MILAN — The NBA probably has the most global presence of any of the four major American sports, and the Celtics’ arrival here has generated quite a bit of interest. But it sounds as if members of the European media are well aware of the Patriots, too.
As Celtics coach Brad Stevens conducted a brief interview session on the court prior to Sunday’s practice, one reporter asked, “Have you met Bill Belichick before?”
Stevens said that he has yet to meet Belichick but that the two have exchanged text messages several times over the last few years.
Stevens also was asked about Gigi Datome, the Italian forward who played for the Celtics last season before signing with Turkish club Fenerbahce this summer. Stevens said he received a text message from Datome on Saturday.
“He’s just a great guy, a great teammate,” Stevens said. “He did a really good job for us. I think he’ll be great on Fenerbahce. I’ve always thought people who have a good self-awareness about who they are and how they fit into this big picture are really special, and he does. He knows he’s a good basketball player. He knows the world’s bigger than him. He’s a great teammate, just a good person to have around.”
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he will continue to have contract extension discussions with the agents for forwards Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger, but he added “there’s nothing imminent.”
Both players are eligible for extensions prior to the Oct. 31 deadline.
“I’m not sure how that’s all going to work out,” Ainge said. “But we’ll continue to talk throughout this month.”
Many Celtics have said this trip will help them become closer as a team because most do not have friends or family here with them. So far, the players are enjoying the experience. On Saturday night, forward David Lee organized a team dinner. The entire team visited Lake Como on Sunday afternoon, and on Sunday night a group of players planned to attend the AC Milan soccer game. “Not many people have a chance to travel like we do,” guard Marcus Smart said. “So we understand it’s business, but we’re going to go out there and have fun at the same time.” Smart said he was looking forward to the soccer game, but he acknowledged that Real Madrid is his favorite team. He said he is a fan of strikers Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema . . . Forward Perry Jones returned to practice after missing the team’s last two sessions in Boston with knee soreness. He said he will be available to play in Tuesday’s game against Olimpia Milano.