Pitino is More MC and Less Drill Sergeant in Year 2 Training Camp
Pitino More MC and Less Drill Sergeant in Year 2 Training Camp
January 25, 1999
Roughly 6,500 people showed up yesterday at the FleetCenter for the Boston stop of the People's Practice. They were there for one of three reasons: autographs, free T-shirts or to mug for the Jumbotron.
Basketball? Well, the Celtics displayed some practice drills (yawn) and staged a brief scrimmage (more yawns) but, well, there was genuine excitement and noise when the Parquet Patrol threw shirts into the stands. The NBA may be sincere in its effort to rebuild fan interest and what better way than to use the same, old phony gimmicks?
The people didn't pay - and it was not the kind of crowd you'll see when the seats actually cost real money. The audience was overwhemlingly young, diverse and, well, let's just say that the suits who populate the place when the Pacers come to town were nowhere to be seen.
Rick Pitino didn't look particularly pleased watching the scrimmage, which basically was a showcase for (a) Dana Barros's play and (b) Andrew DeClercq's tumbling. Bruce Bowen bruised a wrist, Walter McCarty took a whack on the corner of the eye, and no one played Coach P. defense.
"We're not ready for the season to open," understated Pitino, "but if you look at Dana Barros, he's in great shape, phenomenal shape. The rest of the guys will come along and get into the shape that Dana Barros is in. If we can get the rest of the guys to catch up to him, we'll be fine."
The day started with a team meeting at 12:30 and then players were escorted by security to various turnstiles, where they greeted the fans. Pitino then ran the club through various drills, trying to get some work in on what he later would say was "a day off."
Pitino was the undisputed MC, with microphone in hand. He invited some kids to participate and asked one of them, "Who taught you how to pass? Antoine?" When Dwayne Schintzius completed a drill with an obvious travel, he said, "You've got to dribble. They just put that in, Dwayne." He told the fans that three players already were feeling the results of Pitino's rugged training camp: Popeye Jones (blisters), Tony Battie (back), and Schintzius (cramps.) All participated anyway.
The Celtics had staged one of these the night before and have two more remaining: in Worcester and Providence. They play their first exhibition game tomorrow night and a second on Friday. Did Pitino regret losing practice for these open scrimmages?
"We're practicing so much and so long, that a day off like this is good for the guys," he said. "Let them not be as serious, joke around a little bit. It's good for them. We're accomplishing two things. We're getting enough practice time in, but right now, what we're all trying to do is say how much we appreciate the fans, we're sending a message. That's probably more important than practice."
Dontae Jones's days as a Celtic, already over in spirit, will be over in reality today when the team officially releases him. They had wanted to get the deed done over the weekend . . . McCarty took three stitches to close the cut at the edge of his left eye. He was back on the floor, with a Band-Aid. Bowen said there was nothing to his bruise and actually tried to get back into the scrimmage. Pitino told him to forget it. Bowen hit the floor hard, courtesy of Antoine Walker, prompting one fan to shout, "Walker, nice defense." Walker also was involved in one of the DeClercq takedowns . . . Pitino invited the fans onto the floor after the practice and signed autographs for a good 30 minutes. Most of the players signed, but on their way to the locker room . . . Pitino said he was pleased with what he saw from Schintzius. "I didn't think we'd get anything from him until September," he said . . . The Celtics will practice this morning, have Media Day (such as it is) from 1-3 p.m., and then fly tonight to Toronto. Pitino thinks the exhibition game could be ragged. "The good thing is that they're not ready and we're not ready," he said. "If we were playing a team like the Pacers, who have been practicing together for a long time, we'd be in trouble."
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