Short camp will prove tough for Rivers, Celtics


Short camp will prove tough for Rivers, Celtics

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."

Celtics to begin season with Marcus Smart on the shelf


Celtics to begin season with Marcus Smart on the shelf

WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Boston Celtics will be a bit shorthanded for the first few games of the season with Marcus Smart being out with a left ankle sprain injury.
The Celtics were holding out slim hope that it would heal in time for tomorrow’s game against the Brooklyn Nets.
Smart confirmed a report shortly after the injury on October 19 that it would likely be at least a couple weeks before he returned to action.
Following Tuesday’s practice, one in which Smart watched from the sidelines, he gave an update on his ankle injury which occurred in the Celtics’ last preseason game, a 121-96 loss to the New York Knicks.
“A couple weeks, that’s the projection (of a return) they gave me,” Smart said. “They want to make sure we can limit this from happening again.”
Smart said the two-week timetable began from the time of his injury, which means it’s likely that he will miss the Celtics’ first four games of the season.
That’s a much rosier timetable than the left ankle sprain injury Smart suffered as a rookie which kept him sidelined for several weeks afterwards.
“It shouldn’t be too long,” Smart said. “Better safe than sorry.”
His absence will certainly have an impact on a Celtics defense that ranked among the NBA’s best a year ago, and has only gotten stronger with the addition of Al Horford.
But the Celtics have been a "next man up" team for since Stevens has been the head coach. With Smart out, that’s not going to change.
“That’ll be a great opportunity for someone else to step up in his place,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
Boston guard Isaiah Thomas echoed similar thoughts.
“When somebody’s hurt, the next man has to step up,” Thomas said. “Guys have to take advantage of these opportunities.”
And for Smart, it’ll mean displaying his leadership skills from the sideline.
He’s totally comfortable taking on that role right now.
For his teammates, it might take a little bit of getting used to. Smart has been very loquacious on the Celtics sideline since suffering the injury.
“These last four days, he has been yelling … I told him to shut up a few times,” quipped Isaiah Thomas. “That’s just him, especially when he’s not playing. He’s very vocal.”
Terry Rozier, the likely benefactor in terms of minutes played due to Smart’s injury, agreed.
“He’s been sitting right there in that seat,” said Rozier, adding, “and he hasn’t shut up yet. It’s good; you’re going to need a guy like that who is going to talk to you. It’s like a guy, he says things … it’s like he’s been in the league 10 years. He knows his stuff.”
Smart’s knowledge bank includes understanding that his current injury will probably happen again at some point. The key isn’t dealing with the injury, but how you move forward from it.
“This isn’t my first ankle sprain and I know it won’t be my last,” Smart said. “I just have to let it heal on its own and let your body do what it does.”

Celtics pay tribute to Craig Sager in Tuesday's practice


Celtics pay tribute to Craig Sager in Tuesday's practice

The NBA is honoring longtime TNT broadcaster Craig Sager to begin the season, with teams wearing Sager-themed shirts across the league. 

Sager, 65, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2014, and it was announced in March that he had an expected three-to-six months to live. 

The Celtics celebrated Sager in full force at the end of Tuesday’s practice, changing into shirts with multi-colored flowers and clashing patterns in an ode to Sager’s signature style. The group gathered for pictures and shouted “Sager Strong,” a hashtag that’s circulated in support of the 65-year-old. 

After news emerged that his cancer had returned in March, TNT worked out a deal with ABC that allowed Sager to cover the NBA Finals for the first time in his 34-year career, leading to a memorable exchange with LeBron James after the Cavaliers won the NBA title.