November 2, 2005
Gerald Green happily reports that he can now find his way out of downtown and onto the Mass. Pike. That was not the case two weeks ago when the rookie left the TD Banknorth Garden asking, "How do I get out of here?"
Coach Doc Rivers hopes other players besides Green benefited from the hour-and-a-half workout yesterday at the Garden, on the eve of tonight's season opener. If not for issues with Boston traffic and earlier wakeup times, the Celtics would have returned today for a 10 a.m. shootaround.
Following the longtime advice of Red Auerbach, the Celtics will make a concerted effort to spend more time practicing on their home court. The fact that the Pacers put up more practice shots on the parquet than the Celtics during last season's playoff series still bothers Rivers. So when the Bruins are out of town and Bono or Bruce Springsteen are not taking the stage, arena management has arranged to make the Garden available.
"I wanted to have three or four training camp practices here, and we were not allowed," said Rivers, who held only one regular-season practice at the Garden last year. "We don't own the arena. There's not a lot we can do with it. Every chance we get we're going to practice here."
Even during last season's NHL lockout, said Rivers, "They still didn't give us the arena. They had concerts and things like that. You just can't get on it enough. This year, at least, we've negotiated a couple more days."
According to Rich Gotham , the Celtics' executive vice president in charge of sales, marketing, and corporate development, the team "asked for x amount of practice dates per year, which will probably be about five," and Garden management was "happy to accommodate."
Given the way the schedule breaks, home-court advantage may be more important than ever. Starting tonight against the Knicks, the Celtics play 11 of their first 15 games at home. Theoretically, that gives them a chance for a strong start.
But if they don't take advantage of those games, they may be in trouble come February, March, and April.
For that reason, Rivers wishes the heavy dose of home games came later in the season, giving his players a chance to find themselves on the road, not before expectant fans.
"Being a team with the young guys and different changes, we'd like to have that stretch a little later so we would have some momentum," said Rivers. "But the schedule is the schedule, and we just have to try to take advantage of home games.
"Last year, I thought we worked all year to make this place very difficult to play at home. We did that. Then we got into the playoffs and we lost our home games. That's something we're still working on trying to build."
The Celtics went 27-14 at home last season, though they won only one playoff game there. Rivers cannot identify specific reasons why practicing at the Garden might improve the home record, but he hopes to make the players more comfortable there.
Ricky Davis suggested that the players would adjust better to the colder air at the Garden by practicing more at the arena.
"It's important to get a great start and secure the home-court thing," said Davis. "We've got to make it torture when people come in here and play us at home. We've got to protect the house."
The Celtics just can't seem to catch a break when it comes to timing. They have learned the hard way that there is no such thing as sharing the spotlight with the Patriots and Red Sox. The Celtics started training camp as the Red Sox were gearing up for the playoffs. Now, the regular season begins amid news of Theo Epstein's departure. As a result, player interviews scheduled for local airwaves yesterday were bumped. Paul Pierce didn't even know what had happened with Epstein. "I didn't know he resigned," said Pierce yesterday afternoon. "Oh, man. Well, it doesn't really affect me. I get enough attention as it is." Added Davis, "Those guys won championships in recent years, so it's kind of tough to compare with them." . . . Green seemed unfazed by starting his NBA career on the inactive list alongside injured players Tony Allen (right knee surgery) and Marcus Banks (stress fracture, left tibia). "I've just got to go out and practice hard every day and try to get better," said Green. "If that's what's going to make me better, I'll do it. There ain't nothing I can do about [being inactive]." . . . To celebrate the opener, the Celtics will host a block party today from 5:30-7:30 p.m. along Canal Street.