NEWPORT, R.I. — On Thursday, the third and final day of the Celtics’ training camp at Salve Regina University, the morning practice was cancelled. Why? Players were too tired from the days before.
“[Wednesday], the gym was a little bit hot in here, so people lost a lot of fluids,” guard Courtney Lee explained. “[Thursday], they had about six fans going now, trying to cool the gym off. Once you cool off while [coach Brad Stevens is] explaining something, then you get stiff, and try to go back in, it’s always tough. Like I said, three days of two-a-days, it’ll get you.”
Stevens, a rookie coach from Butler University, said he realized that the next time the Celtics have three straight days of practices, he and his staff would rethink how they schedule the third day.
“I’m learning these guys a little bit,” he said.
And that’s perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Celtics after they broke camp — and a theme that will be true for the next few weeks or even months: They’re still learning.
Take forward Jeff Green, for instance. He’s about to step into a starring role that demands he fill up the stat sheet every night, namely in the points category. The Celtics look to space the floor and have Green play a range of positions from shooting guard to power forward.
“He’s had his ups and downs, but he’s solid,” Stevens said. “Just like everybody else, nobody is going to be perfect in these early sessions.”
When told that he wasn’t perfect, Green grimaced.
“Me? Ah, [expletive]!” the swingman said, half-joking. “Nah, it’s going to come. This is a whole new role for me. It’s just me, learning my new position, learning my new role. It’s not going to be perfect, but each day I’ll come in, give it my all, just try to make the best of it.”
Green also acknowledged that the key to his consistency is moving forward after each play.
“Coach Brad Stevens has been on me about just moving forward,” Green said. “I’m a guy who’s hard on myself. I don’t like to miss shots. I don’t like to turn over the ball. But in order for me to get better, I have to continue to move forward.”
The Celtics will take Friday off and then resume practice Saturday and Sunday before playing their first preseason game Monday against Toronto at TD Garden, though Stevens said he’s not anxious for that game to arrive.
“I’ll be anxious for Saturday morning’s practice, and Saturday afternoon’s practice,” he said. “I think the game still seems like a million miles away to me. And again, I’m going to treat it more like, we’re going to play it more like a practice, where we’re trying to win, but we’re going to treat it more like a practice. We are still in practice mode.”
Getting in “game shape” is a goal, but it’s a goal on top of learning a new system and building chemistry with so many new players.
“You’ve got to take in a lot early,” said veteran guard Keith Bogans. “The main thing is, you learn as much as possible and try to put it all together, but it’s tough. You’re getting tired out here. Guys are breaking down, bodies are breaking down, but you’ve got to fight through it.”
Bogans also said that the best way to get in shape was to play in the gym with other players, and that pick-up games weren’t going to cut it.
The players have praised Stevens throughout camp and noted how his attention to detail is like nothing they’ve ever seen.
“He’s big on the basics,” Bogans said. “He starts small. He works on the little things first, from setting screens the right way to getting to a certain spot on the floor. It’s the little things that you wouldn’t do with a veteran coach. He knows that we’ve got to do right. It’s working. It’s definitely working.”
Not to make comparisons, but there was a fellow coach from Indiana who was notorious for harping on the little things. This coach went so far as to instruct his players on how to properly pull up their socks to help avoid blisters and tie their shoelaces tight to help avoid sprained ankles.
That coach’s name was John Wooden, by the way.
But Stevens set the tone in the first practice of camp that — and, yes, this does sound cliché — he demands a high level of effort from all of them, and several players have said their biggest takeaway from camp is how hard they have to work from here.
“Again, everybody is playing hard,” forward Jared Sullinger said. “We’re not listening to people like [the media] that says we’re not going to do nothing this year. We’re out there working hard and just trying to prove everybody wrong.”
As for Newport, Stevens said he loved the scenic seaside city and would be open to having training camp here again soon.
“If not, the Stevenses will be back sometime in the offseason,” he said.