There's no place like home.
Usually when people say that, they mean it as a good thing. But for the Celtics, who are three weeks away from opening preseason training camp, it's a bittersweet way of looking at the coming weeks.
The C's are headed into camp soon, and rather than go away together for a team bonding experience in a strange faraway land, they've decided to gear up for battle in their own backyard. Doc Rivers' squad will start camp on Sept. 27 in — of all places — scenic Waltham, Mass.
On the bright side, the C's should savor every chance they get to enjoy a little time at home. Many of the Celtics live in the Waltham area — they have homes, wives and families there — and they'll soon be torn away from their domestic lives, with the preseason schedule getting under way on Oct. 6. They'll be on the road early and often, and if they're lucky, the rigorous travel continues through mid-June. Instead of hitting the road — whether it's to Rhode Island or Rome — they get one last chance to be with their loved ones in Boston.
On the other hand, there's a lot to be said for escaping the Boston comfort zone and building team chemistry out there in the world.
The Celtics were in a similar position three years ago, having revamped their roster with a series of trades and free-agent signings. In order to welcome Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and the rest of their veteran core into the fold, the team traveled abroad and built their team dynamic from scratch in Europe. Captain Paul Pierce and his new teammates played together in Italy, and in the U.K., and they learned together that the team comes first. It's about the name on the front of the jersey, not on the back. One man alone is nothing; ubuntu is everything.
Again, the C's have undergone a major offseason overhaul this summer, with 11 players signed to new contracts by Danny Ainge in the past two months. The re-signings of Pierce and Allen were the headliners, alongside the newcomers Shaquille and Jermaine O'Neal.
When you've got a motley crew like that, it takes a little work to get everyone settled in. And if you ask Pierce, returning to the Celtics' stomping grounds at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., isn't cutting it.
"I think it would be good for this group to get away," the captain told The Boston Globe last month. "I?m really getting tired of Newport. Really, I want to go somewhere else. Newport is good, but I want to go somewhere else. It would be good to get away with this type of group, when you have Jermaine and Shaq. When you've got new guys and these types of personalities, I think it?s good for all of us to get out, be at a dinner table — me, Shaq, Kevin, Ray, Jermaine. I think it would be good for that relationship, building that chemistry. We get away and go somewhere, that?s something we?ll definitely do."
And yet the C's aren't getting away. On the contrary, they're staying as close to home as possible.
Ainge has defended the decision, saying that in his day, the Celtics never went away. Maybe this is a throwback Celtics team — after all, most of these guys are practically old enough to have played with Ainge's Celtics in the 1980s.
Maybe the move will help the Celtics come together this season; maybe it won't. Maybe it won't matter at all. But one way or another, the C's have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks to start anew on team camaraderie. Whether it's in Boston or Bologna, Waltham or Wellingham, ubuntu will rise again.