Shortened preseason schedule, more practice time suits Celtics

Shortened preseason schedule, more practice time suits Celtics

NEWPORT, R.I.  -- You can add Kyrie Irving to the growing list of NBA players who are in favor of the NBA preseason being shortened.

He was asked about it on Tuesday after the Celtics had completed the first day of  two-a-day practices.
"Hell yeah," was Irving's response when asked if he liked the shortened preseason. "It's like, you get so used to playing eight games. It's a month. I like [the shortened preseason], we get games started earlier. We get the season started."


But the shortened preseason is an even bigger plus for a Celtics team that has 14 players with guaranteed contracts, 10 of whom are entering their first season in Boston.
With such a heightened level of unfamiliarity with one another, having fewer games and more practice time should be a plus.
"We need it; it's a necessity for us," Irving said. "Everyone needs it. For us, we need it more than ever, especially the young guys we have on the team. We have to learn on the fly."
Boston returns just four players last season. And from that group, Al Horford is the lone starter back from a team that advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after finishing the regular season with the best record (53-29) in the East.
Even if the Celtics would have returned more players from last season, there would still be a need to spend time getting to know one another.
That's among the key focal points of training camp, which is in Newport for the first time since Brad Stevens' inaugural season in 2013.
"I guess it's proof I'm not superstitious," quipped Stevens, whose team went on to win just 25 games that year. "But it's good to be together."
Especially considering all the new faces to the mix, which Stevens said was a big reason why the team elected to have the start of training camp in Newport as opposed to its current practice facility in Waltham.
"Spending time together," said Stevens when asked why the team decided to return to Salve Regina University. "That was it; that's it. At the end of the day, it was about eating dinner last night together, eating all three meals together today. If we were doing that all at Waltham, we might hang out a little bit (after practice) but not like we are now. That's a positive."
A decision on returning to Newport wasn't made until early September, after the Celtics had completed the trade for Irving.
"We kind of rushed into this in early September, after the trade was done," Stevens said. "We wanted to make sure that, again, these guys spend as much time as possible together."

Marcus Morris was not at training camp on Day One. He's currently on trial, along with his twin brother Markieff (of the Washington Wizards), in Arizona. Both are facing two assault charges stemming from an incident in 2015. Morris was acquired this summer from Detroit in exchange for Avery Bradley . . . Several coaches were in attendance at Tuesday's practice, including UConn women's coach Geno Aueriemma.


Jerebko hoping for a winning return to Boston


Jerebko hoping for a winning return to Boston

When Jonas Jerebko was with the Celtics, his play and performance often drew very little fanfare or notice from anyone other than his teammates and coaches. 
Now with the Utah Jazz and back in Boston for the first time, he is once again a low-key -- but important -- contributor. 

And it's a role that Jerebko doesn’t mind playing, in part because of his time in Boston. 

“It’s all about winning over there,” Jerebko told the Deseret News recently. “I had three great seasons there, going to the playoffs, Eastern Conference finals and a lot of winning, so I just learned that this league is about winning and that’s it.”
While that’s true, Jerebko’s role with the Jazz appears to be slightly more prominent than it was in Boston. 
In his two-plus seasons in Boston, Jerebko made six starts. We’re not even at Christmas yet in his first season in Utah and the 6-foot-10 forward has already had 10 starts for the Jazz.  He’s also averaging 6.3 points, which is more than he ever averaged in a full season for the Celtics. And he’s shooting a career-high 44.4 percent from 3-point range. 
The numbers are better in Utah, but Jerebko is more concerned with helping the Jazz (13-14) rack up a few more wins.
“It’s all about that win in that column, so that’s really what I learned in spending my time [in Boston],” Jerebko said. “It was a good time.”
Here are five under-the-radar story lines leading up to tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz. 

Fans are in for a treat tonight when two of the NBA’s top rookies will be on the floor. Boston’s Jayson Tatum, the NBA’s top 3-pointer shooter this season, has established himself as one of the top rookies in most categories. Meanwhile, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell has made a name for himself as one of the league’s best first-year players, evident by him averaging 17.8 points per game, which is tops among all rookies. 

Keep an eye on Boston’s 3-point defense. The Celtics come into tonight’s game limiting opponents to 33.8 percent on 3’s, which is the second-lowest average in the NBA. They face a Utah team that has been among the league’s best this season. The Jazz are shooting 38.3 percent from 3-point range, which ranks fifth in the league.

Limiting their mistakes will once again be a key for the Celts because few teams capitalize on mistakes as well as Utah. The Jazz force 16.5 turnovers per game, which ranks second in the NBA. But more impactful is the points those turnovers produce. The Jazz come into tonight’s game having averaged 19.1 points off turnovers, which ranks fifth in the NBA. 

This was supposed to be his first time facing his old team, but the dislocated left ankle injury he suffered on Oct. 17 has put him on the shelf for what’s expected to be the rest of this season. Still, that won’t prevent his former teammates from playing with a little extra something. As for the Celtics, they have had a tremendous amount of success against Utah at home which can only enhance their chances of winning tonight. 

While the Celtics are playing a ton of games before most teams in the NBA, the Jazz have their own scheduling nightmare to deal with. Specifically, the caliber of opponents that they have ahead of them is pretty daunting. They play the Celtics tonight followed by a road game against Cleveland on Saturday. From there, they face Houston and Oklahoma City on the road, then come home to take on the San Antonio Spurs (who now have Kawhi Leonard back in the mix). Including the Celtics game tonight, seven of Utah’s remaining games in the calendar year 2017 are against teams with an above-.500 record.



WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz


WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics host the Jazz at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Slumping Jazz look to break long losing streak in Boston

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

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