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BASKETBALL > Rejuvenated Boston relishes the prospect of Istanbul experience

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

Aiming to bring back the glory days of the title winning 2008 NBA campaign, the Boston Celtics feel that the European tour might be a right starting point. The Celtics will meet Fenerbahçe Ülker in tomorrow’s NBA Europe Live game and hope that switching the continents will help the team bond, as it did four years ago

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The Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers (C) talks to his players during a training session at Istanbul’s Ayhan Şahenk Sports Hall before tomorrow’s NBA Europe Live game against Fenerbahçe Ülker. Photo by Adam KABAYEL

The Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers (C) talks to his players during a training session at Istanbul’s Ayhan Şahenk Sports Hall before tomorrow’s NBA Europe Live game against Fenerbahçe Ülker. Photo by Adam KABAYEL

Çetin Cem Yılmaz Çetin Cem Yılmaz cetincem.yilmaz@hdn.com.tr

Many NBA teams would not feel warmly about the idea of opening their pre-season thousands of miles from home, but the Boston Celtics are happy to be in Istanbul.

The legendary American basketball club is in the city to face Turkey’s Fenerbahçe Ülker as part of the NBA Europe Live 2012 Tour tomorrow. The Celtics arrived in Istanbul on Oct. 1, and did not lose much time before beginning training.

“A couple of guys didn’t sleep much on the plane or last night, but they still come out and practice,” head Coach Doc Rivers told reporters at the Ayhan Şahenk Sports Hall yesterday. “[That shows] the mental toughness of the players, that’s what they do.”

Rivers is positive about the way his players have returned from the off-season.

“I think half the guys are in good shape, and half the guys are in better shape,” the coach added. “I don’t think that anyone is in poor shape.”

Boston was a part of the NBA Europe Live Tour five years ago, and Rivers has cited the Rome experience as one that “brought the team together.” The Celtics eventually won the NBA title at the end of that season.

“I hope so,” Rivers said, when asked if he believes the European experience can bring the team together again. “If we can have the same results as the last time we came over to Europe, that’s a really good thing. I do think it was team-binding last night. To see eight or nine guys sitting over the table eating together, I think that’s fantastic.”

References to 2008 team

Point guard Rajon Rondo had also previously likened this year’s team to the championship-winning Celtics side of four years ago. When asked about that, superstar Kevin Garnett also underlined the importance of team chemistry.

“I see the parallels, similarities,” Garnett said yesterday. “We are yet to see where we are [in terms of] chemistry, how quickly we bond. The team in 07-08 bonded very fast, and it worked, we made it work.”
After tomorrow’s game, the Celtics will fly to Milan to face Olimpia Milano on Oct. 7. Rivers acknowledged that there are members of his coaching staff who have played or coached in Europe, but admitted he was not focusing much on Fenerbahçe Ülker, which is one of the favorite teams to win the Euroleague title this season.

“In pre-season, I rarely bring up the other team, I just focus on our style. We just play with different lineups. Our goal is to be ready on opening night, that’s we’re going to get ready for,” he said. “Honestly, if this was a game we were playing for the championship, then obviously I would be preparing for our opponent. Right now, I am just preparing our team.”

There have been many important transfers in the off-season, with the Celtics’ archrivals, the Los Angeles Lakers, acquiring center Dwight Howard and point guard Steve Nash and the champion Miami Heat signing Ray Allen from Boston. The shift of power might steal some of the spotlight from the Celtics, but Garnett is not troubling his mind about that.

“I really don’t care [about other teams],” Garnett said. “We are a group that comes in and works hard. We have never been a polished, spotlight-like team, but we are a team working every day.”
Tomorrow’s game at Ülker Sports Arena will start at 9 p.m.

October/04/2012

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