The long wait is finally over. The Celtics will play an actual basketball game today, even if it is just for exhibition purposes. It sounds like the players are ready to start beating up someone else besides themselves.
The Celts spent the day before their opening preseason game running up and down the floor of the Mediolanum Forum, and tempers flared a bit near the end of practice. In one exchange, Isaiah Thomas drove to the basket and was fouled hard by Marcus Smart. Thomas turned around and barked at the second-year guard: "You can't stop me."
The two traded words for a while, and the message was clear: It's time for a real game.
For his part Brad Stevens is going to enjoy the process and take in the sights and sounds. You would think that means beautiful Italy, but I think (basketball nerd that he is) he's more interested in International Basketball.
"There's not a lot I don't like (about international basketball)," he said. "I love the spacing. I love the emphasis on team. I love the way the ball moves. I love the pace of the game. I'm a huge international basketball fan. When I coached in the World University Games in China in 2011 with the United States, my most prized possession coming back was a 23-minute tape of plays that I still use, that I still look at, that I sent to a couple of buddies." "You know, that's what coaches do. You study, and for me that was incredible. I was the assistant coach (to Purdue coach Matt Painter), so I just had to scout all the other teams to find out how Russia played, how Finland played, and those were great teaching moments."
Danny Ainge also has some scientists monitoring the Celtics players to study their exercise, recovery, and sleep patterns.
There are monitors attached to the chests of Celtics players under their jerseys that measure heart rate. More monitors, strapped to the back, record movement.
Players occasionally will be wired for science this week in Europe, with an exhibition game today against Olimpia Milano and on Thursday against Real Madrid. There's a quick turnaround and a transcontinental flight between the two games, which should alter the data for Johann Bilsborough, an Australian sports scientist hired by the Celtics last summer. He's traveling with the team as an intrigued observer, a recorder of everything that influences the system of a professional athlete.
As always, we'll be excited to see who starts tonight and which players play heavy rotation minutes. Of course Coach Stevens will warn not to read too much into that. But we can't help it. By the end of the preseason the Celtics will have to settle on some kind of rotation, so part of the fun of preseason is trying to guess what that rotation will look like.
One area to keep an eye on is the wing position.
Evan Turner suffered a right knee sprain in practice this week and is expected to be reevaluated before Tuesdays' game. Perry Jones was battling right knee soreness during practice last week, though he returned to practice overseas. The swingman spot could be a bit thin if those two are limited, and that could force Stevens to experiment with unique pairings, such as one unit we've seen in which Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko play the swing roles alongside Isaiah Thomas and two bigs. For Jones, in competition to earn a final roster spot, Turner's absence would give him more of a chance to show his versatility.
The Celtics play today! Let's do basketball together, shall we?!