NEWPORT, R.I. — For one week in late September, a small private university in suburban Rhode Island becomes a media circus, as a quiet campus is overrun by the Boston Celtics' coaches, players and camp invitees.
Not to mention throngs of screaming fans.
Welcome to Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., where the Celtics opened their five-day training camp on Tuesday afternoon and countless students skipped classes to mill around outside the school's Rodgers Recreation Center to catch a glimpse of their favorite NBA stars. Everyone's a celebrity today, from Shaquille O'Neal and Kevin Garnett all the way down to the last man off the bench.
"Newport is cool, man," Garnett said after the Celtics' first practice of the new preseason. "The people down here always show crazy love."
There was initially some uncertainty about the Celtics' plans for training camp this fall. Paul Pierce had expressed frustration with the Celtics' routine of making the 90-minute trip down to Newport every September, saying he preferred to get away and travel with his new teammates. Pierce wanted a return to the glory days of 2007, when the Celtics toured Europe in the late summer before getting into their preseason schedule.
The Celtics first made plans to convene in Waltham, working out at their usual practice facility for the opening week. But as Danny Ainge continued to rebuild the roster over the summer, relentlessly adding new pieces to the machine, the C's called an audible and moved camp back to Newport.
"We were going to have camp at home," coach Doc Rivers said. "But then because we just kept adding guys, we thought we needed to get these guys by themselves, away from everybody, just together. Hopefully they can kind of force a bond."
Newport may not be Rome. It may not even be Providence, the booming metropolis about 30 miles to the north. But for the Celtics, for one week only, it's home.
"I love it," Rivers said. "It's a good location for us, and the guys know what to do. They know the drill. So it's an easy setup for us."
"It's great to get away," added Ray Allen. "It's definitely great to get away, and Newport is just a beautiful place. So for the times we've been down here, we've definitely taken advantage of being down here."
The C's will be in town for four more days after Tuesday's practice before returning home this weekend. They open practice back home in Waltham on Monday, in preparation for their Sept. 6 preseason opener against the Sixers in Manchester, N.H.