NEWPORT, R.I. — The getaway was necessary because the Celtics fully realize there will be little margin for error in this season of high expectations.
While they were working out at Salve Regina University for the first time as a team — without Marcus Morris, who is on trial in Phoenix with his brother, Markieff, for aggravated assault — the rival Cleveland Cavaliers agreed to terms with 12-time All-Star Dwyane Wade to add to an already loaded roster.
The Cavaliers are gearing up because the Celtics made out in their blockbuster trade last month with a healthy Kyrie Irving. Meanwhile, Isaiah Thomas may return to action in January. Cleveland is preparing for a season-long battle with Boston for Eastern Conference supremacy.
The Cavaliers now have Thomas, Wade, Derrick Rose, Jae Crowder, and Jeff Green to join LeBron James and Kevin Love. They might not be able to hang with the Warriors in a seven-game series, but the first step is taking the East.
So there was a seriousness among the Celtics on Tuesday. They don’t have a large period to bond with 11 new players, especially because the status of projected starter Morris is undetermined until his trial is completed. That doesn’t help team chemistry, but the Celtics have enough depth to compensate for now.
This trip to Rhode Island is strictly for bonding. The team will have all but one meal together. There is plenty of time for the players to share conversations and swap stories. They will need such a period of togetherness.
“You have to have a lot of patience but at the same time there’s a sense of urgency as well,” Irving said. “You have to get as much as you can for the time that we’re out on the floor. We’ve got a lot to learn in a limited amount of time. I’m looking forward to continuing to be into training camp and learn about the individuals we have on this team.”
There is a lot of talent on the Celtics but not championship experience. Irving and Aron Baynes are the lone players to participate in the NBA Finals. Al Horford is a playoff veteran who has never advanced past the Eastern Conference finals. Gordon Hayward made a trip to the Western Conference semifinals last season with Utah.
The Cavaliers, meanwhile, are loaded with championship experience, but their evolution into another title-caliber team will be a challenge with the newcomers. However, with James at the lead along with Wade and others from their title team two years ago, the Cavaliers will know exactly what it takes to beat Boston and gain a rematch with the Warriors.
Whether they can actually beat the Celtics is a different question. The Celtics are talented and youthful. Jaylen Brown appears ready to take the next step. Marcus Smart is 20 pounds lighter.
Rookie Jayson Tatum looks as if he can help right away. But the club knows little about German All-Star Daniel Theis, or the potential of Baynes, or whether Terry Rozier can take the next major step or if Shane Larkin can return to the form that made him a first-round pick four years ago.
There were a plethora of questions as Day 1 began, but the only certainty was that the Celtics have depth and talent.
“This gives us a chance to bond together, breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Hayward said. “Talking to each other, you’re on the bus with each other. You’re out here competing. It’s strictly basketball, too. There are no other outside distractions.
“We got a lot of challenges that we’re going to face early on, just trying to figure each other out. That’s why I think we come here and the more we play together the better we’ll be.”
It sounds simple but the process will be difficult. But there is plenty of motivation, especially from Irving, who is determined to overcome his former team and former teammate (James) in what will be a most interesting NBA story line this season.
“There will be a chance to talk, get to know one another,” Irving said. “All the meal rooms are in the same vicinity of the hotel. There’s some positive outcomes for that. I don’t even know if we have time for activities.
“This is more or less about dialing in the film, getting used to one another. We got a few rooms in the hotel that allows us to connect. It’s pretty easy going until we get back to Waltham, we’ll get well acclimated.”
There will be plenty to accomplish this week in Rhode Island. The practices were intense Tuesday. The Celtics players continue to be impressed with the wizardry of Irving. Tatum is getting his first opportunity to play against NBA veterans, quite a contrast from summer league, and coach Brad Stevens will have an opportunity to see his ideas come to life on the floor.
The Celtics are far from a finished product.
It could take until January until this team jells and finds itself, but their eyes will shift to Northeast Ohio on occasion because that team there is prepping for another NBA Finals run, and the Cavaliers got a little better Tuesday.