Still, the Celtics have made clear that they are approaching
their preseason sojourn to Turkey and Italy, respectively, as business first.
The eight-day journey is not a vacation. It is part of their preseason training
"We're not going to change," Celtics coach Doc
Rivers said Monday, a few hours before boarding a plane for the 11-hour flight
to Istanbul. "We're going to do our job. All the other stuff is secondary
for us, for me and hopefully for them, too, because this is our camp. That's
the way I view it going into it."
For many of the Celtics, the trip is a once-in-a-lifetime
experience. Rookie Dionte Christmas is the only member of the team who has been
to Turkey, having played for Mersin of the Turkish Basketball League. Most of
the players said they were most excited about getting to know their teammates,
though, rather than touring an exotic locale.
"The thing is to embrace the team, embrace their
teammates, embrace the opportunity and the experience," Kevin Garnett
said. "You never know when this group will be together again."
There are no specific teamwide tourism events planned for
the trip — only a few hours blocked off on the itinerary as "Sightseeing
TBA" — and Rivers said he planned to do unguided, walking tours of both
cities in his spare time. The coach said he bought three or four books and a
couple of magazines on Istanbul and Milan, but as of Monday he had not opened
any of them.
The trip has drawn inevitable comparisons to the preseason
trip to Rome in 2007, when a newly formed "Big Three" of Garnett, Ray
Allen and Paul Pierce joined for the first time in Boston. The trip was widely
credited with fomenting the "ubuntu" concept that created positive
team chemistry for the eventual NBA champions.
Garnett said he sees parallels between that team and this
year's squad, starting with both teams' extensive depth. Yet he wondered if
this group can bond as closely as the 2007-08 edition, which understandably
holds a special place in Garnett's heart. Rivers and Pierce looked forward to
the entire team essentially being forced to hang out together.
"When we went to Rome five years ago, it was
great," Pierce said. "When you brought a new team together and when
you go abroad and you're in a place that's foreign to you, guys have a tendency
to come together. Usually, when we're practicing here in Waltham, guys come to
practice, talk in the locker room and then you go home to your families. When
you're overseas you go to practice, then the guys go to lunch together, go to
dinner together, so it gives you a better opportunity to get to know your
"That sort of bond really helps a team in the long run,
and I think that was instrumental in our run and our championship the first
year. I'm excited about this trip. It's going to be fun just getting with the
new guys, experiencing it and just understanding that this is going to be a
long journey starting this year in Turkey. Hopefully, it ends with an NBA
As we all learned in 10th grade social studies, the Roman,
Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman empires all used Istanbul (then known as
Constantinople) as a capital during their reigns, so there is a long history of
greatness there. The Celtics have much humbler ambitions than conquering the
world, though. All they want is to do is conquer the NBA, win a shiny trophy
and get some glittery championship rings.