BOSTON – Without giving it much thought, the Boston Celtics have gone from game to game with little thought or time for anything beyond that.
Now with their schedule easing up to where they can blend in more practice days along with game preparation, it sounds like a simple transition, but . . .
“We gotta re-learn that to make that part of your daily way,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “We need to maximize this time. We need to be building to become better and better down the road. So that’s what you utilize this time for.”
Boston will get plenty of time to work on its practice game this week with the team leaving for London today for a game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.
The Celtics will get two practice days in before facing the Sixers, and won’t play again until they host the New Orleans Pelicans on Jan. 16 which will likely afford them at least another day or two of practice.
You would be hard-pressed to find another Celtic who has been looking forward to this stretch of the season more than Kyrie Irving who is well aware of how different things will be schedule-wise for the Celtics going forward.
The Celtics played their first 41 games in 70 days. The next 41 games will cover 99 days.
“That’s a hell of a difference,” Irving said.
Getting through those first 41 games came down to one thing for Irving.
“Just survival, man; just survival,” Irving said. “You learn a lot about your body and your mind. You can always kind of figure that stuff out. But it’s how consistent do you want to be with that. That’s the mark of good and great teams, that separation, how much are you willing to sacrifice and give of yourself, being a professional every single moment and not taking anything for granted. It’s a true test, but if you really want it, dive into it.”
And to the Celtics’ credit, their ability to not only play through a daunting schedule but thrive in it, is commendable.
Boston (33-10) has won six in a row which is the longest current winning streak on top of having the best record in the Eastern Conference.
And for rookies like Semi Ojeleye, this impending shifting down of the schedule is just the latest learning experience for him and his fellow first-year players.
“The thing is, you have to stay ready regardless of the schedule,” Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston. “Because as you see with our team, you never know when your opportunity is coming.”
Or how to shift from lots of games to more of a balancing act with games and practice.
It sounds simple but it’s one more thing that players, particularly young ones, have to adapt to in order to get the most out of practice time and added preparation they will have in the second half of this season to get ready for games.
“The older guys have been through this. They know how to go about it,” Stevens said. “They know every minute is planned to the nth degree. Sometimes young guys have to be brought up to speed on that stuff. That’s something that’s always going to be an emphasis.”