trip.

"The craziest thing is that their cellphones didn't work so they actually had to talk to each other on the bus," Rivers said. "I thought that was nice, in this new cell phone whatever generation this is. And that will be the same because of the cost of calls."

But what about when they're not on the bus or at practice? There's got to be sights to see and plenty to do. Rajon Rondo missed Fashion Week in Milan by about a week, but he said he had other things to look forward to.

"A lot of shopping," Rondo joked. "Oh, as far as a team. Well, this is a regular training camp except we'll be out of the country. We want to continue our focus as far as getting better, get better each day, work on our sets, become as good of a team we can in possibly seven days."

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Cavs

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Celtics-Cavs preview: Something to prove against the best in East

Celtics-Cavs preview: Something to prove against the best in East

BOSTON – Brad Stevens has said on more than one occasion that the Boston Celtics’ record (38-22) is a bit better than their actual play.

While it may come across as exaggerated humility on Stevens’ part, the coach makes a very good point.

Despite Boston having the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, they have struggled mightily this season against the top-four teams in the East outside of themselves.

Boston will have a chance to rewrite at least one chapter in that narrative tonight when they host the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

Against the top-four teams in the East (Cleveland, Washington, Toronto and Atlanta), the Celtics are just 3-8 which falls short of how those teams have fared against one another this season.

The Cavs are 7-1 against the East’s top-4 clubs with the lone loss at Atlanta in November. Toronto (5-5) and Atlanta (4-4) have a .500 records against the top-4 while Washington (4-5) is just a game below-.500.

That’s why tonight’s game against Cleveland is so important to Boston.

It’s not just about beating the best team in the East.

For them, it’s about beating a good team, the kind of team that they have to get past in the postseason if they are to make the kind of deep playoff run that so many of the players have their sights set on.

Coming off of a 114-98 home loss to Atlanta, the Celtics know they have to play better – a lot better – to avoid losing a second game in a row, and four of their last five.

“They’re a good team,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “If we’re not locked in, they’ll beat us worse than the Hawks. So we have to come out, execute, play harder, feed off the crowd and do our job. We should be victorious.”

That’s easier said than done, especially when you’re talking about a Cleveland team that’s truly built for the postseason.

That said, the Cavs are about as vulnerable to defeat now as they will be anytime this season.

All-Star forward Kevin Love is out until late March following “minor” surgery on his left knee.

“There’s definitely enough time to where I can get into a good rhythm,” Love told reporters earlier this week.

In addition to Love, the Cavs are also without J.R. Smith who underwent right thumb surgery in December that’s expected to keep him out until at least the middle of March.

Said Love, “I imagine between J.R. and myself, we’ll get out there and get our wind and be ready to go for (the playoffs) in April.”

Even without Love and Smith, Cleveland has plenty of firepower to remain the team to beat in the East.

It all starts with LeBron James who is averaging 25.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and a career-high 8.9 assists per game while shooting 54.1 percent from the field.

And then there’s Kyrie Irving who continues to play at a level which puts him among the best guards in the NBA. He’s averaging a career-high 24.6 points while dishing out 6.0 assists to go with 3.3 rebounds.

Tristan Thompson. Iman Shumpert. New guys Derrick Williams and Deron Williams.

Go down the line and it’s clear that the Cavs have elite talent and depth to which beating them, regardless of who may be missing in action, will not be easy.

Meanwhile, the Celtics have to simply do what they do best … only better.

“It’s going to be a tough one,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “We’ve got to make shots.”