WALTHAM From year to year, NBA training camps aren't the same.
But this season's camp will be unlike anything Doc Rivers has dealt with as a player or coach.
For starters, you have the start date - Dec. 9 - which is a couple months later than usual due to the NBA lockout. And then there's his roster - if you can even call it that with just six players under contract.
Rivers doesn't mince his words when talking about the challenges that await him and his staff in preparation for this season.
"It'll be difficult," he said. "It's different than in the past. You kind of have a game plan and it forms through the summer. By the time camp rolls around, you've probably had a month or two to kind of work out your system and what you want to do. This is kind of opposite. We've created a system all summer, the coaches have, and now we're trying to go out and try and get the right players to fit the system so we can get it into play quicker. And if you fail to get those players, then you might have to change your system. It is different, no doubt about that."
While the Celtics' core group remains intact - for now, at least - Rivers isn't sold on the idea that their experience will make things smoother during this later-than-usual start to training camp.
"We're going to go more, we're going to work harder in camp," Rivers said. "We have to treat this team like a new team, not like it's an old team trying to win for the last time. We're treating this like a new team, trying to win for the first time."
That sounds good, but the balancing act between pushing guys hard enough without overdoing it will once again be one of the underlying themes with the Celtics this season.
As far as conditioning to start camp, that's the last thing Rivers seems worried about now.
"I expect them to be in shape; I really do," Rivers said. "We have a pretty professional group. None of them will be in game shape, because you can't be. But I expect them to be in very good shape. I'd be very surprised if any of them are not."
But with a truncated 66-game season that will feature a slew of back-to-backs and at least one, back-to-back-to-back, there will almost certainly be games where one or two of the team's core players will sit out.
"I don't know what the schedule is yet," Rivers said. "But clearly, there's going to be times where the rest is going to be a major factor, and we're going to have to do that right."
What Rivers needs, maybe more than anything, is quality depth that can come in, develop on-the-floor chemistry and contribute immediately.
That process becomes somewhat easier when you bring in players who have played in Rivers' system previously.
"In a shortened season, it benefits us to stay the course more than it is to change," Rivers said. "Having said that, if the change is going to make you better in the long run, you do that. It's clear that teams that have continuity, will have an advantage coming out the gates."
So the Celtics on a couple different fronts, may be faced with the prospect of bringing back a former Celtic like, say Marquis Daniels, or adding someone new like Josh Howard or Shane Battier.
"We have to think about this season and the whole picture at the same time," Rivers said. "It's a hard thing to do. And what will come into play is, which is more important at the end of the day, this season or the big picture? They both are important."